In the words of notable poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde : “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has ever known.” No matter how long it was since you’ve graduated from high school, going through life can seem like walking through a high school hallway full of students who are trying to find themselves. How we identify ourselves is an ever-changing occurrence as people constantly go through shifts such as meeting new people, taking on new positions, traveling to new places, and growing older. What remains constant, however, is how we can identify with ourselves. Some people may choose to keep a journal while others may connect to drawing. Either way, art is an essential method for individuals to identify themselves. Bronx native, Dilson Hernandez, uses several artistic measures such as music and spoken word connect with himself and others.
Inspired by the rock artist, Jimmy Hendrix, Dilson Hernandez decided to teach himself to play the guitar at age 14. As Hernandez grew more comfortable in playing the instrument, he took his talents three and a half hours north to the University at Albany where he pursued a Bachelors degree. Though he had to balance school work and a social life, Hernandez found the time to join a spoken word group called, “Phenomenal Voices,” where he showcased his skills in music and spoken word for the first time on stage. ” I was never really a shy performer,” said Hernandez. ” I never really get nervous when I perform.”
While Dilson was exploring his passion in art, he found a greater purpose…teaching. Shortly after graduating from college, Dilson became involved in a non-profit organization called, “Urban Art Beat.” This initiative brings music workshops, particularly the genre of hip-hop, to students in middle school and high school. As a teacher, he is able to not only teach creative skills but is also able to help students find their voice. ” Too often, we don’t listen to our youth,” said Hernandez. ” The genius of becoming a mentor is just listening.”
Recently, Urban Art Beat recently signed a contract allowing their workers to teach inside Rikers Island. ” They [ inmates] can freestyle for hours,” said Hernandez. ” I remember one youth who mention that whenever we’re there, it doesn’t feel like he’s in jail. The goal is to help someone better transition out of their circumstances.”
Currently, the Bronx is seeing hints of gentrification, specifically in the Mott Haven section. Dilson is aware that these changes are inevitable, but he hopes that the borough can preserve its culture and its strength, ” the Bronx went through many challenges in the 70s and the 80s and managed to make diamonds out of coal,” said Hernandez.
Dilson hopes to take his skills to help the Bronx community. During our conversation, he admitted that the Bronx has its shortcomings but is confident that the borough can improve as long as residents remember to give back to their community. ” If you feel like there is something wrong with the Bronx, which there are [things], then it is your duty as a Bronx resident to fix it,” said Hernandez. He also has a message for the youth who are growing up in the Bronx : ” give back to your community and don’t be afraid to find your own voice.”
Do Good. Stay Well. BXTRA.