Rarely do a civil rights legend, an ex-Major League Baseball player and a rapper for the former Death Row Records label share the same stage.
But U.S. Rep. John Lewis, former MLB player Darrell Miller and rapper Jason "J-Flexx" Anderson did just that Friday, using hip-hop music to teach 180 students at Kipp Ways Academy about the history of baseball and its connection to the civil rights movement.
"We're trying to meet students on their own terms," said Karen Chatman, president of Chatman Edutainment, which has organized similar events at more than 50 schools nationwide since 1996. "That's why we're doing this thing through hip-hop."
At Kipp Ways, an Atlanta charter school, Chatman teamed with MLB, which is scheduled to hold its annual Civil Rights Game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Turner Field.
"African-Americans have forgotten that the color line was broken by Jackie Robinson," Miller said. "We want our kids to be inspired to play baseball."
During Friday's event, Lewis addressed the students, discussing his experiences during the civil rights movement.
He was followed by Miller, who is MLB vice president of youth development. He drew a round of cheers when he revealed the identity of his younger brother, former NBA player Reggie Miller.
Anderson then took to the stage, leading students in a rap song about civil rights history that they had learned the day before.
"It's a meaningful way of reaching young people, and getting them to learn their history," Lewis said. "Music is a universal language."
But rap music has also had some negative effects on African-American youth, Chatman acknowledged. She and Anderson, who produced music in the gangster rap genre, said the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls inspired them to start the program.
Anderson said he initially resisted the idea, but changed his mind after visiting multiple schools.
"I've seen the hardest kids melt like butter," he said.
Lewis said hip-hop music has been mostly good for young people.
"On the whole, I think it's been positive," he said. "It's very uplifting for many young people. It helps them be creative."
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