Culture4MyKids, INC. (C4MK) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a cultural, historical, academic and artistic outlet for youth of all ages. C4MK is the gift of tradition, family, cultural arts, education, mentoring, self-awareness, and community connections wrapped up into approximately fifteen diverse programs for children and families. The mission is to empower young people with the ability to take control of their education and their future. Their vision is to create entities all over the city that strive to increase health awareness and self-esteem, develop entrepreneurial skills, increase community connection and overall respect for cultural diversity. Overall, they want to develop a community culture that reinforces the idea of lifelong learning.
C4MK works with families, schools and community centers implementing programs that use cultural arts to connect with and make a significant impact on the youth. Servicing approximately 500-1000 youth and families each year, they work towards giving an empowering voice to urban youth. By understanding the past, students are able to gain appreciation of their diverse origins, which allows them to build or even re-build a positive self image and create a more solid future.
C4MK began unofficially in 2005 as a creative seed of LaShaunda Craddock, also known as Mama Ayo, the Founder and Executive Director of C4MK. This company was created because of the love and positive reactions from the community that was received during dance and cultural workshops with children in the community. The organization’s original name was All4abi, Inc. This was a business that was named after and created for Craddock’s daughter so that she could have something that she could own and develop that would be more beneficial to the community and more rewarding than a regular job. Culture4MyKids was created to create a space and a place for all of the children in the community to learn about themselves, have a positive voice in the community and eventually be a part of a business that had been training them since their very first day.
“Through C4MK I hope that the children will learn that the world is their playground,” comments Craddock. I hope that they learn that it is alright to be who they are and that they have something positive to offer to the world. I hope they understand that only they can define themselves and that they are not stereotypes but leaders who can make a difference.”
VIDEO: Culture4MyKids, INC. on Virginia this Morning
The vision began to grow as she started teaching in the public school system and personally saw how self knowledge increased the motivation for success and how once a relationship with the children was established, the sky was the limit for that pursuit of that knowledge. In 2006, her vision was physically, mentally and spiritually combined with that of Leroy Craddock. In 2010, the dance and cultural arts programming was expanded, infusing traditional ways with modern practices. From this expansion, approximately fifteen different programs were created that would impact the lives of children from different walks of life. Six months after they became married, the organization was officially incorporated. In September of 2011, Culture4MyKids, INC. received its 501c-3 status.
From a Negative to a Positive
There are several issues impeding the success of young people today. Some of those issues include the experiences of family breakdown, deterioration of physical health, engaging in risky behavior, dealing with mental health issues, low academic achievement and having poor self images. Culture4MyKids addresses these issues from an African centered perspective, using age old traditions that have kept communities together for centuries.
Healthy Body/Healthy Minds Program
This program was established to educate the community[o1] and to advocate in areas of health awareness that deal with developing good eating habits. It has key components that promote physical activity, increase nutrition knowledge, and expose participants to extracurricular activities. This program runs yearlong in after school programs and community centers throughout the city of Richmond.
The Healthy Body/Healthy Mind initiative also includes an annual “Move Ya Feet” youth competition and exhibition. This event is designed to give students of all ages an outlet to showcase their talents and motivate other young people to get physically involved in activities such as step, dance, cheering, kungfu, etc. as well as earn cash prizes and trophies. This frequently sold-out event also gives young people a chance to become involved in event planning and entrepreneurial ventures by serving on the planning committee, helping to run the event and also participating in the youth marketplace by selling products that they have created and manufactured.
Abiona Exploration Program
The Abiona Exploration Experience is an interdisciplinary tutoring program that seeks to build academic performance by working in three main areas: creative expression, reading skills, and historical exploration. This tutoring program operates between October and May. During these months, the students will journey through history as they work to develop skills in the area of fluency, comprehension, test taking, vocabulary and writing. They will also improve their creativity by demonstrating these skills as they explore the world of African drumming, dance, poetry, hands-on crafts and occupation initiatives.
Hip Hop Book Club
Students have the chance to enjoy reading a variety of books that deal with urban and international culture. Within reading the book, students are able to review higher level thinking thought processing and are able to use their creative skills to engage in end of the year projects that will either aim to compare and contrast the urban culture of the past to the current culture of today, explore how to use the culture to bring about change in the future, and put on a final production that will retell the theme of the story through spoken word, music, and dance.
C4MK’s internship program allows young people to professionally engage in the art of learning the craft of teaching a dance or drum class, planning events, running a business, sitting on a board, etc. The students involved complete one hundred hours of training in order to be eligible for part or full time work and/or obtain references for placement elsewhere. Students learn[o2] skills that can be applied to a professional setting in a job.
This program involves the promotion and initialization of businesses that young people would like to start. In some cases, assistance with securing materials or resources to start the business will be provided.
B.R.E.A.T.H.E.: Beneficial workshops to Relieve and Educate All Through Healing and Enlightenment Motivational Workshops
These motivational workshops are for youth and families. Each workshop is aimed to unify and help people cope with everyday challenges of life. Workshops include: Sister/ Warrior Circles and Five-part series workshops on various topics such as Bringing Balance to your open areas of energies. There are also special individual sessions on Protecting your Sacred Space, Conflict Resolution and Ten Steps to Ase (full potential power and energy).
Taaluma Youth Performance Company
Watch the Video about Taaluma:
Taaluma Youth Performance curriculum encompasses all of the programming into one yearlong intensive, loving series of experiences. The central mission for this program is to expose youth to their natural talents and abilities by offering developmental instruction in areas of dance, instrumentation, and responsibility development. The main goals are: to allow the students to develop an appreciation for culture by exposing them to travel, to help them gain an understanding about their connection to African heritage by increasing their knowledge of African history, and to use community partnerships to expose the students to their natural skill sets.
Taaluma is about sharing the journey of how you find yourself through spoken word, traditional practices, education, history, community service and family. Taaluma is about creating the leaders of tomorrow by utilizing the experiences of today. Taaluma is about sharing knowledge of culture and self with the world.
2013 Summer Theme: I Am Aware
This year, C4MK embarked on an “I am Aware” campaign. The parts of this campaign include historical awareness, community awareness, international and local awareness. The historical awareness included the revisiting of the slave trail, the burial ground, and the viewing of the Free Angela documentary.
To improve community awareness, students traveled to Washington, D.C. to network with Sylvia Soumah of Coyaba Dance Theater. They conducted a B.R.E.A.T.H.E. workshop with Camp Diva ladies to bring awareness about the importance of practicing Kwanzaa principles every day in order to bring balance to self and family. They also volunteered community service hours to Umoja Temple in order to help clean out a building to help support their home school initiative project.
Local awareness was raised by discussing issues within the educational system and also by examining health issues that affect our community. Culture4MyKids sponsored a cultural evening of “Get Up and Get Moving” dance class which featured six classes (Samba, African Aerobics, Capoeira, Belly Dancehall, Line Dancing and Soulsa) and healthy snacks and nutritional information. The international awareness was created through the study of Ghana which focused on the history and purpose of folktales, music, song and social change through dance.
It Takes a Community
C4MK works with community centers, schools, churches and governmental agencies. Most of their programs are designed for and enjoyed by all ages and populations. Over the past few years, Culture4MyKids, Inc. has networked with: Trinity Family Life Center, Camp Diva, Girls Can, North Side YMCA, First Baptist of Centralia, C.I.S. Thompson, Robinson Theater, Red Cross, Powhatan Community Center, Henderson Middle School, MLK Boys and Girls Club, Higher Achievement, Richmond Youth Peace Project and several others.
It takes a village to raise a child. ~ African proverb
C4MK programs invest in the child, the community and the future. C4MK builds long lasting relationships with the young people that are served. It takes a village to raise a child and Culture4MyKids, Inc. works hard to provide that village setting in which families can connect and support each other. The organization’s programs are funded by volunteer time and money that is paid through community memberships, participant dues or personal donations. Any member in the community can assist Culture4MyKids, Inc. on a regular basis by making donations, becoming an official member and supporter of Culture4myKids, Inc., and by supporting the events. Time and talent would also be appreciated via board service, grant writing, and event planning.
Finally, the donating of the following items would also be appreciated:
- Home School Initiative: Any amount and types of school supplies for pre-k through elementary school.
- Healthy Body/Healthy Minds: jump ropes, resistance bands, yoga mats, a portable boom box (with iPod docking station),
- Move Ya Feet Dance Competition: trophies and donations of cash prizes
- Kwanzaa Celebration: Kwanzaa candles and other Kwanzaa related children’s activities
- Taaluma Youth Performance Company: African print material, African jewelry and hand instruments, notebooks, costumes, stage makeup, plain black belts, beads, yarn, and strips of plain fabric
- Internship, Entrepreneurs and Responsibility Programs: Digital cameras, video cameras, gift cards, Cell phones, laptops, and briefcases
- B.R.E.A.T.H.E. Workshops: Plain and colored paper, pens, pencils, markers, paper clips, notebooks and folders
- Ongoing fundraising and Community exposure table: We can use any donated cultural items.
Culture4MyKids will be participating in the Amazing Raise sponsored by Give Richmond (http://giverichmond.guidestar.org/) this fall. Please plan to support by donating a minimum of $50 from 6 a.m. on Wednesday, September 18 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 19. Organizations that receive multiple donations throughout the time frame will be eligible to receive additional gift donations sponsored by the foundation. If you would like to make a donation of any kind, please visit www.culture4mykids.org.
Looking Into the Future
Five years from now, the organization is looking to serve and unite young people who live on all sides of the city. They would like to service five to ten community centers and 16 programs on a regular basis. Mama Ayo also would like to have their students traveling to at least five different cities each year sharing their knowledge, take their first trip out of the country, have trained and employed at least 20 interns, see all of their teens graduate and enter a chosen college, and finally network with at least 50 additional organizations within the city of Richmond.
“Culture 4 my Kids is a blessing to our community”, comments Amer Amen. “It has truly offered our children the opportunity to connect to their ancestral culture and roots while developing enriching relationships with their peers.”