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Hip-hop music program in Kent helping Black youth address, improve mental health

Hip-hop music helped young Black men address, improve mental health
Posted at 8:45 PM, Jan 15, 2022

KENT, Ohio — A new program launched in the Kent City School District is helping Black boys and men address and improve their mental health. But they’re not just doing it through words, they’re also using music to find a light through the darkness.

“We are uplifting each other in the best way possible,” said K’vyayer Hill, a junior at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent.

Hill is enrolled in the Cope Dealer Initiative, a mental health awareness workshop recently launched at the school.

It's a 10-week program designed to address areas of mental health impacting Black boys and men, and offer them healthy ways to cope with their stress.

“The program corresponds with really your life because it can take some of the really cool techniques and stuff that they use for mental health and we kind of just apply that to our lives,” said Hill.

Archie Green, hip-hop artist and founder of non-profit "Peel Dem Layers Back," created the program. It's based on his most recent album ‘Cope Dealer’ released in July 2021 which talks about the trauma, PTSD, depression, and anxiety that many Black men face.

“Then it turned into this course curriculum where we talk about the content of the album. We go through these songs, we analyze these lyrics, and then we apply them to these young men's lives. Then, they take what they've learned and they apply it to their art form of music,” said Green.

Green said the program received partial funding from the Cleveland Foundation. He said guidance counselors at Theodore Roosevelt High School asked him to do a workshop for Peel Dem Layers Back at the school, and four Black male students talked to him afterwards, inspiring him to pitch the Cope Dealer Initiative to school administrators.

Now, six weeks into the program, the students are creating their own original mixtape which they’ll eventually perform in front of their classmates and community.

Green said the musical aspect allows them to open up in ways they never thought they could and to someone who understands them completely.

“These young Black men can look at me or another Black male talking about these feelings. It gives them permission to be vulnerable, permission to really tap into those emotions that are inside,” said Green. “It's about bringing out those types of emotions that lead to creating or bringing out something that's been there the entire time. And that's the power of music, the power of art, but also the power of communicating to someone that looks like you.”

Hill’s excited about creating the mixtape, but even more so about how the program has helped him focus on his goals and find community and camaraderie with his peers.

“I've gotten so much closer with the people that I didn't think I was going to have such a strong bond with on the music side and outside of music,” said Hill.

Green said Peel Dem Layers Back is hoping to partner with more schools for the Cope Dealer Initiative. Those interested can visit their website or send an email to

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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