Pierre Arreola: Querer, es poder

Friday, May 24, 2013
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2013

Growing up in Pacoima, Calif., a poverty-stricken neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley riddled with drugs and gang violence, I came to Brown on a mission to uplift my community back home. My close friends and I had made a pact to devote our lives to this mission after we saw the benefits of our wrestling team’s victories — we had transformed an underfunded, overcrowded, low-achieving school into a beacon of hope for the neighborhood. Channeling our unique talents, creative genius and love for the San Fernando Valley, my friends and I came together as the GR818ERS (pronounced “great-one-eighters”), a family of artist-activists working to uplift underserved communities in the Greater Los Angeles area by promoting the founding principles of hip-hop culture — peace, love, unity, fun.

As the first student from Pacoima to attend Brown I was given the special opportunity, and great responsibility, to represent my community. Though I found myself somewhat out of place academically, socially and culturally on College Hill, my trips back home rejuvenated my ambition. Over the summer of 2010, my friend Sal asked me, “Why you leavin’ us again, P?” as we sat around the dining table discussing the details of our first event, “A Family Affair.” Though I felt every GR818ER expected a profound response, I said, “I don’t know, man. Let’s keep planning this jam,” dodging the question to conceal my fear of returning to school. A few weeks later at the jam, Sal repeated the question. But this time I took a second to answer. I looked around and saw GR818ERS working diligently to prepare the watermelon-eating contest, parents reminiscing about the times they spent running the streets. In the corner of my eye, I spotted a young Pacoima native, no older than five years-old, grooving to some old-school funk, living in the moment and loving every second of it. I looked back to Sal, cracked a smile and responded, “I do it for the kids.”

I have witnessed firsthand the ways that hip-hop has transformed the lives of underserved youth, including my own. Through partnerships with Brown and community organizations across Rhode Island and Los Angeles, the movement my friends and I started right out of high school has grown to reach over 30 communities from coast to coast. I now manage two hip-hop crews, the GR818ERS in California and Project 401 in Rhode Island, through Hip Hop 4, a nonprofit organization I co-founded. I coordinate youth programs and community events year-round that fuse culture, creativity, and service through the elements of hip-hop culture (dance, DJing, MCing, graffiti art, knowledge). Over the past four years, I heard my grandmother’s words in my head, “Querer es poder,” urging me on. Her constant reminder of the power of diligence and determination gave me the strength to continue on in my journey.

Now as I leave College Hill, my grandmother’s words couldn’t be any truer. The movement continues to evolve and take on new forms. As I further explore other communities and disciplines I feel comfort in the knowledge that I cannot fail. My family, my community, the movement and Brown have shown me that investments in people are more important than projects or partnerships, and I know that where there is a will, there is way.

Pierre Ivan Arreola will move back to the Los Angeles to continue spreading positivity and empowering communities through the power of hip-hop.

  • Sowhat?

    Oh My God !!!!!! I met this kid and he it’s out of this World a ‘wonderful person’
    Greetings from Italy dearest Pier….