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MAKING A MARK: Ketchmore Kids inspires, educates youth through hip-hop

The nonprofit has provided safe, productive activities for kids through the art of hip-hop for nearly 17 years.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Chanell Ketchmore and her brother, Troy Ketchmore, believe hip-hop is more than just music -- it's a culture.

"Breakdancing, rap, fashion, you name it," said Troy Ketchmore, a native of Newport News.

Chanell agreed, saying "Hip-hop has always been a vehicle of self-expression."

The Ketchmore siblings said the art form unites their community, even when violence threatens to tear it apart.

"It wasn't always 'Shoot 'em up, bang bang' in the music," said Troy. "We were saying, 'Stop the violence.' We were saying, 'Fight the power.' We were saying, 'Love is going to get you.'" 

"You have artists who are creating and have created and continue to create amazing material that is inspiring and motivational and enriching and empowering," Chanell said. 

She told 13News Now those artists inspired her to start the nonprofit Ketchmore Kids in 2005, using positive hip-hop to uplift youth and families.

"A lot of the young people that we work with have experienced trauma, just different situations. And in a lot of cases, traditional therapy hasn't work[ed]," Chanell said. "We introduce them to different artists or songs that they'd never heard of before."

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"We break down the lyrics, then we may compare them to other lyrics that's talking crazy -- that's talking about shooting and killing -- and show them the difference," said Troy, the nonprofit's program manager. "When you represent a consciousness that's not yours, it's easy to get you to say and do anything, because you don't know what you're doing."

Ketchmore Kids' programs, Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) and The Think Tank, are free for children and parents. They address issues like self-esteem, conflict resolution, goal setting, and grief management.

"We teach them how to, you know, use coping skills, using artistic elements as coping strategies," Chanell said. "We do that in a framework that's taking place with social workers. I have a masters degree in psychology. We have folks who have doctoral degrees in clinical psychiatric work, people who have, you know, 30-years-plus of experience in working with young people and families in different capacities; from juvenile corrections to therapeutic foster care to the classroom to grassroots community work. These are the folks who are on our team, and all of us are committed to helping, you know, make a positive difference." 

She said they're aiming for the root of change.

"We're trying to get to the mind. Because if we focus on just changing the world and not the mind, then that same old mind is going to reproduce the same old world."

It's a world Troy said he particularly wants to help change, after spending 26 years behind bars.

"This is the community that we helped destroy. Many people looked up to us for the wrong reasons," said Troy. "So now, it's imperative that I come home and lend my voice to the struggle, whatever it be. I'm there."

Troy said Ketchmore Kids' mission is to inspire kids and families, meeting them where they are. 

"We're out to catch more kids than the streets, catch more kids than the prison, catch more kids than the drug dealers, catch more kids than the gang members. Catch more kids, that's the slogan," said Troy. "Because if you want to change the future, you have to create it."

Ketchmore Kids has programs in Newport News, Hampton, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Visit the nonprofit's website, Facebook, or Instagram pages for more information.

You can also follow Chanell Ketchmore or Troy Ketchmore on Facebook.

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