The residents of Comuna 13 have long faced conflict and gang control, but many locals say that hip hop has helped change the neighborhood and its young people for the better. Margoth Yepes, known as "La Abuela Rapera," or the Granny Rapper, watches a rap performance in the Casa Morada community center in Comuna 13. Although many residents initially associated hip hop with gangs and crime, their perceptions have been reshaped after nearly a decade of seeing hip hop used as a "tool for social transformation," said a local hip hop teacher and community leader who goes by the rapper name Kbala. "Seven years ago, rappers and graffiti artists were seen as delinquents," he said. "But that has changed so that we are now recognized in the neighborhood and lots of people approach us asking, 'Help me with my son. Take him to your classes.'" Throughout Latin America, governments and grassroots groups have attempted to harness the popularity and energy of hip hop as a tool for preventing violence and crime, particularly among young people. Some anecdotal evidence suggests such projects may be effective in terms of providing at-risk youths with alternatives to criminality. But there have been very few systematic evaluations of these efforts, and programs face various obstacles to successful and sustainable implementation.
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