At the back of the room sits a DJ sales space, hip-hop enjoying out of the audio system. On the entrance, previous rows of educators, Ok-12 college students and members of the local people, there may be dancing. The dancers are from Vernon Malone Faculty and Profession Academy and Proper Strikes Dance, and generally they’re joined by whoever else within the room desires to stand up and transfer their ft alongside to the music.
The music and dancing is all a part of the Supporting Psychological Well being Advocacy and STEAM By means of Hip-Hop (SMASH) Summit hosted by the non-profit Empower All Inc. Valencia Hicks-Harris, a doctoral scholar within the NC State Faculty of Schooling’s Division of Trainer Schooling and Studying Science’s Academic Fairness focus, co-founded Empower All Inc. with Amanda West and Emily Wade and serves as its CEO.
When Hicks-Harris was dreaming up the summit, her precedence was to offer a possibility to debate psychological well being, particularly because it associated to Ok-12 college students of coloration. However, she questioned, would that be sufficient for individuals to indicate up? Hicks-Harris determined so as to add a STEAM element and create a hip-hop summit with as many panels as dance events. The day of the summit, no less than 100 attendees had been there.
“Who doesn’t love hip-hop?” stated Hicks–Harris. “Who doesn’t love music?”
With keynote audio system Dudley Flood, a former educator who led desegregation efforts in North Carolina colleges; Hilda Willis, a producer, director and performing artist; and Donovan Livingston, senior director of the Emily Krzyzewski Heart, Hicks-Harris and her Empower All Inc. co-founders placed on an occasion that centered on inspiring college students of coloration whereas addressing the problems that have an effect on them.
“After we heard from panelists who talked about psychological well being, which could be heavy, we instantly had been introduced again up as a result of there was an artist who carried out a musical choice,” she stated. “So it was really, really phenomenal.”
The SMASH Summit, held in November on the Friday Institute for Academic Innovation, which is a part of the Faculty of Schooling, was the one of many largest occasions hosted by Empower All Inc. Hicks-Harris was impressed to begin Empower All Inc. whereas studying works by Paola Freire, bell hooks and James Baldwin in a course taught by Assistant Professor Crystal Chen Lee. For the primary time, Hicks-Harris stated, she was in a position to put phrases to experiences she had felt her entire life, and she or he determined to take motion.
“I can not wait 4 years to graduate from a program to start this work,” stated Hicks–Harris. “I can’t wait 4 extra hours, 4 extra minutes. I’ve to place boots on the bottom and do one thing now that’s inside my attain. That’s how Empower All was born.”
Her purpose in beginning the non-profit was to bridge the hole between the house, the varsity and neighborhood, and she or he determined to attract on her expertise as a former STEAM program chief at Holly Grove and White Oak elementary colleges to make it occur.
“Our mission is to empower all to be absolutely human via a holistic strategy, which encompasses the cultural affirmation and belonging, the emphasis on STEAM, the social, emotional studying (SEL), and the psychological well being piece, which we all know is extra essential now than ever,” Hicks-Harris stated.
In apply, that has meant supporting lecturers via classes at Wake County elementary colleges, partnering with Biogen to construct STEAM kits and teaming up with A Place On the Desk to cross out the kits, whereas additionally offering meals and low.
Along with Hicks-Harris and her two co-founders, Empower All Inc. features a youth council, composed of highschool and center college college students, in addition to interns from the Faculty of Schooling’s College students Advocating for Youth (SAY) Village, all working collectively to make an affect in the neighborhood.
“The Faculty of Schooling pushed me to motion,” Harris-Hicks stated. “You may solely accomplish that a lot within the constraints of a classroom. It pushed me to step out, to have a wider attain and a wider scope of affect.”
Hicks-Harris plans to carry the SMASH Summit once more subsequent 12 months, and she or he is already pondering of increasing it farther.
“Who is aware of, possibly we’ll go on tour — it’d be Smash Raleigh, Smash Durham, Smash Charlotte,” she stated.