Non-Profit Beats, Rhymes and Life to Improve Mental Health in Youth

Beats, Rhymes, and Life is a non-profit based out of Oakland, California. Their mission is to “improve mental health and social outcomes marginalized youth by using hip-hop as a catalyst for positive change and development.”

This community-based organization began as a response to the critical need for therapeutic programs geared towards boys and young men of color. This demographic alone demonstrates some of the greatest health and social disparities.

Story | Alyssa San Agustin

Image | Beats, Rhymes, and Life

In 2004, Tomás Alvarez III created a ‘Hip Hop Therapy’ model which used the process of creating rap music as a way to engage at-risk teens into mental health services. Participants reported improved mood and self-esteem along with reduction in at-risk behavior. They also noted how it was able to change their attitude about mental health by reducing the stigma attached to receiving services. Co-founder, Rob Jackson and Tomás worked together to evolve this model over the next several years by conducting these services throughout the Bay area at places such as public schools and mental health facilities.

By 2010, there was a demand for Hip Hop Therapy in the area. So by 2011, Beats, Rhymes, and Life became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

There is documentation of proof that shows that racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are the most likely to underutilize mental health services. There is also a problem of access because for many youth, their first entry point for getting helps ends up being the juvenile justice system once a great deal of trauma has been experienced. Not to mention, mental health is still a taboo topic within society.

BRL understands these issues and understands that “our youth need culturally responsive avenues for healing and development. They need outlets that restore hope, cultivate resilience, forster belonging, and promote whole health (behavioral, social and physical).” BRL is committed to providing youth with these very things so that the youth of the community can thrive and become change makers.

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