images by Larry Gallagher

by Larry Gallagher

The worlds of hip-hop and sneakers have been synonymous with one another since the music genre really began to gain traction in the 1970s. Once Run D.M.C. dropped “My adidas” on the world in 1986, there was no question about it: sneaker culture and its fusion with hip-hop were a global phenomenon.

Through the years, we've seen, and continue to see, business partnerships between music and sneakers. Every once in a while, some of these partnerships tackle real issues and make a difference in people's lives. Right now, Reebok is pitching in on a grass-roots level to help students from the South Bronx of New York to use hip-hop and rap to overcome what life has presented them.

The New Visions High School for Advanced Math and Science II (AMS II) started a program last year, under the guidance of 9th grade school counselor Ian Levy, which gave students a platform to cope with difficult emotional experiences by way of hip-hop and spoken word therapy. The students come together on a weekly basis to discuss different themes and emotional struggles they had and from there,

they converted that into learning to write and perform their own lyrics. It all comes together as the students grow in expressing themselves by having collaborating on an emotionally themed mixtape which they will eventually perform in front of the school. Once Reebok found out about the program, the brand wanted to get involved.

Not only did each of the students receive a crisp pair of white Reebok Classics, they also got a visit from radio personality Sway. After seeing their passion and hard work at the school, he invited them to come perform live on the “Sway In The Morning” show.

"Friends of mine from Reebok were telling me about AMS New Vision Charter School in the Bronx and this hip hop class and I asked them, 'What is it designed for?'" Sway said. "The way it was explained to me was that through hip hop there would be these workshops that were like therapy. For kids who are in low income environments, who maybe feel disenfranchised and need hope and to realize their full potential. I was was like, “We've gotta do this.”

Overall, the students from AMS II experienced something that they can hold onto for the rest of their lives. As Levy explained, this form of therapy has shown much positivity and change in so many students.

“They're all so much more confident now, and they are able to speak to their emotions now in a much more vivid way than before. They're not afraid to tell people how they feel, which is huge. It also has helped teach them emotional regulation skills. So instead of seeing a kid just explode and yell at a teacher when they're mad, instead they'll come to me and we’ll work on a track about it. Now they know there is an outlet for them and they are hungry to write, which means they're hungry to learn more about themselves.”

It’s teachers like Mr. Levy and Dr. Chris Emdin (who created the #HipHopEd movement and was also in attendance yesterday) who are hard at work trying to protect and help grow this next generation, and it's great when you can see sneaker companies like Reebok and personalities like Sway get behind these programs as well, to not only support, but to show these kids what they are doing matters. In a time where most of our 24-hour news cycle is filled with stories of celebrity debauchery and corporate greed, it’s nice to see something like this event. Props to Reebok and Sway for making it happen.