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Uniting the Children of Uganda Through Breakdance and Hip Hop Culture

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Abramz Tekya

ABRAHAM TEKYA, commonly known as "Abramz," is the director and founder of Breakdance Project Uganda (B.P.U), an organization launched in February 2006 that uses breakdance and other elements of hip-hop to promote positive social change and social responsibility. A native of Mengo, Kampala, Uganda, Abramz grew up quickly, as most children in Uganda are forced to. At the age of seven, he lost both of his parents to A.I.D.S. and was orphaned, shuffled between distant relatives and different homes. Despite these circumstances, Abramz used his life experience and love of hip-hop to educate, inspire and unite youth in Uganda and beyond.

Abramz discovered hip-hop and breaking (breakdancing) in 1991 when he attended Kabaka Anjagala Primary School while living with his aunt. His inspiration derived from his older cousins and music videos from the '80s and early '90s featuring artists like: A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, De la Soul, Brand Nubian, Chubb Rock, Philly Bongoley Lutaaya; and b-boys such as Crazy Legs of the Rock Steady Crew and Boogaloo Shrimp. While education was big focus for Abramz, money was always a barrier. As an orphan, at times he was responsible for raising his own school fees. Without a proper job, Abramz used his talent as an artist and b-boy to generate income. Work wasn't always steady and in turn, Abramz would start school and stop several times throughout his primary and secondary education all the while honing his skills as an emcee and b-boy.

By the time Abramz turned 17, he and his brother Sylvester had become known throughout the country as the socially conscious rap duo "Sylvester & Abramz." They flowed with lyrics that empowered and uplifted listeners and they did it in two languages - Luganda, their native tongue, and English. Taking their mission to the next level, they began hosting free, informal hip-hop workshops for underprivileged youth in various marginalized communities throughout Uganda including slums like Kisenyi, Kasubi, Nakulabye and Makerere.

In late 2005, Abramz met and began collaborating with an Irish b-boy named Emile Dineen, and together with Antonio Bukhar - a Ugandan performing artist and dance choreographer, they began laying the foundation for B.P.U.. Over the years, B.P.U. has been a catalyst in creating jobs and opportunity for Ugandan youth. It's also created a sense of family and pride in the community. B.P.U has worked with thousands of underprivileged youth including A.I.D.S. orphans, juvenile prisoners and homeless children. By partnering with H.E.A.L.S., a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Northern Uganda, B.P.U extended its reach to the most war-affected area of the country aiming to inspire children who had been abducted and became soldiers of the Lord's Resistance Army.

"My dancing as a kid was just for the love of it but as an adult I decided to use it to empower and uplift individuals and communities," Abramz explains. "I discovered the strength and importance of art in transforming people's lives. I use it to give them something positive to look up to."

Apart from rapping and breakdancing, Abramz shares other skills he's learned including photography, videography, drawing, basic computer and internet skills as well as important social skills around self-discovery and leadership.

Abramz has been involved in many campaigns and workshops within several NGOs in Arua and Mukono including MS Uganda, Kampala's "Democracy as a Way of Life" campaign and projects with the Uganda Germany Cultural Society (UGCS) and their annual Street Art Festival. He's been a dance facilitator since 2006 for "In Movement," a Spanish NGO which uses art for social change. At the same time, he teaches after-school breakdance clubs at Rainbow International School, Heritage International School and Kampala International School as well as Nsambya's Sharing Youth Centre in Uganda, the Naguru Remand Home (juvenile prison), Kinship Orphanage in Gganda, Reach Out Orphanage, Ambrosoli International School, and Mbale District's Foundation for Development of Needy Communities (FDNC), and H.E.A.L.S. He also taught underprivileged youth in Capchorwa District and Daughters of Charity Orphanage in Nsambya. Abramz completed training and earned a certificate in basic Psychosocial Skills through AVSI and participated in Global Kimeeza II, a conflict resolution conference organized by Global Youth Partnership for Africa (GYPA), a non-profit organization that strives to cultivate youth.

Abramz' teachings and performances have gone abroad to countries including Denmark, Poland, Zanzibar, South Africa and Burkina Faso in West Africa where he was invited to represent Uganda at the Waga Hip-Hop Festival in 2009. Abramz also won MoneyGram's community hero award in 2009, and was the featured rapper in Oxfam International's 2008 "Southern Voices" documentary about global climate change.

Aside from teaching, Abramz has been a member of the Ugandan Advisory Board and the Artistic Coordinator with Music Mayday. He also worked as a reporter submitting photos, video and editorial news from the slums and ghettos of Kampala, Uganda for Ghetto Radio - a Netherlands-based project supported by the Dutch Public Broadcasting company that uses music and art to connect youth from different slums and ghettos of Africa.