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Great Lakes Theater "The Merry Wives of Windsor," 2014

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Nationally Renowned Architect of Hip-Hop Therapy, Tomás Alvarez III, will keynote CPAC Creative Intersections Event

Local poet/educator Daniel Gray-Kontar and columnist Phillip Morris of The Plain Dealer are scheduled to speak

APRIL 13, 2016 (CLEVELAND, OH) – Ashoka Fellow and CNN Hero, Tomás Alvarez III, will keynote Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC’s) second Creative Intersections event, “Empowering Youth”, May 19, 2016, at the Bohemian National Hall in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. 

Fueled by his discontent with traditional mental health systems, Alvarez set out to re-imagine mental health for boys and men of color. In 2004 while working as a school social worker he pioneered one of the first Hip-Hop Therapy programs in an effort to engage youth turned off by traditional forms of therapy. In 2011, he founded the nonprofit Beats Rhymes and Life, Inc. and served as its CEO until 2015. In 2012, his efforts using Hip-Hop Therapy in Oakland were the focus of an award-winning documentary film (A Lovely Day). In 2012 NBC Latino named Tomás Alvarez III one of the country’s Top 20 Innovators, whose work is changing their fields. In 2014 Alvarez was selected as a lifetime fellow by Ashoka, an international organization that identifies and supports social entrepreneurs whose bold ideas have the power to transform patterns in society. Currently, he is a SEERS fellow at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship where he is working to launch a global institute for Hip-Hop Therapy. 

“There are powerful local and national examples of arts and culture being deployed as a solution for some of the most challenging issues of our time,” said Tom Chema, chairman of CPAC’s board of trustees, “Our aim is to help broaden understanding of those opportunities and to spur dialogue and action about the role of greater Cleveland’s arts and culture assets in contributing to a more just and peaceful community” said Tom Schorgl, president and CEO, CPAC.   

Joining Alvarez at the event will be local poet, rapper, journalist, educator, and youth mentor, Daniel Gray-Kontar. He will focus his remarks on arts and culture’s role in education and how it can help Cleveland’s youth become change agents in their communities. Gray-Kontar is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley’s department of Language, Literacy, Society and Culture, and is the founder of Twelve: Literary and Performative Arts Incubator. His poetry has appeared in such anthologies as Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Three Rivers Press), Spirit and Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry (Syracuse University Press), and on the sound recording Grand Slam: The Best of the National Poetry Slam, Volume One (Mouth Almighty Records). Gray-Kontar is also the 1994 national poetry slam co-champion. He has performed on over 30 international sound recordings. Gray-Kontar’s music and social criticism has appeared in such magazines as The SourceThe Village VoiceWax Poetics, and XLR8R

“Greater Cleveland’s arts and culture sector has long been a partner in youth development,” said Kristin Puch, Director of Research and Advancement at CPAC, “What we found inspiring about these two particular arts leaders’ stories is the progressive approach they are taking to creating positive alternatives and interventions for youth.” 

A discussion with both speakers, moderated by Phillip Morris, columnist,The Plain Dealer, will conclude the event. Morris regularly writes about crime, punishment and race issues. He has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the category of newspaper commentary. 

The Creative Intersections “Empowering Youth” event will include light refreshments and time for networking. The cost is $25. For more information on the series and to register, visit


About Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC):

Community Partnership for Arts and Culture is a nonprofit organization in Cleveland, Ohio. CPAC serves and supports arts and culture professionals and community leaders who are working to create a brighter future for greater Cleveland. Through counsel, relationship building, research, programs and advocacy, CPAC works to strengthen, unify and connect greater Cleveland’s arts and culture sector. CPAC envisions greater Cleveland’s diverse arts and culture sector as a leading partner in contributing to our community’s vitality and enlivening the human experience. For more information, visit

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