Job Corps gets hip-hop lesson

March 12, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -After he hosted an hour-long show describing the history of hip-hop and displayed dance moves with six others, James "Cricket" Colter asked the 200 or so people at Harpers Ferry Job Corps to repeat this: "Peace. Love. And respect for everyone. The only time I will look down on a person is when I'm helping them up."

Those in the audience dutifully repeated it, twice.

Colter and other members of Philadelphia-based Rennie Harris Puremovement performed Friday morning at Harpers Ferry Job Corps, a center where at-risk young men and women earn their GEDs, if needed, and a job skill.

The crowd cheered, chanted and applauded during the performance.

After the show, Colter said he hopes those at Job Corps embrace creativity.

"It could be their way out," he said.

He said he wasn't sure how the show would be received, but said it seemed to go over well.


"A lot of the kids get a bad rap. It's not their fault they're here," he said. "It's America's problem. I think hip-hop, like it or not, is the medicine."

During the show Colter told the crowd that the word "hip-hop" was used as a verb in "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," in reference to the 1940s.

The first hip-hop dance originated in California in the 1960s, when a terrible dancer combined two different types of dances, including the funky chicken.

"The break," or break dancing, came about later and originated in the Bronx as a gang dance, he said.

B-boying, "a thug dance," followed, but was replaced most recently by hip-hop freestyle, or new school dancing, Colter told the audience.

After showing the latest dance moves, Colter invited audience members to walk onto the gymnasium floor and perform.

One young man seemed nearly as skilled as the professional dancers, while another shimmied his legs until the pair of khaki pants he was wearing fell to his ankles. He was wearing jeans underneath.

"What you saw there, that was the true essence of hip-hop," Colter said after 10 or so members of the audience performed.

Members of Rennie Harris' group have traveled all over the world, and have seen people who would pay money to act, talk and dress like those at Job Corps, Colter said.

Some head into black neighborhoods, observe how residents there talk and act and then sell the product back to those very same people, he said.

He urged them to remain true to themselves.

"Please recognize the importance of what you create," Colter said.

The other dancers were Alonzo Carter, Duane Holland, Grady Hill, Keith Stalworth, Brandon Albright and Ron Wood.

Doris Hall-James, director of the Job Corps Center, said 210 students live on the campus during the week, three-fourths of whom are young men.

Students learn social skills, how to live independently and obtain their GED or high school diploma if they do not already possess it. They also learn a trade skill and focus on one area - business administration I, business administration II, information technology, carpentry, brick, cement or paint.

Students come from Maryland, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Pennsylvania. They must be 16 to 24 years old.

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