I had the dream job after college.
At the end of 2004 I was hired by Youth Sounds, a small digital media youth program, to co-found a music program for youth and young adults in Oakland where we taught beat making & recording. The program was called BUMP (Bay Unity Music Project), which still exists to this day. I quit my dream job in 2007 mostly because of non-profit employee burnout syndrome and partly because the Native Guns thing was popping off and I wanted to explore being an independent DJ/Musician.
In those three years, we made a lot of good music, performed a lot of shows, and taught a lot youth throughout Oakland & SF. However, the experience that sticks with me most was also the most challenging: running our first middle school program, BUMP Kizmet.
Kizmet was created from the guts of West Oakland’s McClymonds High School. The aging, poor-performing, low-attended high school was split into three small schools: 2 high schools and 1 middle school - Kizmet. It was intended to be a place for advanced middle schoolers to prepare them for high school. Instead it became a dumping ground for all the kids that got kicked out of the other middle schools in Oakland. These kids were bad. They beat up each other; they beat up high schoolers; they even beat on teachers (and then stole their cars). These kids were BAD.
However, by the end of the year, we were able to guide a small group of 6th and 7th graders to produce, write, and record their own album, as well as perform a concert in front of all their peers. No, they weren’t the best beats; no, they weren’t the best rhymes; and no, they weren’t the best performers. But watching those kids be stars in front of their friends, having fun, and forgetting - even if for just 20 minutes - the stresses of living in the hood, brought tears to my eyes. It was the last week of work before my quit date.
I haven’t kept in touch with any of the BUMP Kizmet kids and wonder what they’re up to now. Some of them should be juniors in high school, or at least I hope so.
Digging through my backup hard drive, I stumbled upon the album we made and listened to every track. This song was one of our favorites.