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The spoken word has connected me to many individuals, some of these individuals are doing amazing things within the community. Ralphy “Tatu” Perez of the X-Men crew is just one of those individuals.
Tatu runs a program called Paint Straight where he works with paroled kids and tries to guide them down the straight and narrow. The kids in this program have generally been picked up and jailed in NYC for vandalism.
As a lifelong graffiti (among other talents) artist, Tatu is teaching these kids not only how to utilize their skills while staying out of trouble, but also how to make our community more beautiful in the process. Art comes in many forms and you CAN express yourself artistically without ending up in prison.
Here is a blurb directly from the upcoming XMental Inc. website:
Paint Straight® is a Restorative Justice Program for youth charged and convicted as vandals. Paint Straight® was created by Tynneal Grant and is facilitated by Ralph “Tatu”, Tynneal and other supporting staff. Xmental University operates Paint Straight® programming in conjunction with the New York Department Of Probation. The program curriculum is designed to rehabilitate young minds about respect, art, history and law. Through our programming, we provide the youth with precise education and opportunity to make positive and responsible decisions with their artistic talent. Paint Straight® also serves as a Prevention Program in regards to safety, drugs and violence. Paint Straight® uses a very define Hip Hop Pedagogy when delivering the rehabilitative message of each session.
Tatu is no joke though, if you are in his program you better come correct and do not disrespect him, the program or your peers! I recall one of his posts where he mentioned addressing one of the kids that showed up high on drugs to his program. “I’m calling your parole officer” were his words. After some dialogue with the kid and agreeing to certain terms, among which included never showing up high on drugs to his program, Tatu forgave the young man and carried on.
Paint Straight is a successful program, encouraging and teaching the kids to live normal crime free lives, while teaching them about art and it’s rich history. Paint Straight is a program that helps our children and gives back to our community in more ways than one. That’s why NYCTalking thanks and spotlights Ralphy “Tatu” Pererz, Paint Straight and Xmental Inc.
If you want historical data on how the program came to be, visit the Queens Ledger which featured a great article on what Paint Straight and Xmental Inc. has been doing. Should you want to contact Tatu, check him out on Facebook by clicking here.
Growing Up Bronx