Youth Voices = Social Justice + Hip Hop + Creative Youth

“Hip-hop is not just music, but a support system and a social structure that unifies youth culture.” – The Cipher, Austin’s Hip Hop Project

In East Austin’s Southwest Key Community Center over 100 people, diverse in age, race, and class, are bobbing their heads to the rhythm as youth from across Travis County “spit their truth”.

Amazing young poets and artists from The Cipher hip hop project, slam finalists from the Texas Youth Word Collective, and a new group called the Rhythm Writerz share their original lyrical work with a socially conscious flair.

The Cipher, Austin's Hip Hop project

These youth performers, aged 11-25, are often inappropriately labeled as “disadvantaged”, “at-risk”, or even “hopeless” and “beyond repair”. These labels are, in reality, miles from the truth.

The outspoken group members use their own words to reclaim their identities; they refuse to accept society’s labels. As one piece boldly put forward: “I am…a poet, a person who takes responsibility, a daughter, a son, somebody, my own person, an artist, smart, a great girl, a student, the reason why my momma smiles, a succeeder, an individual; I am myself.” They are here to “reveal the truth” and express their thoughts and memories on paper. They “make music with poetry”. Most importantly, they are “history in the making”.

Check out these groups who are empowering youth throughout Austin and Travis County:

The Cipher [ci·pher (sī′fər)]: a circle of energy ignited by a community as they express artistic ideas

The Cipher is an award winning group of young leaders who are on a mission to build community and engage hip hop artists to strengthen the East Austin community.  The creative expression and public performances encouraged through The Cipher create a group of confident and engaged young people. Youth leave the program empowered, tolerant, and socially responsible, while having gained new skills and competencies, enhanced self-esteem, improved academic performance, and expanded possibilities for their futures. One member proclaims his love for the Cipher: “When life gets rough, The Cipher helps me fly.” Learn more at:

Texas Youth Word Collective

Texas Youth Word Collective (TYWC), a nonprofit youth literacy program, encourages middle and high school students’ interested in writing through youth poetry slams, open mics, and online anthologies. TYWC conducts city-wide poetry slams and open mics for youth to compete and communicate issues important to them. TYWC also provides performances in area schools and creates an online poetry anthology for students to publish their individual work and to submit their work for possible publication. The Texas Youth Word Collective is active in youth advocacy through its membership in the Texas Coalition Advocating Justice for Juvenile (TCAJJ), a reform coalition designed to help end abuse and mistreatment of incarcerated youth in the juvenile justice system. Learn more at

By Ani Mirasol
Posted by on May 24th, 2010 and filed under Community, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

5 Responses for “Youth Voices = Social Justice + Hip Hop + Creative Youth”

  1. Jeff Johnson says:

    Excellent Article!!!

  2. Bamboo Girl says:

    Interesting article. I wish more groups like this would be been around in my area when I was a teenager. Perhaps they were and I just didn’t know about them. Either way, its nice to hear about Austin’s youth doing something really positive with their free time :)

  3. Shannon Sandrea says:

    Love this! Empowered youth! Way to go Ani and Austin Times!!!!

  4. vicky starnes says:

    what an impressive article!!! It brought tears to my eyes!

  5. Laura Kaye says:

    It’s so awesome to read stories like this that are so inspiring and give us all a reality check into what’s really going on in our community! These programs have so much offer and they really need our support. Thanks for spreading the word…

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