Miami Youth Hip Hop, Poetry Tonight

Tonight at Washington University, a Miami-based group called Youth Expressions, funded by progressive Kimberly Green and her Green Family Foundation, will perform a combination of hip-hop and poetry to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The touring version of Youth Expressions numbers ten young people from the Miami area, and are only performing at three locations: here and two stops in New York. Green, whose GFF group is working in conjunction with Keep a Child Alive -- the HIV/AIDS awareness foundation started by Alicia Keys -- spoke from Miami with RFT Thursday.

Green, center, with members of Youth Expressions, who will perform tonight at Washington University. - Submitted photo.
Submitted photo.
Green, center, with members of Youth Expressions, who will perform tonight at Washington University.
What has been your involvement with Youth Expressions?
I met them when the organizers had just started working with the students on a structured level. They were performing at a local event that my roommate brought me to. I saw these incredible kids performing and was blown away at the sheer passion these kids have. I stayed after the show to talk to the organizers; they didn't have a building or anything at that point, it was just word of mouth. These kids are just really passionate about what they want to do. I started hanging out with them and talking to them and after a while, the Green Family Foundation decided it would be great to help them start their own 501(c) and help them get off the ground. That was in 1999.

How old are the typical members of this youth group?
They're going 12 to 25 now. I have to stop calling them kids. They want to stay involved and you have a lot people who want to stay in involved. The older members volunteer their time.

Can you describe a performance? Paint us a picture.
It's funny you say, that, "paint a picture." They have an incredible piece called "Paint a Picture," and its an extremely powerful, raw, bare-boned, reality check about what these young people are experiencing in their everyday life.

What is their "everyday" life like?
Because of the demographics of (Miami), the students that generally gravitate toward the program are African-American and Haitian-American students. A lot are first generation, born in the U.S. The Haitian kids, they are the conduit for their family to American society in a lot of ways. Primarily they come from low-income environments. They live in a world in which for their parents, they are guiding them through.

Their reality is very much trying to deal with eveyrthing that was one has to deal with being a teenager, low-income and then also the respoonsibility of guiding your parents

Your foundation is well-known and benefits a variety of groups. How do you choose?
A lot of times, groups aren't used to hands-on funders, and a lot of times I volunteer with agencies while funding them. In some ways, a lot of organizations would actually say no because they want to decide (how to spend the money.)

Do people get exicted when they see you coming around?
Generally because of my personality, I tend to choose cutting-edge programs. They get excited and they know who I am. With the Green Family Foundation, I like to pride myself on the "grow where you're planted" cocept. We're trying.

Youth Expressions performs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight, Friday, April 3, as part of the Youth Concert Series at the Danforth Campus Center at Washington University. The event is free and open to the public.
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