If someone would have told me 6 years ago that I would have worked with over 300 youth through AWOL's arts and technology program, I probably would have laughed at them. But of all the young people I've worked with, the one that sticks out in particular, (probably because he's still around bugging me) is Quentin.
Quentin was a member of my very first grant funded arts program for youth, Hold Up a HIV/AIDS prevention Hip Hop Theater production that focused on helping teens protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. This was back in the day when I worked at Union Mission, Inc., (another awesome Savannah non-profit). He was just 13 at the time, and I can even remember his stepfather bringing him to the auditions and informing me that he was his manager, which I got a real laugh out of since this was simply a community prevention program. I thought to myself, who does this guy think I am?, A&R for Universal Records or something!? lol.
But nonetheless, I could appreciate the parental involvement aspect. As the program progressed, I was most impressed with Quentin's artistic ability. Him and his buddy Patrick took the information that I had given them and quite easily made it into a hip and cool song about HIV prevention. I must admit, I was quite impressed.
Then one afternoon after a show, I set about my daily task of dropping the kids off at home and overheard Quentin and Patrick's conversation about their frustration with the music biz. Yes, you hear me right people, "frustration".
At the time, both of them could not have been more than 14 or 15 and already they were more concerned with their music career than anything else. But this conversation stood out a great deal, because both of them sited that "other homeboys" that they knew who were also rappers, were apparently already doing well, signing contracts, doing shows, and recording in the local studios....studios that I knew were no place for a young person. Most of Savannah's underground music scene at the time, was inundated with drugs and violence.
I spoke to the boys of course, and told them to take the high road, ignore the fact that everyone seem to be passing them by...humph..what a hard pill for them to swallow and for me to have to give. Kids of course want instant gratification. It's a phase in life that some of else never grow out of, but as adolescents it's an even more powerful feeling.
At that moment, my conscious and subconscious mind made a clear cut decision. I WAS GOING TO DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO PROVIDE SAVANNAH YOUTH WITH ACCESS TO A FREE MUSIC RECORDING STUDIO. No drugs, no violence, no contracts to sign, just a place with top notch equipment to call their own.
6 years later, that dream is now a reality. So just in case your wondering....what happen to Quentin and Patrick?
Here he is right here, doing just fine. A college student at Savannah State University, and an Artist Facilitator for AWOL teaching other kids how to make hot beats! Most days of the week he can still be found in the AWOL lab, busy making a new beat or laying down a new track or two. Patrick is also employed by AWOL with our Goon Squad Information Technology program. You can see him in our recent feature article in Black Enterprise Mag. My heart and mind are at peace knowing that AWOL has the power to keep young people safe and off the streets and most of all out of "bad situations".