Coming Full Circle

Image from Footsteps in the Dark, Journey of Hip-Hop Movement

In the end, all this work brings me back to where I started, working to build community among people that the larger society seeks to divide along class, race and economic standing, working through hip-hop to build bridges and community. I know the value of creating intentionally for other people what I have always believed happened to me by chance. Pivotal to my own progress was the realization of how much I have to learn, and the awareness of how many people are in my life to be my teachers. Anyone working to create transformational educational experiences…


Photo of former WBL student (DJ RA) teaching younger people how to DJ at the Chinatown Block Party

The Hustle: The Creative Core

For the last two years the Creative Core has operated as a workforce development initiative in the Words Beats & Life Academy. The Core was created as a way to engage our most advanced arts students in paid performance opportunities in the District and beyond. Moving into this the third year of the Creative Core, we are expanding who can join the Core, to include non-artists interested in working in creative businesses.

According to the office of planning, the creative sector is the second largest employment sector in Washington D.C. after the federal government. We…


Mural painted in Pakistan @ American Cultural Center by Rose Jaffe

The Embassy of Hip-Hop: Cultural Ambassadors

Over the last five years we have been able to share our learning to engage young people in Africa (Senegal, Uganda and South Africa), Asia (Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and South Korea), Europe (Brussels, England, France), and South America (Brazil). In all of these places we found organizations just like WBL, serving little boys and girls of color. We were often invited to provide master teachers, or host capacity building trainings. We are now working to develop public art strategies in Pakistan, introducing new contemporary American dance forms in Korea, and developing commercial ties…


Photo from La Belle Hip-Hop Festival at American University

The Cipher: Building a Movement

The concept of a cipher in hip-hop comes from the Arabic word, Sifrs, which is the number zero. It’s a circle in which competition usually takes place between either dancers or MC’s. We have worked to redefine this concept, as a sacred circle of interconnectedness, where what happens in the circle of observers is just as important as the observers themselves. The observers are the community responsible for protecting the participant in the circle. For Words Beats & Life, the cipher as a program was a way to build bridges among other non-profits, for profits…


Asad Interview

Since I can remember I wanted to be a dancer, and since then my mother said no to that idea. See, growing up a Black Muslim girl dance is very much a part of Black culture and not very big in Muslim cultures or, so I thought. Through my internship at Words, Beats and Life I have been blessed to be a part of the marketing of an amazing performative play called Footsteps in the Dark: Journey of Hip-Hop Movement. I recently spoke with the Creative Director of Footsteps, Asad Ali Jafri. …


Amirah Interview by Sadiyah

I developed a love for writing poetry out of wanting to create a narrative for myself and women like me, I created a blog inspired by a desire to uplift various narratives from the people around me and, I applied for the Words, Beats and Life internship because I wanted the inside track on the best ways to uplift and market artists in ways only WBL knows how. …


Design commissioned for #artwave theme

The Jam: Celebrations of Excellence

It is important to know that community much like success can not just happen in a vacuum. It is not something that just happens in a classroom. Community has to happen in the world. Some organizations create complex rights of passage programs rooted in traditional African writes of passage programs, but hip-hop has its own ways of handing down tradition and recognizing the transitions of members of the community. To that end we organize events for our students to showcase their talent through the performance of songs, routines, and gallery shows. We also bring them…


Trust Your Struggle Mural in Washington D.C.

The Academy: Non-Traditional Classrooms

Hip-Hop is a community survival strategy created as a response to attacks upon the creativity, health and wellbeing of NYC Public school children and families. We chose hip-hop exactly for this reason. It was a survival strategy created by young people for young people. We have built our program around the idea that hip-hop today is really rooted in three principles; remixing, sampling and the central role of technology in art making and education.

This was done intentionally for a few reasons. First, our non-traditional (community based) classrooms allow us to create learning communities of young…


Mazi A. E. Mutafa, Founder and Executive Director of Words Beats and Life Inc.

After 17 years of leading what began as a university student groups project, there is so much I have learned about strategies to promoting individual and community transformation. The fact that we began Words Beats & Life as a conference, hosted by multiple student groups is important because those college years shaped much of what I believed was possible and necessary in the larger world as I graduated. Words Beats & Life is a hip-hop non-profit. I chose to build an organization rooted in hip-hop for…

Words Beats & Life Inc.

Washington D.C.'s #1 Hip-Hop Nonprofit

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