Elementz Hip-Hop Youth Center provides free arts classes and mentors youth

CINCINNATI - In the midst of turmoil and tension after the Cincinnati unrestin 2001, a beacon of light soon graced the streets inOver-the-Rhine to help the city's youth. Elementz Hip-Hop YouthCenter was created to give teens and young adults a place torelieve  tension.

Anthony "Gamm" Williams from Lincoln Heights, was shot in Augustof 2006, downtown on the corners of 14th and Vine Streets. Williamshad just started taking classes at Elementz, he says the people andthe center changed his life after the shooting.  "Elementz isa super big part of my life and I thank god everyday for thisbuilding," Williams said.

Now and days, you can find Williams performing throughout thecity. He's now living his dream and it's all thanks to thecenter.

"I've been traveling like all over the country, doing shows andgoing to media conferences meeting new people everyday, all thetime. I think Elementz really just open the doors to my future,"Williams said.

Brother Abdullah is the center's programs director. He saidWilliams embraced the mission once he realized really what we'reabout.

"His music basically became more diverse, and his performancesstepped up," Brother Abdullah said. "His leadership in the buildingstepped up as well, and he was employed here to teach leadershipand aspects of recording and performing to other young people overthe last 2 years."

Elementz was build after the riots in the process of rebuildingCincinnati. The founders wanted to provide a place where youngpeople, like Williams, can harness their talents.

"The founders surveyed young people that came from the city tofind out what it is they're interested in and the majority of themwere speaking of hip-hop, music, dancing, the things that weprovide in the center," Brother Abdullah said.

The center was founded in February of 2003. Many inner cityyouth teens spend their afternoons in classes including graffitiarts, hip-hop dance, audio recording and beat production.

More than 40 people come to the center daily. Just six yearsafter the program began, membership is now up to 300 inner cityyouth. Founders say the goal is to provide teenagers with a safehaven and encourage them to go to college.

Jacob Fortner, an instructor at Elementz, wanted to become ateacher because he saw first hand, how the classes helped him buildhis craft. "Some members are there every single day and they arethere from when it opens to when it closes and it makes me thinklike wow, what else would they be doing if they weren't here. theyare just really connected to it," Fortner said.

Earlier this month, Elementz celebrated their 6th yearanniversary at the 20th century theatre in Oakley. Hundreds ofpeople 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 forpositive purposes and otherwise the center wouldn't be open andfunded and stayed open over the years without having a foundationof respect."

Five years after being shot, Williams is now a signed artist onEverybody's Music Group. For Williams, the center was a godanswered 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 isMonday through Thursday from 3:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. andleadership development classes are Monday from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00p.m.

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