Mexican rapper Danger AK has designed an educational strategy that uses lyrics, poetic structures and other literary resources set to rap rhythms in order to trap the attention of teenagers attending a Mexico City high school.
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In a secondary school in the Tlatelolco district of downtown Mexico City, Jose Alfredo Martinez Estrada, better known in the Mexican rap world as Danger AK, is giving a very different kind of class: a rap workshop for 50 students between ages 12-15.
“We picked this high school in Tlatelolco because...we realized that this is a troubled part of the city, that there are many stories about these unfavorable surroundings and that kids here are often disturbed by their environment. The idea is to see what tools we can give them to shape their lives,” Danger told EFE in an interview on Monday.
The 33-year-old musician spent 15 years giving workshops in poor neighborhoods, in children’s homes and in the prisons of his native city of Tijuana on the United Staes border, as well as in Ciudad Juarez and in the capital.
Along with his musical career, Mexico’s secretary of culture this year added the program “Wings and Roots” – about cultural activities for kids – to put together a plan of studies for the course he now teaches.
The rapper has poured into it all his workshop-teaching experience and self-taught store of knowledge, accumulated practically since adolescence, to shape the course, a pilot program he kicked off last August and which will continue throughout the school year.
In the class, the teacher speaks of resilience, self-awareness, settling conflicts, self-confident communication and selecting interpersonal relations, among other subjects, in order to establish a certain empathy with his students.
“We talk about when to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and when it’s advisable to say something you really feel and care about and never to say anything as a result of social pressure,” the teacher said.
In the first class, Danger improvised a scholarly rap as a demonstration. Students, teachers, and the administration were convinced that it was indeed worthwhile.
“At the end of the course, the goal is that the kids can technically develop rhythmic verses, use correct grammar and put those lyrics to a rap beat if they want to,” he said.
In 2016 and 2017, Danger represented Mexico at the Almagro Classic Theater Festival in Spain and at the International Cervantes Festival in Mexico together with two other rappers, after winning the “Cervantes in Rap” contest, in which, with creativity and knowledge, they recited lines related to Miguel de Cervantes.