Emmai Alaquiva is a Pittsburgh-based Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and youth mentor who was recently appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 90.5 WESA contributor Elaine Effort recently spoke with Alaquiva about Hip Hop on L.O.C.K, an arts education program he created more than a decade ago.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
ELAINE EFFORT: Why did you find it important to give back and to do Hip Hop on L.O.C.K.?
EMMAI ALAQUIVA: I wanted to create Hip Hop on L.O.C.K. out of--you know--whether we know it or not, the best way to move forward is to give back.
We took a risk on those [initial] 16 students to see how hip hop would transform them in a matter of 10 weeks by creating a music CD from conception to completion over that 10-week process. They would learn how to write, produce, mix, engineer, arrange their own music as a way to have something tangible that says, "Hey listen, this is what we did as a team-building exercise."
At the end they perform in front of friends, family and the entire community to say, "Hey listen, this what we did and this is what our young people are doing." So, from there it sort of morphed into creating programs for over 11 school districts, 48 partnerships throughout Allegheny County and expanding it in and out of state as a creative arts programs that really allows arts to transform these kids, much the way it transformed my life and others' [lives].
EFFORT: Did it transform the lives of the 16 students you initially worked with?
ALAQUIVA: Yes. It transformed their lives to a point where most of them went to school for arts, went to school for media. Graduates of Morehouse College, graduates of Slippery Rock University. Penn State University--the list goes on.
So, that's why arts education is so important is to me. That's why, you know, today I sit on the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. We represent 67 counties and we oversee millions of dollars of funding to be distributed to these great arts education programs that prove to be impactful on the lives of our young people.
EFFORT: Are you satisfied?
ALAQUIVA: I am beyond satisfied because my adversities in life could have done two things: make you or break you. I chose for my adversities to make me. And now I have to use that same energy to help others who are wanting to give up. I have to help others who are wanting to, you know, be a victim of depression, be a victim of anxiety and things of that nature. How can I help you, but help you through the lens of the arts. Much like it changed my life.