The path to being described as a “world-renowned artist” and “urban art legend” has not been an easy one for John “Prime” Hina. He dropped out of school to run with a “tough crowd” and it wasn’t long before he was getting into trouble with violence and drugs. For nearly two decades, he was a force to be reckoned with on the graffiti scene (before it was the stuff of viral Instagram posts), tagging on the streets of Los Angeles.
All of that changed in the late 1980’s when Hina decided to leave the rough-and-tumble of the streets behind, transforming himself into a passionate community advocate, entrepreneur and family man. He is now committed to helping “at risk” youth avoid the mistakes he made at their age. Of course, graffiti – or “urban art” as it’s known in trendier circles – is at the heart of his unique approach to community development.
808 Urban, a non-profit organization in Hawaii founded by Hina, focuses on using urban arts and cultural education as a vehicle to mentor at-risk youth. Since 2006, the organization has collaborated with schools and local organizations around the globe to create more than 100 large-scale “graffiti murals”, offered hundreds of free arts workshops and mentorship opportunities, and organized community arts events. All while “staying true to the streets”.
But for Hina, the mission of 808 Urban doesn’t stop with youth development and arts programming. It is also an opportunity to teach the next generation of artists and community leaders the importance of celebrating their culture and gifting it to future generations.