CIPHER brings the community together

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The CIPHER (Center for Innovative Practices through Hip Hop Education & Research) had their fourth annual Holiday Bling Vendor’s Fair and Open Mic which promoted local businesses and provided the community with some early holiday shopping, as well as a space to use their voice at an open mic.

The CIPHER program at Skyline College is a “hip-hop and social justice community that seeks to foster leadership development and creativity both in and out of the classroom”. The program reaches out to students and the youth through hip-hop music and ties their education with relevant topics that are interesting to the students.

“Holiday Bling is important because we really want to honor and acknowledge just some local talent, local vendors and people out there being entrepreneurs,” Nate Nevado, the creator of the program and event, said in an Instagram story interview.

The event was a place for the community to come and share their work and creativity, whether it was through words or handmade items. For some vendors, like Ernesto Hernandez, who makes shirt designs, Skyline has a different vibe with the youth.

Hernandez also said that he “feel[s] very happy when someone buys [his] things and are satisfied.”

Hernandez was invited by Rocio Aguilar-Pedroza, a counselor from the Puente program, which aims to increase the number of educationally under-served students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities from Skyline. Prior to the Holiday Bling, Hernandez had sold his items at Stanford University but felt like the youth and music he experienced at Skyline was a different vibe than at Stanford.

Jennifer Bates, another vendor who has participated in this event before, said that more people were buying items this time around and seeing people leave with her items gave her a warm feeling since she puts a lot of effort into what she creates. Bates has a Facebook page where she lists her items for people to buy, which allows her to reach a bigger audience.

“Its nice to feel like it’s Christmas at the beginning of December, that is why I bought stuff,” Skyline student Teresa Gutierrez said, who didn’t know about the event but took advantage and bought some Christmas gifts while she was on her way to the Public Safety office.

Selling products wasn’t the only part of this event. The open mic was a designated open space for anyone to perform. Skyline student James Gilson, who was also featured in The Skyline View Instagram story, performed a poem of his own.

“The inspiration for my piece is from this book called The BreakBeat Poets and it was a poem by Tara Betts called “Hip-hop Analogy,”” Gilson said about where the motivation for his poem came from.

CIPHER provided students with an opportunity to express their voices in a way they may not have before. Students read their poetry on stage in front of an audience for the first time, as opposed to being in a classroom setting. Local vendors, including Skyline employees, were able to share their art with the world as CIPHER intended with the Holiday Bling.