Slayings of well-known rap artists spur NAACP to set up anti-violence rallies Civil rights group hopes to get message to youths while alarm is fresh

March 19, 1997|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

In a new attempt to reach the hip-hop generation, the NAACP has scheduled a series of "Stop the Violence -- Start the Love" rallies in the wake of the slayings of rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

The first of three rallies is to be held Friday in Brooklyn, N.Y., the home of rapper Smalls, whose real name was Christopher Wallace.

Smalls, also known as Notorious B.I.G., was killed March 9 in a Los Angeles drive-by shooting.

Subsequent rallies are scheduled for Los Angeles and Hollywood, Fla., the latter on April 4, the 29th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, NAACP youth director, called the slayings "the harvest of the violent culture that America has put together."

"These two young people are just byproducts of that," he said.

Bryant said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was trying to capture young people's attention "to try to make the most out of it while everyone has their ear to the ground."

He said the NAACP also plans "peace patrols" in troubled urban neighborhoods this spring and a longer anti-violence tour starting this summer.

He said the Smalls and Shakur killings had spurred "young people to do their own evaluation: Is being a 'gangsta' that glorious? Is it really cool to be dead?"

Bryant, 25, said he had known Shakur, shot to death in September in Las Vegas, when the rapper was a student at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Bryant said they had performed together, Shakur doing "positive raps" and Bryant, then a City College student, preaching motivational addresses.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume has made youth outreach a major goal of the nation's largest and oldest civil rights group.

His predecessor, the Rev. Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, attended gang summits and created a brief flurry of youth activity before he was fired in 1994 because of financial improprieties.

Bryant acknowledged that the NAACP's proud tradition would be of little service in trying to involve young people.

"I really can't sell the past; I have to sell the present. Young people, in the words of Janet Jackson, want to know, 'What have you done for me lately?' " he said.

"This isn't going to be a drive-by event. It will be ongoing. President Mfume doesn't want a jump shot from half-court. He wants a lay-up all the way to the basket."

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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