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'We want to build up the youth.' 

'Soul' summit encourages youth to chart positive path

Soul Tape Vol. 1 gathering examines messages in rap, celebrity culture

Posted: Saturday, May 30, 2015 7:00 pm | Updated: 9:08 am, Sun May 31, 2015.

By MARY ELLEN WRIGHT | Staff Writer LancasterOnline



Jada Feliciano, an 8th-grader from Manheim Township Middle School, discusses society's expectations of women during a workshop at the Speak to my Soul Youth Summit at Hand Middle School on Saturday.



Youth Summit organizer Evita Colon dances with some other "Soul Team" members, Joy Meredith and Shakena Tate, at their event at Hand Middle School in Lancaster on Saturday.



At a workshop called "How you gonna win when you aint right within" 12 year-old Justin Kanneh says you can't affect change if you don't change yourself first. The Speak to My Soul Youth Summit at Hand Middle School on Saturday hosted a variety of workshops for students and parents.



At the Speak to my Soul Youth Summit on Saturday, organizer Evita Colon (right) told students to focus on how they can make a positive change in the world.



At the Speak to My Soul Youth Summit on Saturday Destiny Torres-Williams came forward to receive a Legacy Award for an essay she wrote on the inspirational Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.


Hip-hop was on everyone's minds Saturday afternoon at Edward Hand Middle School in Lancaster.

But the few dozen teenagers and parents who gathered at the school weren't there for a party.

They were there to talk about some of the negative values and characteristics promoted in rap lyrics and videos, and how young people can move beyond those negatives and learn to find self-respect, confidence and the ability to set and achieve goals.


"We want to build up the youth," said Evita Colon, a paraeducator at Edward Hand who organized Saturday's Soul Tape Vol. 1 Youth Summit through her organization, Speak to My Soul.


Much of the summit consisted of small-group workshops in which students in grades seven to 12 talked about the messages they get from hip-hop and celebrity culture, and whether those messages lead to positive progress in their lives.

"We feel there's a lot of hopelessness in this generation," Colon said just before the summit began. "A lot of them are lost. And they're being influenced by things like music.


"We're trying to incorporate hip-hop into our message," she said, "to show these kids that, despite what they hear in music, that they still matter and that they should carry themselves to a certain standard and want to excel.

"We want to try to talk about some of the bad things in hip-hop such as the glorification of violence, misogyny and homophobia," Colon said. "Those are the common themes in hip-hop that we want to talk about, and tell (young people), 'You don't have to live this way and you don't have to think this way because it's music you like.' "

Keynote speaker A. Lee Brinson of Lancaster, a Navy veteran, actor, director and spoken-word artist, found contemporary lessons to be learned in the infamous Willie Lynch Letter. That speech, supposedly delivered in Virginia in the early 1700s, was a list of ways slave owners could keep their slaves subservient and loyal to their masters by making them mistrustful of each other.

Brinson said wedges have been driven between segments of the African-American community — men against women, dark-skinned against light-skinned people, youth against seniors — by cultural "masters" such as the media, movies, TV and other aspects of the entertainment industry.

"It seems we don't have anything in common anymore with our elders," Brinson said. "How many times have we turned on the television on Disney or Nickelodeon and found prime examples of disrespectful children. It used to be that age came with respect.


That is no longer the case.

"We despise and degrade those who are intellectually inferior to us, instead of using the more noble approach of 'each one teach one,' " Brinson added. "We are still slaves to a system that tells our young black and young brown men that they have to be hustlers or rappers or thugs or athletes to be successful.

"You cannot band together with someone you cannot trust," Brinson said, adding members of the community need to start trusting and respecting each other.


The adults and boys and girls broke into small groups to discuss the themes of the summit. Parents heard speakers talk about images in rap videos that promote violence against women.

The girls talked about positive self-image and discussed celebrities they admire for carrying themselves with a regal confidence, such as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Janelle Monae, Zendaya and Beyonce.

The boys discussed not using words that embody negative racial stereotypes to describe themselves or their friends. They also talked about the lyrics of "No New Friends" by DJ Kahled and Drake, and discussed how sometimes you have to move out of your longtime circle of friends to find mentors and teachers who will help you progress in life.


Edward Hand eighth-grader Destiny Torres-Williams received the Legacy Award at the summit for writing an essay about wanting to leave a legacy of promoting peace.

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