H.Y.P.E. Founder Dr. Adia Winfrey Talks Tupac & Healing Black Youth Through Hip Hop

boy writing notebookI hear Brenda’s got a baby
But Brenda’s barely got a brain
A damn shame
The girl can hardly spell her name
(That’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family)
Well let me show ya how it affects our whole community

~Tupac Shakur, “Brenda’s Got a Baby” (1991)


When I was in the 6th grade, my 11-year-old classmate became pregnant with her first child. As you can imagine, my mother had a tough time discussing my classmate’s journey to motherhood with me, but as luck would have it, rap music came to the rescue.

At that time, rapper Tupac Shakur released “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” a song about a 12-year-old girl having a child. The song quickly gained popularity and was all over the radio. Like most mothers, my mother detested rap. But the release of a song detailing the dynamics of this real life situation was divinely timed. Pac’s song became an icebreaker making these conversations with my mother less awkward. This memory stuck with me.

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As a doctoral student in clinical psychology, I used my personal experience with rap to develop H.Y.P.E.: Healing Young People thru Empowerment. A 12-session curriculum, H.Y.P.E. integrates hip-hop culture and psychological theories to educate and inspire youth, exposing them to conflict management, violence prevention, strategies for handling peer pressure and other life skills.

In these H.Y.P.E. workgroups, youth ages 13-22 explore their experiences and feelings by listening to and discussing over 50 rap songs including “Still Ain’t Forgave Myself” by T.I., “ My Struggle” by Lil Boosie and “Tell A Story” by Rhymefest. Since 2007, over 1000 youth experiencing depression, overcoming abuse or involved in the juvenile justice system have found their voices and expanded their vision for the future through H.Y.P.E.’s therapeutic use of rap.

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As poet Victor Hugo stated, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Hip hop culture’s global influence is undeniable. Its elements have generated billions. Yet, its greatest value goes beyond partying and fashion. Hip Hop culture is empowerment. Hip Hop culture gives voice to the voiceless. At its core, hip hop heals.

Visit the BlackDoctor.org Youth and Young Adult center for more articles. 

Dr.DiaDr. Winfrey is an Atlanta, GA based author, psychologist, corporate trainer, and rap lyricist who has been featured on NPR, the Tom Joyner Morning Show and inJET Magazine. She is the creator of Healing Young People thru Empowerment (H.Y.P.E.), which incorporates rap music and lyrics into group therapy sessions for at-risk youth, with emphasis on Black males. Beginning in 2015, through a BlackDoctor.org partnership, H.Y.P.E. online workgroups will be conducted with youth globally. Learn more about Dr. Winfrey and H.Y.P.E. at http://www.letsgethype.com