Raising the Bars

By Lynn Lieu

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Posted May 6, 2010 in News

A nonprofit organization is very different from your typical business—not only because nonprofits aren’t intended to generate personal profit for its top executives, but also because they most often are created to build awareness. From the American Cancer Society to Kiva, these organizations have spawned out of a need, whether it’s finding a cure for one of the toughest diseases to fight or solving world poverty one small business owner at a time.

Locally, one hip-hop artist strives to educate society one inmate at a time.

Alley Kat, originally from Rancho Cucamonga, is working towards educating youth about the prison system through an organization he created called Reparation Movement.

Alley Kat, 24, says he learned about the consequences of breaking the law at a young age—not through his own experiences, but through a loved one’s.

“When I was 13, my father, who used to smuggle a lot of drugs across the border, ended up getting arrested and he’s been in prison ever since,” Alley Kat tells the Weekly.

It was through this experience that Alley Kat conceptualized Reparation Movement, a project in the works for 15 years and now active for five years.

“We came up with something we call the ‘homie hookup,’” Alley Kat says. “If you’re in prison and your homie needs something and he helped you out last time and you’re an artist, you can say, ‘I’m a part of Reparation Movement. You want to send your kids some Christmas presents? Don’t worry, home boy, I’ll hook you up.’ So, then the artist will contact us and in exchange for his donated art we’ll send his friend’s kids some Christmas presents.”

The project strives to give incarcerated inmates a chance to give back to society through their art work. Inmates submit art to Reparation Movement along with a story about their experiences. If the artwork and bio are selected, the image and story end up printed on a cotton T-shirt and sold along with Alley Kat’s CD. The inmates’ stories are meant to shed light on where they went astray and the lessons they learned. In other words, don’t follow in their footsteps.

Alley Kat’s CD is filled with podcasts of what people don’t typically tell kids about the prison system: the consequences of buying weed off the streets or what your tattoos might mean to others once you’re behind bars.

“This is not just inmates paying back inmates,” Alley Kat says. “Inmates are getting something out of this, but everybody gets something out of it. We want to get to a point where we can help people. We only work with inmates who we first come in contact with. We want to know who we are working with—it’s a membership program. A lot of our inmates are in the general system serving for short-term limits rather than for huge crimes.”

In other words, Reparation Movement only works with inmates who are in a position to make reparations while incarcerated and after they are no longer behind bars. “My dad is able to go around and tell people, ‘Hey, this is what I learned. I was a gangster and a knucklehead, but look at me now. Lesson learned,’” Alley Kat says.

Alley Kat plans to have the profits from clothing sales put back into education. “There have been charities we have hooked up with, but it’s hard to find quality charities and nonprofits. We are looking to network with other organizations, but not if it’s just to meet a tax bracket,” Alley Kat says. “I’m looking to build a coalition of college students right now who are currently able, qualified and unemployed. I have an idea that I call, ‘Giving Education Direction.’ I take a college student who can’t find a job and I take a guy who needs a tutor and I put them together.”

Other planned services for Reparation members include free tattoo removal, medical records reviews, paralegal representation and life skills for foster youth, according to the website.

For more info, go to www.reparationmovement.org.


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