‘Rap for Justice’ Offers Message of Non-Violence and Peace
An estimated 1,000 high school students from seven Connecticut cities gathered in Woolsey Hall on May 6 for a rap concert with the message of non-violence and respect.
The event, titled “Rap for Justice,” included performances by the Yale Concert Band, the rap group 4Peace and three winners of a statewide rap contest, as well as a screening of a film on teen crime. Sponsored by Yale, the concert was the collaborative effort of Yale Bands Director Thomas Duffy, the U.S Department of Justice and 4PEACE founders Twice Thou and Edo G.
At the opening, Duffy, in formal morning coat and tails, led the Yale Concert Band and a chorus of Yale singers in the performance of a composition he had written for the occasion. At the end of the classical piece, Duffy broke
into a rapid-fire rap. With the words “Who Am I” on a screen in the backdrop, Edo G. provided the coda to Duffy’s rap: “Respect your parents, respect your teachers, respect the police.”
“Yes,” called the tattooed Edo G. above the chatter and hooting of the student audience. “You need to respect yourselves and stop the violence. We are here for peace.”
Edo G. introduced his now partner, former enemy Twice Thou, who was known as M. Antonio Ennis before he disavowed the notorious “Stop Snitchin” code of vengeance and took up peace. In contrast to the formally attired classical musicians, the rappers were dressed in the classic hip-hop garb of tee-shirts, baggy pants and heavy gold chains.
The featured movie, which is based on actual events, provided the audience with information about the criminal justice system, pointing out, among other messages, that a juvenile record is counted against an adult convicted of a crime. For his first offense as an adult, the protagonist of the movie gets tried in federal court and sentenced to 15 years.
After the movie, Twice Thou asked his audience: “How many of you know someone who’s incarcerated?” Most hands went up. At the end of a question-and-answer session, in which the students asked fairly technical legal questions, one of the rappers admonished, “Don’t become a lawyer after you get arrested.”
The last act of “Rap for Justice” featured performances by the three students who had won a statewide contest for the best rap lyrics promoting peace. They were Norman Tappin of High School in the Community in New Haven, Anthony Ramos of Central High School in Bridgeport and Joshane Barton of Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven.
When Ramos rapped “I’m ready for peace,” the event took on the atmosphere of a revival meeting. “Put your peace sign in the air,” he called, and a thousand hands configured in a “V” jutted in the air and waved in unison as the students whooped and shouted.
The winners of the contest will appear on the popular BET music video countdown show “106 and Park.”
— By Dorie Baker