How do you reach new youth audiences to provide a positive message? How do you help juvenile offenders reintegrate into their communities? You use a language and activity they know and understand: hip-hop and graffiti. The U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru organized a two-day hip-hop and graffiti program in Lima and Chiclayo with U.S. Hip-Hopper Jose Collado, alias "Rey Chesta," and Peru's graffiti artist Alexis Villanueva, alias "Salsa," April 4 and 5. The artists held a workshop in El Agustino, one of the most dangerous areas of Lima with a high prevalence of drug use and gang activity, and another workshop in the provincial city of Chiclayo, an area with a high rate of delinquency.
Participants in the workshops were sixty 13- to 18-year-olds who are part of the Juvenile Restorative Justice Program (JRJP) led by NGO Encuentros Casa de la Juventud. When young people get in trouble with the law, the JRJP provides support for them from the time of arrest through the court process. The goal of the program is to promote reparation of the victim and to help the juvenile offender fit back into the community.
Both workshops were highly successful. The artists spoke openly about the positive nature of hip-hop and graffiti cultures and presented them as healthy alternatives to drugs, violence, and delinquency. The young people in El Agustino and Chiclayo enthusiastically welcomed the artists and their messages. The positive energy the workshops generated was contagious. "Salsa" and "Rey Chesta" showed how they use creativity to overcome personal challenges and contribute to their communities. They composed songs together with participants and offered to upload the songs on their websites.
The program offered a dynamic way to reach an audience that is hungry for opportunity and to introduce them to the United States and the U.S. Embassy in Lima.