ASpire: The Philly Project

We are honored to bring Aspire: The Philly Project to Gallery 38. The exhibit will be up from January 15th through the 18th with a reception on January 16th from 5pm – 9pm.
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The lead artist Ernel Martinez was born in the small country of Belize. He was raised in south central Los Angeles and Detroit. His introduction to art was through the underground world of graffiti. He studied art at the Pratt Institute and obtained his BFA from Kutztown University. In 2004, he received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. Based out of the Philadelphia area, he explores creative methods to give underserved communities the tools to tell their stories through art- making. He uses their stories as a framework to produce artwork based in social practice that engages and build dialogue. He believes that art enriches communities and is the path to “true” collaboration.

Martinez was aided by assistants from the Mural Arts Restorative Justice Program, which provides art instruction, mural making, community service work and a paid work program, the Guild, within the criminal justice system. Inmates, returning citizens and juveniles are afforded the opportunity to learn new skills and make a positive contribution to their communities to repair prior harm caused, reclaim public spaces, develop competency skills and engage victims of crime in dialog.


I learned the way South Philly played at such an early age What my father was into sent him to his early grave
Then Mom started chasin that base like Willie Mays
My childhood was all of 40 nights and 40 days
Trouble was my ball and chain
Shorties would call me names
Humble beginnings
Black Thought is what it all became
My journey – from a dirty hallway to the hall of fame Music – my therapeutic way to cope with all this pain I was headed for the drain
Soakin before the rain water came
And chaos until the order came
To start doin what I’m supposed to do in life
Tryna move out of the dark and closer to the light They say if you get a chance to do it over, do it right And ASpire to be higher
Like my brother Shawn White


(Quest Love) and Scott Storch of “The Roots”, who produced three songs for their initial demo. Other notable collaborations include working with Larry Gold, Kenny Whitehead, DJ Woody Wood and DJ Tat Money to name a few.
In 1994, Shawn earned his first major recording contract with Warner Brothers Reprise Records as a member of the group “Divine Beings”. On his first release on the label, Shawn collaborated with Kwame` to produce the first single titled “Funky Ultimatum”. During that same year, Shawn was invited to perform alongside Jazz Great Steve Coleman and subsequently spent two-months touring Europe as a vocalist (MC) within the group, Steve Coleman and Metrics.
By early 1996 Divine Beings had disbanded and Shawn began to focus more on the production side of music. It was in the summer of 1996 that Shawn began working with Dwight Grant, professionally known as Beanie Sigel (however – then known as Beanie Mack). It was Shawn’s guidance and nine-song demo tape he produced that assisted in Beanie Sigel’s signing to Roc A Fella records.
After a lengthy hiatus from the music industry, Shawn partnered with long-time friend & musician, JaRon Burnett, to form the production juggernaut known as the PHREMAN Music Group, rooted in Hip Hop with influences in Soul, Rock, Jazz and World Music. Now solely spearheaded by JaRon, PHREMAN Music Group continues its commitment to producing numerous projects including film scores, community education projects, and collaborations with industry recording artists, internationally.

Both Shawn & JaRon spent their professional careers advocating & implementing initiatives to assist urban youth, so the duo decided to share their knowledge
of the music industry with our youth by forming the PHREMEN Audio Studio Academy. The PHREMEN Audio Studio Academy is a program for African American young men, teaching audio studio engineering, coupled
with HIV & STD awareness, and conflict resolution interventions. In 2012, Shawn was awarded a Black Male Engagement (BMe) Grant through the Knight Foundation for the development of the PHREMEN Audio Studio Academy. The BMe grant helped the duo fulfill their desire to give back to the community by marrying their gifts of music with helping urban youth. The PHREMEN Music Group is now solely spearheaded by JaRon Burnett, and the music program continues to flourish with new student enrollments in each program cycle.

Constant Struggle:
Constant Struggle it’s a come up
So I live my life day to day with a hustle just to make it
A little bumpin on the side
Wasn’t just to get big time
Just tryna get by
Cuz no one supports I
But honestly it’s cool though
It ain’t nothin new though
Cuz Ima get mine and there you go, so um
What you see is what you get
And I ain’t got a pot to pee in
And you know the rest so that’s that
I walk around every day
I see the same things, same places, same faces, and I’m like hey I just wanna survive until the next day
Maintain to last in this society
And not end up like the others that done fell flat
The same ones I used to look up to way back
Back in the days when I was a young buck
Hangin out with the ol’ heads tearin’ up
Not aware where it would lead me to in the long run
A part time hustla just out to start shhhhh
Got in and got out – yeah that was the move
Without fallin victim to greed and it was cool

ASpire-Program-Booklet(5)-6About Dr. Shawn
Dr. Shawn L. White, MHS, PhD – aka- Air Smooth earned a Master of Human Services from Lincoln University in 2004, and in 2011 he earned his PhD in Human Services from Capella University. Shawn began his professional career in social service at the Youth Outreach Community Awareness Program (YOACAP), where he worked for more than 16 years, as a cast member and peer educator for an HIV/AIDS awareness stage plays. At YOACAP, he was instrumental in the writing, development, casting, and training of four youth awareness psychodrama presentations geared towards helping youth and young adults make positive life choices.

He was one of four co-founders of “Voices of The Village”, a non-profit organization focusing on
behavior modification, building /enhancing life skills, peer education and increasing support for young entrepreneurs. One of the co-founders, Terrell
Brown, was one of the countless students that Shawn mentored while working at YOACAP. Like Shawn,
Terrell witnessed a significant need in the Philadelphia community for a program like Voices of the Village, and the two men banded together to form this wonderful organization.

Most recently he was employed as program director at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, conducting an insightful research study entitled “Barbers Building Better Brothers” – An African American Male Health Promotion Project. Prior to this, he worked at Drexel University as a researcher for the “Represent” study, which explored the gender role norms and sexual scripts of heterosexual African American men in Philadelphia and their risk for HIV infection.
Musically, Shawn was professionally known as “Air Smooth”. He was an accomplished music producer
and recording artist with a wide array of musical & instrumental talent. In 1993, Shawn was a regular in the studio working alongside names like Amir Thompson.

No Limits:
ASSISTED BY Stephanie Acevedo l LaTasha Billington l Glo- ria Martin l Antoineka Sanders l Elise Stewart l Melissa Lyn Yeager l Members of Mural Arts Restorative Justice Program – The Guild, and youth from the mentorship program.

Universal Companies, the RFP Mentoring Program, City of Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Epic South, Universal Audenreid High School, KBI Solutions NonProfit Consultants, and the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP).

Emmanuel Sofolawe, graphic design l JINJA l Brown Betty Dessert Boutique l Lusters Hair Products l Duafe Hair Products l Hello l Mi- chael Scipione l Jason Lloyd Funeral Home, Inc. Funded by The City of Philadelphia, The De- partment of Human Services, PhillyRising, The Roots, Hummingbird Foundation, Lenfest Foun- dation, JP Morgan Chase, Bryan Weingarten, I.B.E.W. Local 98, Philadelphia Activities Fund, the City of Philadelphia Prison System.