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Emile Jansen Reaches South African Youth Through Hip-Hop

South African artist Emile Jansen is one of those rare, selfless characters that seems to honestly operate out of the goodness of his heart. He has been active in international hip-hop culture since the ’80s and recently returned to the neighborhood where he grew up in Cape Town in order to help disadvantaged youth. Jansen, subject of a recent ‘First Person’ video prepped by the BBC, introduces teens and younger children to the joys of hip-hop music and encourages them to learn and express themselves through breakdancing.

“We created projects for young people to be a part of — from something as simple as breakdancing to having discussions with each other about issues or race or xenophobia,” explains Jansen in the video. “Getting young people to interact and write about what they’re thinking, to put up murals about what they’re thinking, to make people aware that the youth is not this lost generation that everyone is talking about.”

Jansen tries to attract the youth with the prospect of a safe place to dance. He recognizes that dance is a universal love. Just give people a beat and a floor and they will generally indulge. For Jansen, it’s also a ploy to deliver information. If you dance long enough, you’ll start to listen to the words.

“My main focus with MCing is to get people to learn some new information,” he says. “I’m sharing new information. I think the main thing is connecting with music and letting people dance to become inspired. It’s a human desire to bring about change.”

Check out the full video on Jansen’s activities and non-profit project Heal the Hood here.

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