On Thursday, LL Cool J and Russell Simmons launched a new anti-violence program and gave life advice to the youngest inmates of Rikers Island. Traci Donnelly, CEO and Executive Director of The Child Center of NY, joined Erica Ford, along with other artists and community leaders, for an event that helped youth learn how to control both their physical energy and their minds.
Erica Ford–founder of LIFE Camp, Inc, an organization that prevents youth violence and partners with Russell Simmons’ RushCard “Keep the Peace Initiative”–opened up the event at Robert N. Davoren Center. Erica introduced two former inmates who shared about their lives growing up in South Jamaica, their incarceration, and time in solitary confinement. One broke into tears as he encouraged the teens to realize that jail isn’t who they are–just where they wound up–and that they can make a change.
LL Cool J shared with the teens about his own childhood trauma and success against the odds. As a child, he saw his father shoot his mother and grandmother and was told his mother would never walk again. He encouraged them: Keep striving, have dreams, and don’t get distracted from them. Leave bad influences and old friends behind, surrounding yourself with people who want the same thing you do. Continue reading