The HHLF model is to partner with an existing nonprofit, community organization, or university. An introduction from one of the foundation’s advisory board members led to a partnership with New York City community-based nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone.
HHLF hosts monthly programs at more than 20 sites within its network for about 30 students in the Harlem Children’s Zone program. Through the partnership, called HHLoves H.C.Z., students learn a brief history of a topic then participate in a related activity followed by a Q & A session. Workshops in other cities are held weekly for eight to 12 weeks depending on the topic, which is developed and tailored to the preferences and interests of the youth.
Local and international artists that have worked with the program include Sadat X of Brand Nubian; Punchline, best known for appearances on MTV’s Lyricist Lounge; and Dres of Black Sheep. “There are a lot of people in hip-hop, and in general, that want to give back but just lack an outlet,” he adds. “We want to be that outlet, to be that bridge.”
The fledgling organization has faced its share of challenges—mainly people power. “We are a small organization so we don’t always have enough personnel on a regular basis,” explains New York City native John-Sandy. “Also, you have to fully understand the cultures that you are working with. Things may not move as quickly as you want them to go.”
Despite the setbacks, HHLF has plans to continue their international work. HHLF is working on a CD titled Hip Hop Loves Compilation Vol. 1 “Hip Hop 4 Haiti.” Proceeds from the album go to HHLF for workshops in Haiti and The Global Syndicate, a humanitarian organization. John-Sandy is proud of the Hip Hop Loves Foundation’s reach thus far: “The impact we’ve already experienced, especially being an organization only in existence for a couple of years, is definitely a triumph.”