Hip hop is known to be the chronicle of street life: a place to spin fictions, tall tales, and real-life stories that give a voice to the trials and tribulations of everyday life in the hood. But beyond its storytelling power, few might consider how therapeutic rapping can be for underserved populations suffering through the endless trauma of loss and violence. For Oakland-based social worker Tomás Álvarez, the connection couldn’t have been clearer.
Through his work as the founder of BRL, Inc (Beats, Rhymes and Life), Álvarez is a pioneer of Hip Hop Therapy, which uses the lyrical power of the Bronx-born cultural revolution to connect with troubled teens. Since 2004, his unique, culturally responsive approach to mental health has provided stunning results and led to a global movement that Álvarez is helping to coordinate on an international scale. But while this groundbreaking methodology continues to expand across the world, it all started back in the diverse urban communities of Oakland, California.
A Lovely Day is a 2012 documentary from director Kerry Gawryn that documents Álvarez’s community-based work at Oakland High School, and the struggles of nine teens who participated in the BRL workshop. Featuring interviews with teens and educators accompanied by observational footage of the would-be rappers working through their latest rhymes, A Lovely Day is a reminder that with a mix of passion and innovation, we can actually make our world a better place.