Schenectady’s rapper brings community together to bring the park to life

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SCHENECTADY – What started out as a simple desire to spruce up a neighborhood park on the corner of Windsor and Landon Terrace has led to a complete overhaul.

Working with the Social Enterprise and Training Center (SEAT) and with the help of a $ 62,000 grant from the Schenectady Foundation’s Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge, rapper and town resident Tyrell Outlaw is transforming the neglected park into a space more welcoming.

“It was… Always dirty, always messy, trash,” Outlaw said. “You could barely see the courts. The hoops were terrible.

Outlaw, who is also called Rell Dolo, lived in the neighborhood just around the corner from the park for several years before even noticing that there was a park where his two children, Jaylen and Elon, could play. The first time he picked up Jaylen, who was 6 at the time, Jaylen immediately started running.

“He was playing four squares, got stuffed in the back with vines and there was glass all over the place,” Outlaw said. “I’m like, ‘I should just clean up this park myself. It is just awful. How bad does a playpen have to be for you to look at it and be like, “I should clean it up?” It must be really bad. No one goes to a park thinking, “I should clean up. ” It is not normal.

The next day he picked up a broom and started sweeping the basketball court. Children and parents in the neighborhood he had never met before saw what he was doing and began to help.

“This park is small enough to clean, it’s not Central Park. A person can literally go through and pick up a few things and make a difference, ”Outlaw said.

This is something the high school graduate Schenectady really wanted the kids in the neighborhood to understand.

Outlaw has worked with children and adolescents to some extent for several years. He worked with at-risk youth at Mont Pleasant Middle School as part of SUNY Schenectady’s Liberty Partnerships program and then taught in the school district.

When he’s not teaching, he raps.

“I really started with music in high school,” Outlaw said. “The Schenectady high school at the time, they had Prince Sprauve. . . do the hip hop program. He had a studio running in the school so he was able to help the kids who were really passionate about music.

Since then he has released original songs and performed in the Capital Region as well as Atlanta and beyond. He opened for Styles P. and Jadakiss.

His students and the neighborhood kids know him as both a rapper and a teacher. At the start of the Park Project (which Outlaw called Jaylen’s Park Project), a few kids he had never met before approached him to tell him that they had seen his videos and liked his music. This made the project much heavier.

“If I can influence them in a musical way, then maybe. . . if they see me cleaning up after the park they might be inclined to do it. I really mean it, which is why I wanted to involve the kids, ”Outlaw said.

He has organized community cleanups, where children and parents go out to pick up trash and sweep up. He also asked for the opinion of the community on the redesign of the park.

Some of the volunteers who worked on the project came from the YouthBuild program at SEAT Center, from which Outlaw graduated. Through the program, students prepare for their GED and undergo workforce development and training.

“I worked my butt every day there. It was a great experience, ”said Outlaw.

Being able to work with students and with Founder / CEO Jennifer Lawrence has been a great experience, Outlaw said.

It has also helped inspire some of the students who take the program, according to Lawrence. Students who volunteer on projects like these “I think they feel more connected to the community,” Lawrence said.

LandArt Studio’s landscape architect Mary Moore Wallinger can also attest to the neighborhood’s involvement.

“The difference, even with what has already been done, is just huge. The last time I was there for a cleanup some neighbors were there and they were just super excited to see what was going on with the park, ”said Moore Wallinger.

She has worked with Outlaw for over a year to bring her vision for the park to life.

The old chain-link fence has since been replaced with a wooden fence to make the park more visible and welcoming. The basketball court has been repaved and turned into a half court, allowing for hopscotch and four squares. Stone steps have been installed, creating a more natural entrance.

Over the next few weeks, they will be putting in new mulch and working with local artist Kymberli Gaillard and community volunteers to paint a mural on the basketball court.

Green area

Parks like these, where people can congregate and where children can play, are extremely important to city residents, Moore Wallinger said.

“It’s really wonderful to see the interest, the passion and the dedication to. . . not only restore it to what it should be, [but also] which makes it even more meaningful in the process, ”said Moore Wallinger.

William Rivas, who runs Save Our Streets / COCOA House, has known Outlaw for several years and believes the park project shows community ownership and development.

“This is the level of inspiration we want to give to our community. That’s what he does. He took a piece, something close and dear to him and he’s using it to inspire young people and create something phenomenal for the future and that’s what we should be doing, ”Rivas said.

“Sometimes it’s not a lot of planning. Sometimes he just does the job and he gets it.

Outlaw brings it back to his students and the children of the Eastern Avenue neighborhood.

“Many children in our city suffer from a lack of basic things like love, food, care, a safe environment, health care, proper education and when they read the news and see someone. one that looks like them, from Schenectady, 9/10 that’s something negative, “Outlaw said.” For once I just want the kids I work with to see something good. that they see something that makes them believe that they can do anything.

There is still some work to be done on the project, although Outlaw hopes to have it completed by the fall. Anyone who lives in the neighborhood and would like to volunteer can contact the SEAT Center at [email protected]

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