Girls Take The Rap
by Uma Ramiah | Apr 6, 2012 8:22 am
Posted to: Arts & Entertainment, Schools
Hip hop artists Twice Thou and Edo.G—part of the rap group 4Peace—shared Yale’s famed Woolsey Hall stage with a group of rhyme dropping middle-school students. And most of them were girls.
“See this group on stage? This is a testament to what women can do,” Twice Thou said into the mic.
This was the Rap for Justice concert, part of an ongoing collaboration between New Haven Public Schools, Yale and 4Peace. It took place Thursday.
Before the big concert, middle-school students from Greater New Haven were asked to compose an original piece of hip hop relating to justice, peace and social issues. Seven of the nine contest winners were young women.
Contest winner Yaryanne Mercado, 13 and an 8th grader at Fair Haven School, took the stage, looking calm and collected in sunglasses, and performed her piece, “Change Our Language.”
“I was so nervous, I was terrified,” she said, after the performance. “But I knew it was important to do.”
Click play on the video at the top of the story for a selection of performances by 4Peace, followed by contest winners Ashley Paige from Fair Haven School and Alberto Saavadra and Clinton Avenue School.
Twice Thou (Antonio Ennis) and Edo.G (Edward Anderson) chose the finalists. The pair, from Boston, said they were once mortal enemies on the streets.
“Sometimes I can’t even believe we’re up here on the same stage,” Edo.G admitted.
They witnessed one too many deaths—on a personal level—and decided to turn their lives against violence, and towards constructive, creative music aimed at keeping young people away from guns and gangs. They formed 4Peace in 2005, writing positive songs and touring the Northeast, speaking to young people about the dangers and consequences of guns and violence.
Then in 2009, the rappers graced the stage for the first-ever hip hop concert in Woolsey Hall.
This year’s event followed nearly the same trajectory as the 2009 concert. It started off with a contrasting piece performed by the Yale Band—led by Professor Tom Duffy—featuring strings, brass, vocals and spoken word. Twice Thou and Edo. G jumped in for a little spoken-word action before showing the hundreds of gathered students a short film they’d produced about the dangers of guns and the very real possibility of mandatory minimum sentencing. In the film, a 19 year old named Tyrell is picked up for gun possession. He has got three prior convictions on his record, and the feds target him. He’s sent to prison for 15 years.
Twice Thou and Edo.G answered questions from interested students after the film. Most students wanted to know why Tyrell hadn’t listened to the advice of his girlfriend and brother, who both urged him to stay away from guns.
“That’s a good question, you know,” said Edo. G. “Life is about choices, and he made the wrong one. He should have listened.”
They encouraged the hundreds of other students in the audience to get creative with music, and to approach them if they wanted to be part of a film in progress. They’re making a short movie about the challenges women and girls face when it comes to violence, and the important roles they play—and casting students from Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport. The film, along with the ongoing rap concerts, is a collaboration between 4Peace, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, local police departments and the Boston-based non-profit group Stop Handgun Violence.
For more about the movie, click here.
Twice Thou has six daughters at home, whom he said are part of the inspiration for making this follow-up film.
“They’re why I do everything, you know?” he said. “I want them to grow up safe and strong—as all young women should.”
The film will be used as an educational tool for schools and detention centers. The pair announced they hope to be able to finish it by the end of the school year.
Katia Mata and Maira Hernandez, both 14 and also 8th graders at Fair Haven School, performed their song “Once You’re Hatin’, You’re Fadin.’”
“We were really nervous too,” Mata said.
Happy and excited after their performances, Mata, Hernandez and Mercado stopped to reflect on the importance of the event.
“Even though you’re nervous you have to do things like this, to encourage other kids to make peace. You know, to keep tragedies from happening.”
Mata said she appreciated 4Peace’s message. “They’ve had experience with it and they’re showing kids how it really is, to make them not do what they did.”
The middle schoolers called music an effective way of getting through to young people—they understand a message better when it’s in rap form, they said. All three of them have experienced violence—a student from their school was murdered last year—and they acknowledged that there’s a lot of pressure on middle school and high school students to join gangs.
“Most kids will consider it because they just think it’s really cool,” said Hernandez. “But it can really get you in trouble.”
The rappers stuck around after the concert to shake hands, answer questions, and take pictures with students.
“We want them to understand that there are positive options out there,” said Edo.G. “There are better ways to live.”
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posted by: streever on April 6, 2012 2:51pm
It is truly heart-breaking to see the hands shoot up when they ask “How many of you know someone who is in prison”
“How many of you know someone who was murdered”
What are we doing as a society, when this is the case?
Great work by these activists. What a good story.