The Hip Hop School of Arts | KCET
The Hip Hop School of Arts
The Hip Hop School of Arts in Pomona is more than a dance school. For the last two years, this unique institution has been transforming lives and a community.
Forty-five year old Julio Cesar Rivas, the founder and President of the HHSOA is aiming to continue the lasting affirmative impact that the hip hop culture has had on his life with the children and families of Pomona and beyond. "Real Hip hop is a movement for positive change. That's how it was born as a voice, as a culture and a way of expression," says Rivas.
The importance of self-expression and play is something that has always been at the core of Julio's soul. As a 12 year old, Rivas escaped a war torn El Salvador and an abusive father to start a new life with his mother and sister in the United States. When they finally arrived and settled in the Macarthur Park area of Los Angeles it was total culture shock. "At first I was stunned at how beautiful it seemed but quickly realized that I had left one war zone for another." Confronted with drugs, prostitution, gangs and unable to speak English, Rivas hated school. "I couldn't communicate so I acted out," he says. His fate at this time seemed fairly bleak: "I was going to either kill, or be killed".
Rivas' rescue arrived at the movie theatre when he saw the cult dance movie "Breakin" in 1984. The film featured 'Radiotron', a sanctuary for L.A. youth that became the hub of west coast hip hop culture in the early 80's. "When I heard this place really existed and was close to where I lived, I had to find it. Suddenly I had a home." Rivas was making friends and Lil' Cesar, as he is now known, was born. "We didn't all understand each other's language but we could communicate through the dance. It was our outlet, our way of expressing ourselves and a way of staying off the streets."
Radiotron was an effective platform for Lil' Cesar, who became a pioneer of hip hop culture with his "Airforce Crew" and an inspiration for what he continues to do in the community. He has worked notable names including Madonna, Janet Jackson, Run DMC and Britney Spears and performed for the Queen of England.
In 2007, Lil' Cesar's contribution to hip hop and the community was recognized by Hollywood film producer Charles Evans Jr, who donated a million dollar gift helping establish the five year journey to create the school. It is the only institute of its kind that offers young people the opportunity to develop their skill set across the entire spectrum of what the world of hip hop: Dance, vocals, rapping and emceeing, DJ-ing, music production, design and urban art. Overall, the students learn basic entrepreneurial skills.
The School's impact on the community has been layered and significant. Mayor Elliot Rothman says he has seen the site of the former PFF Bank building transform from an empty, dark corner of the city to a reinvigorated streetscape. "It has been a boon for the local economy with nearby merchants enjoying a resurgence and new merchants coming in to the area," Rothman says.
Rivas and his wife Norma have provided more than just a meeting place and a training ground. It has become a life-line. "Some of the kids that come here don't want to go home," he says. "They feel safe here. That's why this place exists."
Although enrollments are up and the organization has received much praise, Lil Cesar is struggling to keep the doors open. Most of the students that attend qualify as low-income and so only pay $75 per year for unlimited access to each of the classes. The School's board insists that these are precisely the students that need access to these classes and so is focusing its fundraising strategies elsewhere. They are targeting business leaders and hip hop icons like Dr. Dre, Jay Z and Russell Simmons, as well as local business and individuals, who have directly seen the good effect the school has had on their community.
Two years after their February 27, 2013 opening, things are getting urgent. However Lil' Cesar will not be brought down to size by anything or anyone.
"I'm in good spirits," he says. "I know this is what I am meant to be doing. This will not be the end."
Los Angeles County elected and health officials today urged residents to heed curfew restrictions amid continuing protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, while also expressing concern about crowded demonstrations leading to a spike in coro
During a discussion today on the police protests occurring across the nation, Mayor Eric Garcetti said law enforcement departments must examine and improve the ways they recruit officers, how they train them and the oversight of officers.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said today she was "angry" and "pissed off" when she saw the video capturing the asphyxiation death of a black man in Minneapolis at the hands of a white police officer.
Another two cases of a rare inflammatory syndrome have been identified in patients at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, bringing the total to six, all of whom tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, it was announced today.
- 1 of 293
- next ›
From the typeface of “The Godfather” book cover to the Noguchi table, the influence of Japanese American artists and designers in postwar American art and design is unparalleled. Learn how the World War II incarceration affected their lives and creations.
"Artbound" looks at the dinnerware of Heath Ceramics and a design that has stood the test of time since the company began in the late 1940’s.
Inspired by Oaxacan traditions, Dia de Los Muertos was brought to L.A. in the '70s as a way to enrich and reclaim Chicano identity. It has since grown in proportions and is celebrated around the world.
Gospel music would not be what it is today if not for the impact left by Los Angeles in the late 60’s and early 70’s, a time defined by political movements across the country.
A behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary art world through the eyes of a legendary art dealer and curator, Jeffrey Deitch.
- 1 of 11
- next ›