August 10, 2006– Vol. 41, No. 52
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Hip Hop summit promotes positive side of rap music

Serghino René

Eighteen-year-old Natanaelle Orisma emigrated from Haiti with her parents in 1992, and now lives in Dorchester. She says she hasn’t experienced the violence occurring in some inner city neighborhoods, but she’s not blind to it either.

“The recent events have forced us to open our eyes,” said Orisma. “I don’t live where the violence readily takes place, but I know people in that situation and read about it in the papers.”

The recent Boston Latin School graduate will be attending Boston College in the fall and wants to be a humanitarian of some sort. Right now she has no idea how that’s going to work out, but she’s “willing to get [her] hands dirty.”

Orisma was one of several teens volunteering her time at Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Hip Hop Reconstruction Conference last weekend. She came on behalf of the John William Ward Fellowship Program, a program that allows students who have completed their junior or senior year at Boston Latin to work for a summer in the office of an elected or appointed public servant in state government, municipal government, the judicial system or the media.

Nearly 400 people, mostly teens, attended the conference, which brought together Boston’s hip-hop community to promote peace and the positive aspects of hip-hop culture. Menino was introduced as “T. Mizzie” by conference organizers.

“Hip-hop is a powerful part of youth culture today and I want to ensure that the movement’s positive, peace-promoting voices are heard by the Boston community,” Menino said.

Damante Burrell of Dorchester came to the conference for himself and was pleased to be in an environment where hip-hop was viewed in a positive light.
Mindful of the conference’s peace objective, Burrell said he sees negativity in his neighborhood all the time.

“I’ve seen drug dealers, prostitutes, crack heads — name it and I’ve probably seen it,” he said.
By the time he was 13 years old, Burrell said he had friends that were shot or killed. “I’ve seen what’s out there,” he said. “And I don’t want to be in that position. I even try to influence my friends to stay focused.”

The conference featured performances by a variety of national and local acts including CL Smooth, Nice-N-Smooth, Ed O.G. and others. It also featured classes on a variety of hip-hop themes, such as breakdancing and MC-ing, as well as workshops on violence prevention, lifestyles and the meanings of rap lyrics.

Teens were able to participate in discussions and listen to social activists, journalists, lyricists, actors/actresses, teachers and students and their opinions on violence, education, social growth and personal development.

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