Hip-Hop Youth

For The Times

Walk into the gym at the San Fernando Valley Boys & Girls Club most weeknights this summer and you probably won't hear basketballs thumping across the floor.

You'll be greeted by the driving sounds of 95 South, a rap group, blaring from a radio as 50 sweating boys and girls dance, twist and jump to the music.

They call themselves the Positive Youngstas. The name is apt. They're young and they're definitely trying to do something positive.

Positive Youngstas are a unique drill team, combining gymnastics, modern dance, ballet and jazz, and even traditional drill team moves, to a variety of music, including hip-hop, religious and reggae.

Ranging in age from 7 to 20, they perform at parades, shopping malls, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and fashion shows. And they almost always draw a crowd, says their equally energetic instructor Vickie Johnson. They even had to start their routine over at some competitions because the crowds rushed up for a better look, blocking the views of the judges.

Most of the drill team members love to perform, although many confess that they do get a little nervous. Says Mahogany Heard, 8: "When there are a lot of people dancing and a lot of people watching, it makes us hyped."

Their uniforms are sweat shirts with the Boys & Girls Club logo on the front and distinctive leggings--one pant leg ankle-length, the other cut above the knee. Toiyuan Forte, 14, likes their uniforms because they make the team stand out. Dwanda Campbell, 16, who has been part of the drill team for nine years, agrees. Most of the other drill teams, she says, "all have on skirts, the same thing but different colors."

Johnson has been their instructor for the past six years. She began as a part-time paid instructor, but continued on as a volunteer after budget cuts eliminated her position two years ago. "I like to see them dance," she says of her work.

If the program didn't exist, Johnson admits, many of the kids probably would become bored and be left without an outlet for their energy. The alternative might be getting into trouble.

Johnson says the kids picked the name Positive Youngstas themselves and also help choose the songs and dance routines.

The idea of doing something positive with their energy is a recurring theme throughout the group. Their new routine will be to Hammer's "It's All Good." They are having bake sales to raise money for new uniforms and plan on putting "It's All Good" on the back of their shirts.

The back of their present uniforms says "Whoot There It Is," a line from a popular hip-hop song. Johnson explains the line to mean something you would say about something special. "Because they are something special."

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