Allow youth to find their voice

In his first guest blog for CYCJ, Chaz Bonnar talks about how hip hop culture and ‘breaking’ can empower young people to transform their lives.

It was only recently that I decided to make my full income from my passion. Breaking, the proper term for Breakdancing, single-handedly developed my confidence and self-esteem. In turn, investing my time into Breaking (nine years so far) has resulted in better social skills and improved physical and mental wellbeing. Through engaging with Breaking, one element of Hip Hop culture, I became more socially conscious and developed a greater understanding of the world around me.

Hip Hop culture can be described as creating something out of nothing. It started as a movement in the Bronx, NYC, during a poor social and economic climate in the early 70s. When gang violence was rife, youth were disenfranchised and felt they had no voice in their community.

Through my time in the culture I’ve met with myriad individuals – many of whom attribute their personal transformation to Hip Hop. It helped them to escape violent environments and live a positive lifestyle.

All of which is what I share to young people. My endeavours involve empowering disenfranchised youth to be the best version of themselves. There’s commonalities between the lives of youth I teach and youth from the Bronx in the 1970s. Therefore, it’s easier for those I teach to relate to these past experiences. Especially when I tell them that Hip Hop was one of the only things youth could attach themselves to, as a result of having no formal education.

Even today, many youth feel their life is over when they underperform at school. We’ve created an unfortunate scenario where underachievers in education are seen as failures. They’re constantly bombarded with messages that they’ll be unable to attain a great career unless they do well in school. Even though the reality of this is different, these affirmations can crush a young person’s self-esteem and lead them on a less desirable path. A path that would lead to crime and disorder.

All because of the focus we put on the education system. For years I had been told to do well in school; go to university, and get a job related to my degree (Audio Tech. w/ Multimedia). Now my ‘job’ is in a completely different field. At first this came to me as a shock. It scared me, having thought for a long time I needed to go through normal protocol. Yes, school is important for many reasons. However, to place an emphasis on the need to succeed in school can ruin people’s hopes of an accomplished career.

Given this, what messages should we be sharing with youth? We should be telling them about the abundance of opportunities they have, through taking a path that’s different from society’s norms. Thankfully, through Breaking and Hip Hop culture, I’ve acquired many transferrable skills. Skills that can take me down a lot of different career paths. Through Breaking and Hip Hop culture I’ve also found my voice; my way of expressing myself and realising my full potential.

We need to allow youth the opportunity to find their voice. The opportunity to explore different avenues and let them align themselves with work they will enjoy, instead of having it quietened by family members and school teachers.

About our blogger

All the information for this article comes from Chaz’s experience of collaborating with schools, community organisations and local authorities. He engages with youth of all ages; providing a platform for them to positively express themselves, while educating them about positive health & wellbeing. All of this is shared either in an educational or community setting through workshops and public speaking.

Twitter: @ChazB
Instagram: @chazbonnar

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