Hyde Square Task Force Wins $500,000 Prize For Blending Music Education And Civic Engagement

By Magdiela Matta of WBUR.org
Original article published on January 12, 2021. Re-posted with permission from WBUR.
Hyde Square Task Force youth perform an Afro Cuban dance piece during an open mic night in Jamaica Plain in 2019. (Photo credit: Mark Saperstein)

Hyde Square Task Force, a Jamaica Plain nonprofit organization, has been awarded a $500,000 grant by The Lewis Prize for Music. The organization trains young people in Afro-Latin music, dance and theater in tandem with civic engagement.

Celina Miranda, executive director of Hyde Square Task Force, said in the past year they applied for more than 100 grants. The Lewis Prize comes at a critical time for the organization. “This one [is] not an ordinary grant,” Miranda said.

The award places Hyde Square Task Force within a network of organizations across the country that share a goal of offering effective and creative youth development programs. “It’s a recognition for us that the work that we’ve been doing is being seen outside of just our immediate surroundings. To be recognized for everything that we’re doing, I think it’s a great privilege,” Miranda said.

Three other groups in Detroit, St. Louis and Philadelphia also received the multiyear prize. Founded by philanthropist Daniel R. Lewis in 2018, the Lewis Prize Accelerator Award supports music education to advance systemic change.

Each year Hyde Square Task Force serves about 800 participants in grades eight through 12.

“Young people will advocate on behalf of issues that they believe are important to them. We encourage that because we don’t just want young people to be passive recipients of what we have to offer, but they can also be leaders of today, and grow into the leaders that the city needs in the future,” Miranda said.

“There is something beautiful and powerful about art, and using that as a way of engaging young people in change processes.” CELINA MIRANDA

She is a fierce advocate for creative development to engage young people. “There is something beautiful and powerful about art, and using that as a way of engaging young people in change processes,” she said. Music is taught with a grounding in history, and students learn to think critically about art.

With the grant, Hyde Square Task Force wants to develop opportunities for youth to travel abroad and feel more connected to the Latinx roots of their work. “We want to look at being able to have exchanges with our young people, take them abroad and have them explore Afro-Latin music in different settings,” she said.

They also plan to make improvements to their performance space by adding professional lighting and upgrading their current stage so that their young people can perform on a better stage with proper lighting.

Like many other programs, the pandemic caused Hyde Square Task Force to move to online programming in March last year. Miranda said that it highlighted the needs of the community beyond just the pandemic. “The reality is that low income families are always struggling in one way or another,” she said.

Miranda said the Lewis Prize has brought her the space to reflect on the mission of Hyde Square Task Force.

“I’ve been really impressed by how they’ve structured this process. I think they structure it in such a way that there’s so much time for reflection, which I think is wonderful. And I’m looking forward to being part of this network and for us as an organization to continue to learn and grow with such an amazing group of organizations.”

Article Re-Posted With Permission from WBUR.