Northern Uganda Hiphop Culture (NUHC) is a community-based organization in Kitgum, a small town in the Acholi Region of Uganda. Founded in 2012, NUHC was created as a platform for young people from the area to come together in order to facilitate positive social and community transformation through the creative arts. After enduring violent conflict for 20 years, youth in the community realized it was their responsibility to create the world in which they wanted to live. Since the organization’s early days, NUHC has become one of the most active community-owned youth organizations in the region, facilitating projects and connecting people across the country and the world. In May 2019, NUHC is going to launch the opening of their youth center – the first community-owned creative and cultural space – which has been a dream in the making for many years.
Specifically, this Forum Theatre for Social Change project was born out of another project facilitated by NUHC, which used forum theatre techniques to promote community dialogue and behavior change surrounding people who were disabled by the war. After seeing the success of these conversations among adults in various communities around Northern Uganda, NUHC wanted to bring forum theatre into schools in order to address issues such as youth-adult partnerships, violence, gender inequality, health, and relationships. While the physical violence from the war has subsided, the traumas that were never properly addressed have remained and manifested themselves among today’s youth. As young people who share in these challenges, NUHC is committed to providing the space and opportunities for youth to recognize their strengths and to achieve their preferred futures, changing the narrative from a community who “needs” to a community who “embodies.”
The most important thing we want people to know is that NUHC a collective of community youth working to improve the lives of people – mostly, but not exclusively, youth – in the community. Following the end of the war, the international humanitarian organizations – on which, the people of Northern Uganda had so heavily depended for many years – left. For many years, when people thought of Northern Uganda, they thought of violence, they thought of dependence. This narrative was absorbed by the communities themselves who were uprooted from their lives and left to pick up the pieces without much support. The young people who work as a part of NUHC are doing their best to change their narrative and to support the reclamation of an identity that revolves around strengths and capacities, as opposed to deficits and weaknesses, centered on creativity and creative arts. As the youngest populations on the globe – with nearly 80 percent of the population under the age of 30 – engaging and supporting youth is incredibly important in Uganda. Therefore, this type of work – driven and owned by the community, focused on strengths and capabilities, and prioritizes the engagement of young people – is how sustained positive community development and social transformation will occur.
The seed grant from The Pollination Project was the first grant NUHC ever received. Committed to self-sustainability, NUHC had, until then, relied on the profits they received from their agricultural projects to fund their outreaches. We truly believe that receiving the seed grant was one of the most important factors for propelling us and the organization’s growth to where we are today. It was then that we were able to buy much-needed equipment that helped us host larger community events and facilitate various training sessions for youth. More important, by receiving the seed grant, we got affirmation that the work we were doing mattered and was being recognized beyond the boundaries of Kitgum. It gave us the momentum and courage we needed to continue to work for a more peaceful and just world for our communities and for our world.
As NUHC has grown and expanded since receiving the seed grant, it has been our mission to advocate for the use of creativity and the creative arts as a vehicle for social change. While our name may suggest we focus only on hip-hop as an art form, this is not true. Our goal has been to open up the eyes and minds of leaders, community members, and youth that the creative arts are not just synonymous with performances and stages, but that creativity can open doors for dialogue and tough conversations, which are essential to creating sustained community change. Therefore, this Impact Grant will allow us to continue developing and growing in this effort as we strive to create spaces for people, young and old, to come together and create a world that is built upon inclusivity, access, and justice. Furthermore, as we prepare to open our Youth Center – a creative and cultural space – in May, this will be the first program that will be facilitated through our new establishment. We are beyond grateful that TPP has continued to see value in our work and have been willing to accompany us along the way as we, too, seek to spread compassion and unleash goodness in our community and beyond.