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Youth Alliance steams up open mic night

Along with the aromas of pastries and freshly brewed coffee, the air in the coffeehouse was filled with contagious beats and tongue-tying lyrics.
Arturo Muñoz performing one of two original poems for his debut performance. Photo by Elliot Ruiz.
Javier Renteria, "Young Javi," opening up the event as the night's first performer. Photo by Elliot Ruiz.
Rapper Static performing his original song inspired by the death of his best friend. Photo by Elliot Ruiz.
Up and coming rapper JPhlow spitting bars on stage. Photo by Elliot Ruiz.
Jennette G. Neal closing Open Mic Night with a special ‘happy birthday’ wish to Javier Renteria's mother whose birthday was on the night of. Photo by Elliot Ruiz.

Diviana Navarro is a BenitoLink Intern Staff Reporter.

Last month’s Friday the 13th was anything but bad luck when Youth Alliance and Mars Hill Coffeehouse in Hollister joined forces for their open mic night.

The stage was set, the lights were drawn, and the seven Youth Alliance representatives captured the audience’s attention with original hip-hop songs and poems.

The lineup included local artists Young Javi, Jojie, Arturo Muñoz, Static, JPhlow, Mr. Chavez, and 1 A.M.

The performers expressed personal feelings—some did so over beats—spanning an array of topics such as mental health, immigration, education, war and identity.

Cassidy Guerrero, known onstage as 1 A.M., is a Gilroy native who has produced her own music and performed all throughout the San Francisco and the Monterey Bay areas for the last six years.  

“I’m not after cheap thrills, I’m investin’ in forever. I know after every storm, there’s always better weather,” she sang during her performance of her original song, “Stay True.”

Although she just recently became acquainted with Youth Alliance in Hollister, Guerrero is passionate about community involvement in and around her hometown. Specifically, she sees the need for a new image of hip-hop to change the current stigma around it.

“In Gilroy, hip-hop isn’t seen in a good light, but I want to work towards changing that,” Guerrero said. “I think that hip-hop should not be looked down upon because it is just a way to express ourselves.”

Working closely with Youth Alliance, Guerrero is able to not only raise awareness on topics she is interested in, but to use her skills for the betterment of the community. According to Guerrero, Youth Alliance is currently planning a Q and A forum for local youth and candidates running in Hollister elections. Because Guerrero produces all of her own content, she teamed up with Youth Alliance to create the advertisement and registration form for the project.

Youth Alliance, the local nonprofit that provides resources and support for children and their families in underserved communities, aims to motivate youth to pursue their academic and artistic passions.

“Essentially what we do is work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Jeannette Neal, a Youth Alliance staff member present at the Open Mic Night event.

Youth Alliance will host another open mic night on Aug. 11 at the Appleton Grill at 410 Rodriguez St., Watsonville.

For more information about Youth Alliance visit the organization's website or call (831) 636-2853.

Photographer Elliot Ruiz captured images from the event. Ruiz is participating in BenitoLink's Junior Journalism Project, which is partially funded by a grant from United Way of San Benito County.



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diviananav10's picture
Diviana Navarro (diviananav10)

Diviana Navarro is an intern staff reporter through the Emma Bowen Foundation. She is a rising junior at Santa Clara University where she aims to obtain a Bachelor's double-degree in Communication and Spanish. Born and raised in the central coast, she is passionate about her community and representation through the lens of media.


Humans have always expressed themselves with words and sounds; at some time the words and sounds were wedded to a beat and later the beat became music.  Hip-Hop is just the latest version of that expression, it's as valid as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Bob Dylan (no one could torture a lyric like Bob Dylan).

Every generation wants their own music, my parents did Big Band and jazz, I did Doo Wop and Rock, my kids did Disco and Funk and some kids did Heavy Metal; Hip-Hop is just the latest.  For anyone who thinks Hip-Hop worse, just remember the "Dead Heads" lol.

Rock on,

Marty Richman

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