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Rap Star KRS-1 Joins Panel on Urban Youth

By John G. Knepper

Black youths lack a sense of racial identity and should be taught African history in public schools to bolster pride in their heritage, the popular rap songwriter KRS-1 told an audience of about 300 at the Kennedy School of Government last night.

"The sickness is in the consciousness [of Black youth]," said KRS-1, who founded Stop the Violence, a coalition of rap artists committed to curbing violence within the Black community.

KRS-1 joined Kennedy School professor of political economy Glenn C. Loury and Georgette Watson, a Boston community activist to discuss solutions to the problems of inner-city youths.

"We are definitely losing our community," said Watson, the founder and director of Drop-A-Dime, a program which alerts police of reported crimes through a community-operated tip line.

KRS-1 said teaching Black students exclusively "white history" alienates them from their own racial identity and culture.

But Loury said that while the solution to the Black youth crisis in the inner city hinges on establishing a sense of racial pride, public education does not need to be responsible for teaching African history.

"Education in identity is not a public responsibility," Loury said "This is not to say [the Black community] shouldn't do something."

The panelists agreed that political solutions were not sufficient to accomplish change.

"We're in a lot of trouble as a society," Loury said," This is not just a political problem."

The problem will "not yield to a public policy response," Loury said, but requires action by the Black community and also action by Harvard and other educational institutions, which have the power "to frame the debate" on urban issues.

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