As adults working with youth to prevent violence we often find ourselves telling teens what not to do. Primary prevention challenges us to take those good intentions to the next level and model a positive alternative and co-create spaces with youth where they can put their newly acquired skills into practice. The Cipher Project in Austin does just that.

The Cipher is a hip-hop project that works with youth to hone their creative skills and use their love of hip-hop as a vehicle for transformation. According to the Chipher’s website “hip-hop is not just music but a support system & a social structure that unifies youth culture.”

While hip-hop has been widely criticized for glamorizing violence, through media literacy training, the Cipher Project helps youth look critically at those messages and create a different kind of hip-hop, one that is still based on people’s experience but with a different end goal.

Our challenge is to use some part of youth culture to disseminate a prevention message. Instead of utilizing aspects of youth culture to demonstrate the ways in which they support a culture of violence, why not demonstrate how they can be tweaked in a respectful way in order to promote healthy relationships?

Here is some insight into a young persons experience with the Cipher. “Battle” (a.k.a, Gus Crowder) a youth member of the Cipher states, “If you don’t ever express yourself then you will never be able to relieve some of the anger or some of the pain that you have…. [F]or me that’s what the Cipher is. I go and release everything I have on a piece of paper…”