[jump] BRL’s concept began in 2004, when school counselor Tomás Alvarzes III started to develop a Hip Hop Therapy program in order to better connect with students at Berkeley High. By taking advantage of the necessity for collaboration and networking inherent in rhyme-writing and producing, Alvarez created an option for kids who didn’t feel comfortable in conventional therapy.
The organization’s primary impact lies in its strategy of reversing the stigma against mental health issues by embedding them within culturally relevant projects. Leadership includes equal parts artists, clinicians, and peer mentors to ensure trusting relationships. But quality of music isn’t sacrificed, either. Mixtapes and albums are available for purchase on the organization’s Bandcamp site, and in 2009, Kerri Gawryn documented the success of BRL and its individuals in her film, A Lovely Day.
Boys from the ages of 12-19 are eligible to apply for the fall program. Sessions are Tuesday 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the 81st Avenue Library and Friday 4:30pm-6:30 p.m. at the Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center. Applications are due October 15th.
Trailer for A Lovely Day (2012) by Kerri Gawryn on Vimeo.