LOS ANGELES – Hundreds of high school students at Dorsey High School are joining hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons in a pledge to promote peace and reduce violence in their lives and communities.
Nearly 500 Dorsey students joined Simmons in signing a pledge for peace and committed to putting peaceful lifestyles into action in their school, their homes and their communities.
During a forum last week, Simmons was adamant about students making the right choices, choosing the right friends and straying away from violence. A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, he said.
“Every day you’re confronted with choices, you’re surrounded by people who would be friends – choose the ones who are going the right way,” Simmons told the students.
“The groups that you join, the activities that you chose, they’re part of being peaceful. It’s an action,” Simmons said. “You have to go to work on peace. Peace is an action. Just like fighting, just like war, it’s an action.”
The Dorsey program was part of a national initiative to focus on promoting peace and reducing youth violence in cities and schools across America, organizers said. Simmons’ company, RushCard, created the “Keep the Peace” pledge to support community organizations that focus on peace initiatives.
The Def Jam Recordings co-founder told the students that during a time when much of America is focused on police-community relations, dealing with police officers should come down to one word: “Respect.”
“The truth is when they show up, you gotta shut up,” said Simmons. “It’s how you respond to him that’s gonna feed how he responds to you.”
The message appeared to resonate with some Dorsey students, including senior Ryan Bell, who said making peace with police is all about shattering stereotypes.
“Kinda just stepping back, not really doing what they expect you to do, doing what they don’t expect you to do,” he said. “Really proving to them that racism and all that stuff is really not who you are.”
Youth organizer Jelani Hendrix of the Community Coalition – which helped organize last week’s event – said he works with students every week holding discussions about everything from community programs to college plans.
“I think just inner-city populations in general could benefit from this program,” he said. “Like Russell Simmons talked about, you want to be at a state of peace at all times. That way you can navigate through life with the challenges that come, you can advance those obstacles.”
Simmons also led the students in a four-minute meditation as a segue to create peace in their community. He also called for meditation to be incorporated into school curricula as a way to reduce violence and improve student achievement.
Many students seemed to embrace the concept.
“I have a lot of stress around my house and household so being able bring that back to my household and telling people this how you can relieve stress and relieve negativity is very powerful,” said Dorsey senior Marcell Richardson, who said she meditated for the first time that day.
Other students like senior Eureca Morti said they have already incorporated meditation practice into their lifestyle. Morti said listening to Simmons reassured her that it has many benefits.
“Just knowing that all the noise around you is what interrupts you and stops you from seeing the beauty outside and that it keeps your head straight,” Morti said. “It’s good for you.”
An advocate of quieting the mind to create change, Simmons also pledged to bring meditation to Dorsey High as part of the school’s curriculum. If implemented, Dorsey would be the first school in south Los Angeles to implement meditation in daily classroom activities, organizers said.
Many students scoffed at the meditation part of the program, but many others took it seriously.
“I think half got the message while the other half are in La La Land,” said student Thaius Davis Welch.