"They're looking to...express themselves in a different form of art."
Adrienne Thomas is a 46-year-old human resources technician who lives in San Bernardino, California, and spends her free time guiding and encouraging a young African American dance troupe that performs krump, a new dance form that has become wildly popular in the Southern California region.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Adrienne: My volunteer service consists of managing 16 young African Americans in a new dance that they call Krump. I make sure that they're in a safe environment where they can practice their skills, which consist of extreme upper body movement and foot work. I make sure that they are on time and each have a shared amount of time showcasing their moves. I provide them with materials to show them how to stretch their bodies before they perform and any help with school work.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Adrienne: The name of the group is Rip Squad Family. We are located in San Bernardino, California.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Adrienne: It started as Diamonds Teen Center (DTC), which gave parties and teen get-togethers. It was this project that brought Rip Squad Family (RSF) to me. We are able to have teens come and talk and just have a good time without having to worry about the police or drive-by shootings. The group is looking to perform around the world to share their moves and to show others that it's not about violence. They're looking to have fun with their dance as well as to express themselves in a different form of art.
What inspired you to get involved?
Adrienne: The children in this area are young people who have nothing to do. Most of the children were coming to my house and staying for days at a time because they wanted and needed structure. I provide that structure and the encouraging words, "You can be and do anything that you want if you put your mind and heart in it." I made sure that they knew my rules and what was expected of them: "If you can't follow the rules, you don't have to go home, but you can't be here". I introduced them to different things such as art galleries, jazz and blues concerts, plays, anything that said, "You can do this as well."
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Adrienne: My house has always been the house where all the children would come. You become involved whether you want to or not. I just didn't fight it. I knew where my children were, and that was important to me.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Adrienne: My best experience is seeing them perform and the other children chanting "Rip Squad". When you hear that, you know that you're doing something right. The faces of some of the children after they've performed say a lot as well.
What is/was the hardest part?
Adrienne: Finding a place for them to practice was and is the hardest thing I've come up against. I'm constantly looking for a place where the children can go to practice, so that no one will feel put out. We are looking for a building where we can call home. After a while, the garage gets old.
What was the biggest surprise?
Adrienne: The biggest surprise was the business connections you must have in order to move forward.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Adrienne: I've learned that it's going to take a lot of time and dedication to make this group the best. It's changed me in that I know now that I must step up my business sense in order to help them achieve the goals that they would like to reach.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Adrienne: My advice to someone else would be to make sure you have your head in the right place. Our youth today is a hard group to deal with. The right attitude and disposition from us adults can teach them how to be productive individuals.
What is krump? For more information, check out these Web sites:
'Krump' dances into mainstream, CBS News, June 30, 2005
Rize, David Lachappelle's 2005 documentary about krump
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