We first met Christopher Hampton at the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration in the spring of 2017. Chris is the CEO of Champ I Am, which provides leadership trainings and workshops for professionals and youth. Creating safe spaces for Camden teens was a theme of many conversations at Creative Camden. Christopher Hampton, The Camden Store, and other community partners banded together to address that need by starting Good Vibes – a youth-led monthly open mic night showcasing multiple generations of young adults and older adults. Good Vibes taps into the arts as a way to develop leadership, civic action, and creative expression.
Youth host and organize the events, which include performances of music, rap, visual art, fashion, and poetry in a space designed to build confidence, skills, and bridges to other community organizations, but that’s not all – read below to learn what the young people of Good Vibes have achieved with the City administration. We caught up with Chris to learn what they’ve been working on. Editor’s note: I saw videos on the Good Vibes Facebook page, and a young woman named Zoe who got up to sing blew me away.
Chris – you’ve been working on this project for almost a year now. Give us the broad brush strokes: what is Good Vibes?
Good Vibes has grown rapidly in the last year to become a monthly Open Mic Night where people young and old can gather on the third Saturday of each month. The Open Mic Night showcases rap, song, musical instruments, visual art, fashion, poetry, networking, opportunities to sell creative works, supportive community connections.
For the young people involved, it goes even deeper: The youth meet regularly to talk about issues they are dealing with, including sex and drugs, but also understanding who they are and what they’re capable of. People have major issues come out in middle of rap sessions, and that’s where peer counseling comes in. We’re dealing with conversations around depression, suicide, alcohol and drug addictions – but we’re also providing exposure to people who are succeeding and making change possible in their lives.
Our goal is to pour into our young people the support they need to cultivate their artistic talents, self-expression and introduce them to the business skills they will need.
We’re heading into our second full year of Good Vibes, and the young people who were interested in learning about music careers are now hosting. They’ve developed the confidence to sing, perform, and pursue their own businesses, and they’re getting civically engaged.
It sounds like there are a lot of moving pieces – how did your collaboration get started?
It’s a case of alignment of common goals. Ajeenah Riggs, Co-owner of The Camden Store, wanted to activate the learning garden at The Camden Store with summer events. Taquan Allen, who had founded a spoken word group and originated the Good Vibes concept, was looking to expand the offerings and grow a multi-generational audience and reach out to young people. For me, it’s about building up Camden’s young people.
In July, two months after the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration, we all found a sweet spot, where all our goals aligned and we started collaborating to provide safe spaces for young people to be themselves.
The adult support team for Good Vibes includes me as a life coach; Ajeenah & Troy Riggs (The Camden Store), Evangelista Batista Rafael (Never Alone Ministry); Tanisha Marie Crawford (singer); Taquan Allen (spoken word artist); Jaenice Pagan (youth leader). We’re also partnering with Bridget Phifer (Parkside Business and Community in Partnership) and the Haddon Avenue Business Association sponsored us, by helping with renting speakers and chairs. Now, we’ve been able to purchase our own speaker system for events.
What are the goals of this project?
Our young people have the ideas but not always the person to believe in them and walk with them.
We’re building leadership skills, self-confidence, creative expression, and entrepreneurial skills. We’re also creating space for youth and their families and encouraging civic engagement. The other key component of this work is creating opportunities for youth to networking with other adults and professionals. Among other things, this year we’ve:
- Made connections with NYC’s Kevin Livingston Founder of 100 Suits for 100 Men; who did workshops with our youth.
- Held a forum with Camden’s Mayor and City Council candidates, who shared how government works, and what their jobs entail.
- We participated in an Earth Day event
- We also collectively set a project for each quarter to work on together
- And of course, we’ve hosted our monthly Good Vibes Open Mic Night
It’s all about growing the connections, relationships, and network these young people have.
What change have you seen in the young people involved?
We started this program in July of 2017. By April, the youth had organized and hosted the Open Mic Night completely on their own. It’s great to work yourself out of a job! These young people are now the face of Good Vibes, so what I tell them is: Now it’s your job to train up your replacement for when you move on.
We have a young visual artist who is a painter, who was really shy about her work. We asked her to bring it in to showcase at one of the Good Vibes nights, and when she finally started to share her pieces, she was able to get her out of her shell. By the end of that night, someone bought her art.
We had another young woman who was a “Minnie Mouse” behind the mic a year ago. To push her to take risks and continue improving, I went with her to the KROC center to practice. If you’ve ever been in the KROC Center, it has an enormous atrium right when you walk in. She was practicing right there out in public. Since then she’s been building her identity, her brand and philosophy. Recently, she won second place in a Philly Open Mic Night.
We tell the young people, you never know the talent that’s inside of you. We have a lot of talent hidden, unidentified, in our city. There’s so much potential, and we’re here being entrusted to ignite the fire.
What’s one milestone you’re proud of with the Good Vibes youth?
We’re running out of room for our Good Vibes performances – we’re now regularly getting 40-60 people at our events, and so we need to move into a bigger space.
There’s a community center across street from where we hold our regular meetings which has limited hours of operation. So the Good Vibes youth decided our civic engagement goal for this quarter would be to see if we can get the community center opened for longer hours. After making connections with the Mayor and City Council, we were able to spark a conversation about extending the hours at the center – and we didn’t even have to fight for it, we just had to ask.
The Mayor’s office was agreeable to the idea and this past weekend, we held a 2-hour Memorial Day Celebration with the newly expanded hours.
The key to all of this is that we get our young people to find their cause – we never tell them what to believe or what to think. That is our success. We only need to tell them why – we give them info and youth come up with the end result.
As adults, we need to earn the right to be heard – our young people need to know how much you care, not just what you know.
Christopher Hampton has over 20 years of sales/service leadership experience. He is the founder of Impacting Word Enterprises and Champ I Am. Chris enjoys challenging and motivating entrepreneurs, sales and service teams as well as youth, corporate and volunteer organizations to break out of their comfort zones. Empowering and equipping them to release their inner Champ.
Chris has conducted sales, financial, leadership training and workshops on a regional level for companies like: Transamerica Life Insurance, Monumental Life Insurance, PFP Services, Internal Revenue Service (Philadelphia), Victorious Business Professionals, Camden County College, Emerging Speakers Bureau. Chris also has a heart for the students at the junior high school to the college levels, challenging them with a message to live their lives on purpose, pursue their passions, to live their lives by vision and not by sight.