CINCINNATI - In the midst of turmoil and tension after the Cincinnati unrest in 2001, a beacon of light soon graced the streets in Over-the-Rhine to help the city's youth. Elementz Hip-Hop Youth Center was created to give teens and young adults a place to relieve tension.
Anthony "Gamm" Williams from Lincoln Heights, was shot in August of 2006, downtown on the corners of 14th and Vine Streets. Williams had just started taking classes at Elementz, he says the people and the center changed his life after the shooting. "Elementz is a super big part of my life and I thank god everyday for this building," Williams said.
Now and days, you can find Williams performing throughout the city. He's now living his dream and it's all thanks to the center.
"I've been traveling like all over the country, doing shows and going to media conferences meeting new people everyday, all the time. I think Elementz really just open the doors to my future," Williams said.
Brother Abdullah is the center's programs director. He said Williams embraced the mission once he realized really what we're about.
"His music basically became more diverse, and his performances stepped up," Brother Abdullah said. "His leadership in the building stepped up as well, and he was employed here to teach leadership and aspects of recording and performing to other young people over the last 2 years."
Elementz was build after the riots in the process of rebuilding Cincinnati. The founders wanted to provide a place where young people, like Williams, can harness their talents.
"The founders surveyed young people that came from the city to find out what it is they're interested in and the majority of them were speaking of hip-hop, music, dancing, the things that we provide in the center," Brother Abdullah said.
The center was founded in February of 2003. Many inner city youth teens spend their afternoons in classes including graffiti arts, hip-hop dance, audio recording and beat production.
More than 40 people come to the center daily. Just six years after the program began, membership is now up to 300 inner city youth. Founders say the goal is to provide teenagers with a safe haven and encourage them to go to college.
Jacob Fortner, an instructor at Elementz, wanted to become a teacher because he saw first hand, how the classes helped him build his craft. "Some members are there every single day and they are there from when it opens to when it closes and it makes me think like wow, what else would they be doing if they weren't here. they are just really connected to it," Fortner said.
Earlier this month, Elementz celebrated their 6th year anniversary at the 20th century theatre in Oakley. Hundreds of people came out to see the young performers in action.
"The Elementz brand for hip-hop is hip-hop that is respectful.," Brother Abdullah said. "We believe that hip-hop can be used for positive purposes and otherwise the center wouldn't be open and funded and stayed open over the years without having a foundation of respect."
Five years after being shot, Williams is now a signed artist on Everybody's Music Group. For Williams, the center was a god answered prayer. "I think the sky is the limit for my career now," Williams said.
Elementz is open Monday through Thursday.
The Hip-Hop Dance Class is Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Graffiti Arts runs from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. DJ-ing is Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Audio Production is Monday through Thursday from 3:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. and leadership development classes are Monday from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.
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