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Masala

Masala is a recipe for gang prevention that was instituted  in four Dallas Independent Schools and funded under a CDB Grant from HUD.  Our schools were located in the roughest, most dangerous neighborhoods in Dallas with a considerable crime element and gang presence.  Most schools in these neighborhoods were performing below acceptable levels.  Statistics indicate that children who are lagging behind are more at risk to become members of gangs.  Homes with absent fathers, economically distressed families, and undereducated parents are breeding grounds for juvenile delinquents.  Our concept developed an artistic cookbook of programs and activities to address the problems students face in these communities. Masala is a Swahili word meaning spicy mixture and the AAP designed a series of activities with a wide range of appeal.

"PROJECT MASALA HEATING UP"

 Acting, theatre, ethno-centric crafts and prose, art, dance, movies and music were made available to youth in the various target areas . Martial Arts, swimming, soccer, volleyball, track and field were daily activities that students could enjoy and compete for in local and state Meets. These activities  occurred at the Afro-American Players Theatre and were open to all students living in the designated areas, ages 8-13. Masala Summer Workshops were conducted Monday through Friday, 8:30A.M. to 1:00 P.M. Registration was required. Activities were free.

 The arts and humanities, conflict resolution training, multi-cultural plays and sports teams were intermixed to provide students with positive alternatives to violence and improper behavior.
Glo Dean Baker the project director says "Masala gives students an excellent opportunity to interface with professional artists and athletes.  It is a program that caters to the interests of most students.  When we peak their interest we insure their presence and participation.  The participants are enlightened, informed and enhanced by this delectable gang prevention recipe."

Schools who participated in the Masala project found that students improved in reading, writing and social skills, with a decrease in violent behavior within the student body.  The introduction of racially sensitive materials, multi-cultural activities and  indigenous programs assisted in addressing the cultural lags present in the students' environment.  Pride was born when they obtained knowledge of heroes and sheroes from their individual ethnic backgrounds.

Post evaluation statics show us that when you integrate the arts and humanities with athletic programs and academics, you are able to maintain students' interest  and allow them to improve their self esteem.  

Project CREATE

Project CREATE Dallas was borne from a 6 year grant under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  CREATE stands for Cultural Recognition Enhances Awareness, Talent, Esteem.  Directors of the company were approached by the Dallas gang coordinator who had concern for the rising gang activity in the southern and eastern corridors of Dallas. He was soliciting proposals and unique programs that could address the needs of the community.

The Afro-American Players were awarded a grant that utilized the arts and humanities to address the caustic problems in our target communities.  African American and Hispanic youth who had been identified as gang members and were entrenched in the legal system participated in CREATE on a daily basis.  When 16 year old students were asked about their future goals, they commented  " I just want to live to be 18."  Our program involved an extensive curriculum of exercises that helped the students use coping mechanisms for anger management, self-actualization, dispute mediation, and group identification.

Games were played which would encourage participants to problem solve and use new methods of communication.  Games also allowed students to identify with their cultural heritage.  The act of script writing required research, and research opened up new dimensions.  The students gained a  knowledge of who they were and where they came from; this allowed them to dream .   Cognitive learning collaborated with affective artistic styles  in a creative format.  When students observed negative behaviors from a stylized vignette, they gained a visual understanding of how bad actions can represent you in a negative light.  These vignettes allowed the students to think, analyze and comment on various situations in their lives.  They gained knowledge on how to plan alternative scenarios to the destructive environments in which they found themselves in. 

Interview techniques, etiquette, and proper manners were taught through non verbal acting exercises, such as emoting, pantomime, and gibberish.  Other life skills were introduced by teaching students proper nutrition and culinary skills.  Each day groups were assigned to plan and cook meals using various cuisines, helping them gain an appreciation of different cultures.

Cross cultural appreciation was encouraged when students shared and elaborated upon their indigenous music , art, clothing, and cultural mores.  Hair washing parties, visits to ethnic homes, field trips to museums and  poetry slams broadened their total  perspective.  The program culminated in a production finale in which the students showcased their talents through music, dance and theater. 

Project CREATE presented a world where students could paint a different picture of themselves utilizing ALL the colors of the rainbow.  They created a new role in their life script; tragedy had been written out of their future.  Their world no longer needed to end in a tombstone.