May 29, 2009

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Jail was a turning point in his life, Akon tells Poughkeepsie kids

Akon, with the Sister 2 Sister group

POUGHKEEPSIE - In response to a recent increase of fatal shootings in Poughkeepsie, Mayor John Tkazyik and youth groups Sister 2 Sister and Brother 2 Brother were accompanied by celebrity hip-hop artist Akon in order to address the effect gun violence has on the community.

With 14 shootings already this year and gun violence prevalent in some areas of Poughkeepsie, Tkazyik explained that this "is a community problem" and that it will take the community to work towards solving this problem. According to Tkazyik, having Akon speak to members of local youth groups about these positive messages in a way they will relate to is just one strategy being implemented to educate the community in order to prevent crime.

“It’s to a point now where we’re always trying to find ways to deal with our issues, dealing with all these main challenges, which is very hard, especially when you are surrounded by an environment that don’t really have no morals,” he told the youths. “That you all even showed up today shows you are doing positive things in your community, shows that guys are definitely going to be an influence to whoever is around you.”

Student and member of Sister 2 Sister Tracy Moore introduced what is being called Project SWAG or Society at War Against Guns. The goal of Project SWAG, Moore explained, is to "combat the growing violence and tension that is being used with guns." In collaboration with youth group Brother to Brother, these youths are taking the lead and using action to "come against the latest crime and the lack of guidance people have in our community," said Moore.

Mayor Tkazyik welcomed Akon and expressed his appreciation for the messages in the artist’s songs entitled "Keep on calling" and "Blame it on me."

"It's the message in these specific songs that those involved in criminal activity should be listening to," said Tkazyik before adding, "Messages of recognizing individual responsibility, acknowlegeding personal acts of wrongdoing, realize that acts of violence profoundly affect the people of the community around us, apologize for the consequences of those acts and in the words of Akon 'use your head'."

When asked what sort of influence the hip-hop community has on gun violence Akon responded by saying, "Honestly, I think the hip-hop community influences it, period."

Upon being questioned by students about his regrets for going to jail, Akon said he had none and that going to jail was a turning point in his life because, "Hadn't I gotten locked up I don't know what I would be doing today." After speaking about lessons learned in his own life, Akon said he has learned from everything. “I'm in a great position to past that knowledge on to ya'll so ya'll don't go through the same situations,” he said. "I can positively say that you guys got a lot of sense and it looks good the fact that you all even came out.”


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