By PrincessSafiya Byers
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
While attending Your Move MKE’s Hip-Hop Chess Club, Grant Reed- Ijomah found a community of friends— and an environment where he could be himself.
“It’s not like other groups that I’ve been to,” the 12- year-old said. “I have fun and learn to care about other people and not to judge.”
Your Move MKE combines chess, hip-hop music and other skills to teach youths self-awareness, discipline and leadership. Grant said he has fun beat-making with Your Move MKE’s project director, Brandon “Ego” Kitts.
Your Move MKE breaks its goals up into four cornerstone themes.
The Hip-Hip Chess Club is where youths come together. The club allows them and their families to express themselves. The gatherings include food, chess, music and even music performances from staff and youths who would like to perform.
Your Move MKE also has Making Moves Breakdancing, which teaches breakdancing; urban trade skills, which teaches youths building and constructionrelated skills; and an open forum that teaches writing, scripting and speaking.
‘I can see their confidence building’
According to group members, these focus points help improve youths’ mental health and their ability to navigate difficult situations while also teaching them skills that will improve their everyday lives.
“Since they started going to the group, my children are more willing to seek out new things and display more self-help skills,” said Lakeysha Reed, Grant’s mother. “I can see their confidence building when they are around other adults and children they’ve never met before.”
Reed said she started taking her children to the group because she thought it would be a helpful environment. The group stemmed from the Hip-Hop Chess Club of Wisconsin.
“The group is great (but) we just wanted it to be more Milwaukee-oriented,” said Raquel (Rockz) Aleman. “It needed to be centered around this city.”
All the members of Your Move MKE grew up on the South Side and say their upbringings have a lot to do with their work.
“I moved all around the South Side growing up,” Kitts said. “I just want to give back to the community that helped raise me.”
All members of the group volunteer but are working to make this work their primary source of income.
“This is our main focus,” Aleman said. “We do other things to pay the bills, but this is our focus.”
According to Aleman, the ultimate goal is to purchase a building on the South Side and make it a community center.
“When we were growing up, there was so many community centers,” Aleman said. “There aren’t many anymore.”
She said the space would allow the group to expand on its breakdancing, trade skills and communication programs and provide a permanent space.
In the meantime, Kitts said he hopes to provide resources for residents in need.
“We (group members) live in poverty, too,” he said. “We’re just trying to help our community from within.”
Reed said Your Move MKE is one of the best things to happen to her children.
The “Hip-Hop Chess Club is one the best places you can go to be in a positive environment and enjoy yourself,” she said. “It’s a blessing.”
How to get involved
Your Move MKE hosts a monthly gathering on the third Friday of every month and organizers say volunteers are needed.
You can also donate to its fund-raising campaign.