Bobby Williams, The Bridge Music Project’s founder and executive director, has been rapping and performing music since he was just 12-years-old. “That was my outlet, that’s how I got my sense of purpose and sense of identity,” he tells Andrea Capere in their interview for Mission Nonprofit. “It’s always been a powerful force in my life.” Now, he’s creating the same outlet for other youth in the community.
The Bridge Music Project teaches youth to use music and writing to deal with life’s challenges. Bobby first began the work three years ago, but The Bridge has been an official nonprofit for eight months. The project is open to anyone, but much of the work is targeted toward at-risk youth and the music style is mostly hip-hop. But they also have kids who are singers, poets and even play instruments.
Each week, The Bridge hosts workshops for about 20 youth. They start by going over a community contract, where participants set boundaries and decide the ground rules together. After either a team-building exercise or a guest speaker, they spend the second hour on collaboration. Forming five groups, each team starts by picking a beat for their song, developing a concept and lyrics, and working as a team to create a finished song to take to the studio and eventually perform.
At about nine minutes and 40 seconds into the video, Bridge participant Jio raps “The Peoples Freestyle” with the lyrics and assurance of a natural performer. Jio started as a participant, but now serves The Bridge as a youth mentor, adding that the Bridge is a non-judgmental and fun-loving place that he loves to come to every week.
You can catch other performances like Jio’s at The Bridge Summer Concert Series. Now in their fourth year, the Bridge hosts six concerts each summer where local artists and Bridge youth perform. They often have special features such as a b-boy contest and beat producer tournaments. The concerts are every other Friday at the Artesian Commons Park, and are meant as a positive activity for the whole community. The events are posted on their website and their Facebook page.
But attending a concert is just one of the many ways you can support The Bridge. They are also seeking more volunteers who want to work with youth or lead workshops. Financial contributions are also a huge help, and can be made on their website here.
“We’re always interested in collaborating or making connections,” Bobby says. “This is something for the whole community. Everyone’s invited to be a part of this.”