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‘It starts at home’ | Young Dro challenges parents to do their part to end youth violence

Rapper Young Dro urged parents at a town hall meeting in the City of South Fulton Thursday to help each other be better parents for their children.

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — Tough talk and tears filled the auditorium Thursday night at a town hall meeting at the City of South Fulton Southwest Arts Center about the causes of youth violence, and the solutions to saving generations of children.

One speaker after another brought up how crucial active parenting is in the fight to end youth violence.

Atlanta west-side native and hip hop artist Young Dro, along with community leaders, said repeatedly that it starts with parents.

When the subject of rap lyrics and their influence on children came up, Young Dro told parents that he doesn’t let his son listen to his lyrics.

The issue is not the lyrics, he said--just be parents, and take charge.

Families in the audience who have lost sons and brothers to violent crimes were asked to step up to the microphones in the aisles and speak out about their last memories of their loved ones, and their ever-present pain, and what they believe needs to be done.

And quickly, two lines stretched to the back of the auditorium.

“I only had one son,” said one mother, “and he was murdered,” and her heartbreaking memories that she shared were not unique.

Another mother whose son was murdered spoke of how grateful she is that everyone in the standing-room-only meeting was there seeking answers: “I been praying to God that somebody stand up for our community!”

One panelist asked young people in the audience why they want to carry guns.

“It just evens the playing field,” one young man answered. “If somebody else got a gun out there, you want to have a gun, too, if there’s a problem. ‘Cause if you don’t, you already going to lose.”

Then a 15-year-old boy stood up, and told everyone with a resigned and weary tone to his voice that he needs a gun for self-defense, because when he has a conflict with someone, that person may not care about talking it out with him peacefully.

“Some people, they ain’t got nothing to live for,” he said, “so they just ready to end it all right there.”

The town hall on youth violence was organized by City of South Fulton Mayor khalid kamau and Young Dro.

Young Dro challenged the young people, “If you show me the people you hang around, I can tell you exactly where you’re headed. If you hang around doctors and lawyers, you’ll be one soon. If you hang around a drug dealer, you’ll be one soon.”

He challenged parents to be hands-on parents.

“I have children,” said Young Dro. “And I govern what they listen to. My son don’t hear none of my music, This is your home. Are you going to allow lyrics to raise your children? Are you going to allow Instagram to raise your child? Are you going to allow another gang member to raise your child?”

Just before the meeting, Young Dro told 11Alive that as a crime victim, himself, and as a parent, he wanted to try to begin to talk with parents in his hometown. 

He spoke of making licensed therapists available to grieving families, and advising parents about buying life insurance for their families because of the reality that someone in their family might be killed during a violent crime. 

Young Dro believes this may be better than trying to raise funeral money in online fundraisers after the fact. He also said one of the best, proactive measures parents can take is as simple as cracking down on their children’s social media use.

“Put the phone down for a little bit, because we’re allowing the phones to raise our children," said Young Dro. "We’re gonna get back to actually using your hands, hands-on, going to work, being a part of something, playing ball, you know, having fun.”

Mayor kamau said it's important to show young people many paths to success, not just through sports or rap music, but through business and industry.

He invited young millionaires to speak to the young people there about how they have succeeded. One of them who spoke runs a successful construction business in Atlanta, and he invited everyone there, children and adults, to contact him for advice, mentoring and a job.

“I wanted to make sure that we aren’t just asking young people to put the guns down,” said kamau. “Without putting something in their hands that is both positive and profitable.”

This was the first in a series of town halls that the City of South Fulton will be holding to explore every possible solution and try to empower the community to save young people.

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