Turn Down for What? Fresh Camp Hip-Hop!

My “Hip-Hop” knowledge is limited to a few breakdancing movies from the 80s/90s, my love of Beastie Boys music and the hip-hop dance class my son is taking at Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood. When I volunteered to write an article about Fresh Camp, Refresh Collective’s hip-hop-themed camps for Cleveland youth, I knew there would be some research involved.

What I learned is that hip-hop is much more than a music genre or a type of dance. It is a culture, a way of life, a form of expression through urban art. This culture emerged in the 1970s in the mostly African American section of the South Bronx, and it is the inspiration behind Refresh Collective founder Doc Harril, a.k.a. Dee Jay Doc’s mission to “refresh our city through creative arts, community engagement and youth development.” One of the many ways Harril and Refresh Collective supporters fulfill this mission is through Fresh Camp.

Harril started Fresh Camp in 2010 as a neighborhood hip-hop camp in Glenville. Seven years later, the program has grown and includes two-week camps in June and July for residents of the East Cleveland, Glenville, and Buckeye neighborhoods. The camps are focused on engaging youth in various forms of urban art, including beat making, lyric writing, recording, performance art, and graffiti. In addition, through collaboration with each other, the students learn how to “refresh” their community by using their newfound skills. The camp aims to build creativity, confidence, and character in this underserved population of Cleveland’s youth.

Through the various experiences the camp offers, these youth are able to develop their music and their message while strengthening their creative voice. Students learn to express their perspectives and find new ways to solve existing problems. Fresh Camp also gives its students opportunities to take action, from planting new neighborhood gardens to silk-screening their own T-shirts and writing music that promotes the community’s various farmer’s markets. Over the years, the students have also performed at these markets, including Gateway 105 and Coit Road Farmer’s Markets.

Want a taste of Fresh Camp? Attend one of their “Fresh Fridays” events, which take place once a month at the Gateway 105 Farmer’s Market.  These events will highlight current students performing their new songs, as well as the camp’s older performance team. In addition, Davon Jones will be offering 30-minute Caribbean Cardio classes with pumped-up music, while the youth gardeners give out samples of their produce. Everything is “fresh!”

Whether you live on the west side or east side, inner city or suburbs, Cleveland is a city deeply rooted in music. It brings us together, tells our stories, and gives us reasons to celebrate.

  • Share this story!  Community support helps organizations like Refresh Collective survive & thrive.
  • Attend one of the camp’s “Fresh Fridays.” The next one takes place July 28 on the corner of East 105th and Ashbury.
  • Buy some cool Fresh Gear like the T-shirts pictured above. Your purchase supports education and opportunity through a student-run design, printing, merchandising, photography, modeling, communications and entrepreneurship program.
  • Expand your musical roots by attending local music festivals, such as Lakewood Alive’s Front Porch Concert Series or Edgewater LIVE. You can also get a hip-hop history lesson by visiting The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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