Jazzy hip-hop dance beats echoed back and forth off the stone walls of the courtyard as I made my way to the gym at Zion Lutheran Church off Cincinnati Street, approaching the West Side of San Antonio. Entering the gym, I immediately realized I would need a lot more than rhythm to hang with this crowd. Bodies were engulfed by music — the power of dance was all around me.
Sixty-plus young men and women from around the city gather at the weekly event to enjoy their shared interest and hone their break-
dancing skills for self-improvement and to gear up for performances throughout the community.
Youth Advocates is a forward-thinking youth development organization based in Houston that works through the hip-hop vernacular to make a difference in the lives of disenfranchised youth. Fabian Carr, director of the San Antonio branch of YA, has been involved with the organization since 1999. Having first experienced San Antonio’s break-dancing subculture at First Friday, Carr saw there was potential to create something meaningful. A former b-boy himself, he wanted to use his skills for a good cause. Developing YA’s San Antonio chapter and working to shed a positive light on break-dancing and hip-hop cultures offered a perfect opportunity for Carr.
Carr describes YA as a close-knit community based on love, respect, and acceptance, but the current success of the organization has not come without abundant sacrifice and devotion from many contributors. Though YA has been active in San Antonio since 1999, they have been operating on a fairly small all-volunteer scale until recently. In March, YA was recognized by AmeriCorps, a nationwide organization that supplies grants for individuals who volunteer their time to non-profit organizations focused on making improvements in education, public safety, health, and the environment. Members receive a living stipend, health benefits, professional-careers development, and a hefty scholarship at the end of their service term.
Wade Cigue spoke about how YA and AmeriCorps have helped him stay out of trouble and be productive. “Before getting involved with YA, I was working a lot of dead-end jobs. AmeriCorps has given me a chance to go back to school and find meaningful employment,” says Cigue. He now has a job working with Decisions for Life, a local organization that helps schools develop extracurricular programs and educate young people about crime.
YA has influenced San Antonio’s youth, by giving them an outlet for their creative energy and offering alternatives to risky behavior. Members are helped by the organization and then grow to help others in their community. Though YA began small, the organization is growing bigger and stronger, participating in important local activities including Fiesta and Spurs games.
“YA is truly a ‘pay-it-forward organization,’” says Carr. “Hip-hop is not who we are, it’s what we do. What we’re really here to do is help each other.” •
Youth Advocates of San Antonio
Tues & Thurs
Zion Lutheran Church
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