Photo Video

Hip-hop Sholom: Urban youth arts center and suburban synagogue unite to make short documentary

Elementz and Temple Sholom: A cultural exchange

a a a a
Share this story
Show Related Headlines
Related Articles
Can new ballet works become classics?
Local teens wrap up Poland, Israel trip
A video look back at Cincy's King Records

CINCINNATI - Suburban Jewish seniors collaborating with Cincinnati’s inner-city youth? It sounds like the premise of a sitcom, but the mission is serious. 

Elementz Urban Youth Arts Center, in Over-the-Rhine, is producing a short video documentary about one of its frequent visitors. Members of Temple Sholom, in Amberley, are lending financial and personal support to help bring the video to fruition.

Project insiders hope the story of Tafari Amenenhet McDade, 22, enlightens and engages viewers about the struggles and challenges he and other black youth experience.

The documentary will also showcase Elementz as a vital outlet for youth to explore and grow as artists. A Kickstarter campaign for “The Spirit of Tafari” launched earlier this week.

“There’s a divide—a geographic and social division—between our community at Sholom and the clientele of the Elementz community, and that divide is a problem,” said Chris Kraus, director of lifelong learning at the synagogue.

“That’s something that, as Jews, doesn’t sit well with some of us,” he said. “We have a concept of justice that our community is defined by our neighbors, and (we) view Elementz as our neighbors. It’s (an) opportunity to befriend and learn from other people in our community who, on the outside, seem very different, but inwardly, in terms of our spirit, many of our goals share some similarity.”

'Humanity To Humanity, That Is My Goal'

The synagogue and Elementz have already collaborated on less ambitious projects—a Temple Sholom member serves on Elementz’s board—when leaders at Elementz approached Krause and others with the concept for this documentary.

Abdullah Powell, creative director at Elementz, thought it best to tell one member’s story rather than create an overarching look, and he zeroed on McDade, an aspiring hip-hop artist who often writes and raps about inner-city struggles.

“Tafari had a specific skill that was really insightful, and he would express what he saw around him in his neighborhood, things he’s been through, and speak about his story of redemption through his music,” Powell said. “He just had a unique talent we don’t see in a lot of artists, period, not just at Elementz.”

Initial footage revolves around McDade’s creative flow through Elementz, and it follows him in his interactions with family and with members of the synagogue. One of those is Werner Coppel, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, who has taken a deep interest McDade and champions both his creativity and determination to keep his life course on the upswing.

“At an age when (life) was over for me, when I was 19, and this man, with all the talents he has, coming out of a broken home, and having problems in his youth, I thought I could contribute to help him overcome his past and look forward to the future,” Coppel said of McDade.

“When I came to Cincinnati, in 1949, I came with a wife, a baby and a suitcase, and I had to work, and I worked, and Cincinnati was good to me, and there’s no reason for Tafari not to do the same,” Coppel said.

“That is my goal. I don’t know anything about the music—I know Beethoven—but humanity to humanity, that is my goal.”

Campaign To Fund Production

Producers are hoping to raise $6,000 through their Kickstarter campaign, which runs through Oct. 9. If successful, the money will go toward general production costs. Producers estimate the finished video will run about 15 minutes. 

For his part, McDade seems nonplussed as the focus of this documentary, and he says his emergence from a youth of marijuana, truancy and other “things I shouldn’t have been doing,” is a work in progress. He’s still inching toward his general education developmental certificate.

McDade, who grew up largely in Walnut Hills and Evanston and now lives in Westwood, considers his relationship with Coppel and others at Temple Sholom as “a brotherhood.”

He hopes the finished documentary allows other black youth in Cincinnati to see some of themselves in him.

“The biggest challenge for me is fear and doubt,” McDade said. “I’m definitely afraid of God, but I’m also afraid some things might not go the way I expect them to go. It's been a real rough journey for me, but I can still overcome it.”

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More Local News
Police ask for help in finding Ky. toddler
Police ask for help in finding Ky. toddler

Police are asking the community for help in finding a missing 2-year-old they believe was taken by her intoxicated grandfather.

Cincinnati traffic: Thursday's delays
Cincinnati traffic: Thursday's delays

All your Thursday morning traffic delays.

Cincinnati lawmaker Pete Beck to get trial date
Cincinnati lawmaker Pete Beck to get trial date

A trial date is expected to be set for a southwestern Ohio lawmaker charged with fraud and theft for allegedly misleading investors about a…

Auto parts maker to pay fine in price-fixing cas
Auto parts maker to pay fine in price-fixing cas

The U.S. Justice Department says an auto parts manufacturer accused in a price-fixing conspiracy has agreed to plead guilty and pay a fine of…

Gay rights group seeks to expand marriage case
Gay rights group seeks to expand marriage case

A gay rights group wants to intervene in an existing case in hopes of getting a federal court to overturn Ohio's gay marriage ban and…

Trial back on after mistrial in 2012 murder case
Trial back on after mistrial in 2012 murder case

A courtroom brawl sparked a mistrial for a man facing murder charges in October 2013 and a new trial is underway.

Driver may have fled scene of fatal crash
Driver may have fled scene of fatal crash

A 911 recording that documented the moments after a stolen vehicle slammed into a tree, killing a teenage girl, sheds new light on the…

Tri-State briefs: April 24, 2014
Tri-State briefs: April 24, 2014

A wrap-up of local stories happening Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Chapman throws batting practice
Chapman throws batting practice

Aroldis Chapman got closer to returning to the Reds Wednesday when he pitched batting practice and manager Bryan Price pronounced him in…

Three primetime games for Cincinnati
Three primetime games for Cincinnati

Bengals will battle Steelers down the stretch twice