The Connection is a drop in center for teens in Niagara Falls that offers a safe place for youth to come after school, do homework, and relax with friends. The fact that such a place exists in the 'Falls as the kids refer to it, is extraordinary and provides an oasis for the predominantly African-American youth in the struggling post-industrial town that is home to one of the United States' most scenic natural wonders. HIV rates in the Niagra Falls region of New York state are nearly triple what they are in Ontario, Canada just across the border.
The youth, who visit the Connection steadily, worked with Kenny Neal Shults' Connected Health Solutions (CHS) to produce and develop a video about Planned Parenthood and The Connection. The youths identified that a significant barrier to access by teens in the region is misinformation and misconceptions about PP. As such, they decided to address the issue head on and depict polar opposite views and sentiments about PP. And they wanted it to be a rap battle.
"Everyone in The Falls is a rapper," said one of the young men in the group. When asked what he meant, he explained to us that many teens in the region write and perform hip hop and rap songs in the hopes they will be noticed. He went on to say that he hopes the video they produce will get them, and PP, noticed as well.
The video features lines like:
Planned Parenthood's message is all wrong / they touch you in places they don't belong
This sentiment is rebuffed by one of the other teens:
You antis be lurking / but never really be certain / what's behind the curtain!
They go on to "battle" about their respective perceptions of Planned Parenthood's mission in an effort to debunk commonly held but false notions that PP is a place that is harmful to teens.
Man, why you frontin'? / Here in this place we care most about comfort / Treat women like sisters and men like our brothers / So I gotta leave / don't get caught in the gutter.
The group of youth wrote the music, wrote the song, and acted in the piece. They went to a local recording studio that helped them lay down the track used in the film. They then lip synced to the song while on set. They worked with CHS and award winning director Joe Leih to film the video. It was edited and shot by Branden Poe.