Hip-Hope Inc. is a non-profit organization, with 501(C)3 tax exempt status, whose mission is to utilize arts and culture to promote, advocate and support Hope wherever symptoms of hopelessness are prevalent. We define hopelessness as: “Being unable to function or maintain a desired quality of life due to lack of knowledge, resources, mental health and/or access to solutions.”
Our primary focus is on addressing community safety concerns and disparities as they relate to economics, health, incarceration and education among “at-risk” and “high-risk” youth ages K-12 in the greater Des Moines area.
“Listen with the intent to understand!” Hip-Hope Inc. assesses the needs of the community through the perspective of the youth. We promote hope for our future by giving youth a voice through arts and culture. Their insight allows us to accurately address their needs.
Bo James is born and raised in the urban core of Des Moines, Iowa. Despite going up in a two parent home, being in gifted and talented, in marching band, an honor roll student and a world class athlete he realized that he was at risk. By high school most of his closest peers and relatives were in gangs including his younger brother. By his senior year in high school most of them were in detention centers, prison and some had even lost their lives to the streets. He accredits music, sports and mentors for keeping him from falling into the traps of society that snared his family and friends.
Leonard “Lenny” Bell wears many hats serving multiple roles in and around the community. Currently, Lenny is the Youth Education and Training Coordinator at the Evelyn K. Davis Center overseeing multiple initiatives including the After School Homework Assistance, ACT Prep, and Summer Youth Experience Program (SYEP). He is also serves in the roles of case manager, mentor, and Instructor for Des Moines Area Community College’s YouthBuild Program. Lenny also works with the Brother to Brother and Dream-to-Teach programs in Des Moines Public Schools.
His commitment to community growth and enhancement is illustrated in his community involvement, volunteerism, and desire to increase/expand the existence of and access to the arts in the city at large. As Co-Founder and Host of Say What! Poetry over the past 12 years, Lenny has demonstrated his commitment to promoting and supporting the art form of poetry/ spoken word. Lenny also serves as Board Vice-President and Program Chair for I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa which is Iowa’s longest running premiere African American cultural arts festival.
Lenny has a Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts degree minoring in English/Creative Writing as well as a Master’s of Education degree focused of Community College Leadership from Iowa State University. He also has a Non Profit Leadership/Administration Certificate from Drake University.
Lenny loves the time he gets to spend writing, listening to all genres of music, performing, and public speaking. However, nothing comes close to the time he spends with his family and friends.
“Everything I do is to preserve my connection to others, because it is that connection that makes this life worth living. This is why Hip Hope is so important. Hip Hope utilizes arts and culture to connect people to themselves and each other. It is those connections that builds the spirit of high esteem and motivation which leads one to desire to be successful.”
Valora’ James is a Sr. Operation Specialist at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. She has been with Wellmark for 11 years and counting. During her ten years, Valora’ has had the opportunity to gain a lot of experience and knowledge within multiple areas of the company. Valora’ served in National Accounts Customer Service for 7 years, Blue Card claims for 2 years Sr. Account Service Representative and is currently a Senior Operation Specialist.
I enjoy spending time with family, volunteering throughout the community and helping youth with growth and becoming successful. My passion is to enjoy life, create music and travel
Valora has graduated with her Master Degree in Business Leadership September 11, 2016 from William Penn University. Valora received her bachelor’s in business management in May 2013. Valora’ has an emerging knowledge of the insurance industry.
Valerie Jones is a native of Des Moines, Iowa. She was educated in the Des Moines Public School School system and graduated from East High School. After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University, in Ames Iowa, she and her husband, Austin Jones, married and now are raising three boys. During this time, she served as a licensed insurance agent for more than 15 states, specializing in Life and Health insurances. In 2008, Valerie and Austin became entrepreneur's, forming Jones Cleaning and Remodeling Services, LLC, employing 50-60 team members every year.
Valerie became a licensed minister with Anchored In The King Christian Fellowship Organization in 2015 and is a faithful member of Anchored In Truth Ministries, in Edwardsville, Illinois, under the leadership of Pastor Diana M. Brewer. Under this ministry, Valerie heads the women's outreach ministry called Sister to Sister, who's mission is to Build, Inspire, Empower, and spread Love.
Tracy Duran is the Director of Studio Education and Inclusion at the Des Moines Art Center where she provides vision and strategic leadership for programs that link the Art Centers studio and community educations classes to the museum and community through the development of innovative programming. In addition to her work in education, Duran provides vision and leadership for the organization’s inclusions efforts as they strive to be a cultural resource for all in the community. Duran and her team work with community partners and schools to strengthen external relationships with diverse audiences. Over the past twelve years Duran has developed and provided leadership for the Art Access program, which provides innovative and engaging art programs to underserved communities in the Des Moines Area. Through the Des Moines Art Center she has worked with various programs involving at-risk youth, displaced
children at a local youth shelter, women from the Department of Corrections, and residents in an Alzheimer’s care facility. Duran has dedicated her life to empowering youth and began mentoring at the age of 17 in Las Vegas, Nevada where she grew up. She holds a BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and an MFA from California State University, Fullerton.