Beginning in late October and running through January, the Oakland Public Library and Oakland Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting a hip hop workshop series for marginalized young men of East and West Oakland’s neighborhoods. In partnership with Oakland nonprofit Beats Rhymes and Life Academy (BRL), these workshops are therapy-based, centering around team building, skill honing, and positive self-expression. The 20-week-long program for youth ages 12-19 will culminate in a collaborative album and a showcase for their communities.

BRL is a one-of-its-kind organization that brings together mental health clinicians, teaching artists, and peer mentors to create a therapeutic program rooted in hip hop. Engaging youth in holistic development through a relaxed and enriching setting also breaks down the stigma associated with seeking/receiving mental health services.

According to a 2011 study by Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, less than half of African-American and Latino male students in Oakland graduate from high school. Often referred to as “transition-aged youth (TAY),” many people who grow up under harsh circumstances outside of their control are not well-equipped to enter into the adult world, and are failed by most mainstream services. It takes an out-of-the-box understanding of, and approach to, TAY needs, like those that Beats Rhymes and Life offers, to make the path to adulthood successful.

At-risk youth (or rather at-promise youth, as BRL puts it) build self-esteem, creative and critical thinking skills, coping strategies, and trust through BRL’s programs. As demonstrated by their pilot program, the young men who participated in the Hip Hop Therapy group reported feeling more confident and less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

BRL’s Hip Hop Therapy program will take place on Tuesdays 4:30-6:30 at the 81st Avenue Library, and Fridays 4:30-6:30 at Arroyo Viejo Park Rec Center.

For more information on hip hop therapy workshops or to apply for the program, click here.

About The Author

Simone writes about the currents circulating beneath mainstream, with a focus on non-profit developments and at-risk youth enrichment. Outside of freelancing for Oakland Local, she works in the foster care system of Contra Costa County and nerds out on literary magazines. Simone also spearheads the Community Voices section of OL. Contact her at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.