Morrow High puts rap on violence

By Greg Gelpi

Not all rap is about committing violence. Some rap provides a venue for students to avoid violence.

The Morrow High School Rhythm and Poetry (RAP) Club presented its second poetry slam Sunday.

From the importance of graduating to messages against violence, students performed a variety of poetry, spoken work and freestyle rapping at the slam.

"If you get it down on paper, it's a positive way to channel your anger instead of displaying your anger in violent means," Thomas Pough Jr. said. "It helps to put issues in the past and deal with them. (The club) inspires you to do bigger and better things"

Pough rapped about Devon Gates during the freestyle competition. Gates, a Forest Park High School football player, was shot and killed in September. Pough said Gates' brother is in his class, so the death touches his class personally.

"The event affected a lot of people, so it was easy to be inspired," Pough, the vice president of RAP, said.

Hollis Ball, the Morrow High teacher who sponsors the club, said RAP provides an outlet for his students and has helped some students improve their grades and outlook on life.

"I'm trying to get them away from rapping, writing and speaking about violence," Ball said.

He introduced the club last year and has witnessed students staying in school and improving their grades because of the club.

"I've got a trigger on my left and book on my right," Paul Uyanga rapped in freestyle. "I don't know what I'm going to do. Am I going to read? Am I going to fight?"

Another student, Willie Thomas, spoke about high school dropouts as being "fools" and rapped about his plans to be an architectural designer.

Ball said he built trust with his students by taking part in writing and performing with them. Failing students have improved grades, and a student who hadn't been attending school returned, he said, because of the club.

At Sunday's slam, his students "called him out" and challenged him to perform.

Ball broke into a poem he had written a week earlier about walking the line between right and wrong. He said that it's time to embrace the "dream." The poem was inspired partly by rereading Martin Luther King's speeches, he said.

Donte Davis was crowned the King MC and overall winner of the poetry slam. He was also chosen as the best freestyle performer.

Gabrielle Johnson won the best spoken word award for "Love, I guess" and Jaye Alexander was recognized for best poetry with "Pull."