‘You can write the script of your own life’: A Detroit-based youth rap group is fighting to break the cycle of poverty

Highland, Michigan is a poverty and drug stricken town with an unemployment rate nearly triple the national average at 24%. But that hasn’t stopped one youth rap group from working tirelessly to ensure they do not become a statistic.

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“Now, let me take you to the next story. This is happening in one of the worst parts of Detroit, where unemployment is [24]% and [there are] drugs, violence, rape, murder,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “There is a school there that has hired this music teacher… [and] he has put together a rap group. These kids are, I think, anywhere from seven to teenagers. They have put out an album that is starting to chart on iTunes. And I want you to hear what these kids are now saying about growing up in Detroit, where it’s nothing but poverty and drugs.”

The group, known as Beasts of Beat, was formed at Northpointe Academy, where a 25-year-old music teacher, Joe “Mr. V” Vercellino, is changing trying his best to change the lives of his students. He was inspired to create the group, which is not based on talent but rather personal strengths and weaknesses, after seeing the film Moneyball.

“The Beast of the Beat is really not as much about creating rap stars as it is about creating men,” he said.

In a video report from WJBK-TV, some of the members of the group offer some incredible insight into what it has been like growing up in poverty and how every kid still has a chance.

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“I was struck by a couple of things,” Glenn said. “One. Here’s a white teacher in a really horrible area of Detroit doing good things. Hmmm. That doesn’t seem to fit anybody’s agenda now, does it? Here are a bunch of kids that have said, ‘It’s a choice. It’s a choice.’ Hmmm. That doesn’t fit any ones agenda. Those two things don’t fit anybody’s agenda, but they are true. And when you watch them… you know it’s true. And it just reverberates inside of you when you are watching.”

“Now, the other thing that struck me was when the teacher [talked about] watching ‘Moneyball’… This is what I’ve been talking to you about recently,” Glenn continued. “I don’t know what you are supposed to do. I don’t know what you are born to do. It doesn’t take uniting with me or uniting someplace else. It doesn’t take that. t means stand where you are supposed to stand. Do exactly what you are supposed to do. Don’t listen to anybody telling you that you are crazy, that it can’t be done. That’s what it’s going to take. We are Moneyball.”

Beasts of the Beat may be a small example of the incredible things that can happen when people realize their potential, but Glenn explained the concept can extend to a national level.

“Fixing this is impossible, right? We’re all the little guys. But if every one does exactly what they are supposed to do, we win,” Glenn concluded. “Don’t let anybody convince you differently. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. There is power in words. There is power in ideas. Real power. The right words lift up. The wrong words destroy you.”

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8FvmesaxXg Sam Fisher

    It is a losing battle because the only way Detroit is going to be saved is get rid of the liberal power structure they had in place for fifty years.

  • Anonymous

    So all Blacks will be rappers or basketball players ,how does that break the cycle ?

  • Anonymous

    A spark can turn into a fire, anything positive coming from Detroit is good.

  • guest

    Goes to show you that kids really do start off good, but the people around them drastically change who they are as they grow. Those kids will be good people in the future because of who they are around, I guarantee it.

  • Doug Elam

    Rap or basketball doesn’t matter. it’s the morals and common sense being instilled in these kids that make the difference. my hat is off to this teacher. Too bad the liberal system in Detroit will find a way to destroy it.

  • Anonymous

    The root of the problem is in the minds of what Detroit, especially that area, stands for, “poverty and drugs”. I thought illegal drugs are very costly, so why are they so prevalent in poverty areas? And what brought on that poverty? I suggest it all started with welfare, where people took advantage of the system and turned it into poverty. However, great news about these kids and the teacher.

  • Anonymous

    So much more than just welfare

  • Anonymous

    Detroit is the model for Democratic Policy, all of us can look at Detroit and see how Democrats destroyed a major city, many more Democratic cities and states are collapsing as well!

  • zachattack

    Gee, way to be positive. So you’re saying that no one should even try to help the youth of the city? Nice message…

  • zachattack

    Thank you! I’m guessing you’re from Detroit (as am I), because you seem just as annoyed as I am when people, who don’t know jack about the city, opens their mouth and spouts garbage. Yes, the city has its problems, but it goes way deeper than just welfare.

  • zachattack

    Nice racist statement. These kids look up to these people, so what the teacher is doing is helping them learn while appeasing to their interests. Watch the actual news story and you’ll see what he says about that. Hip hop artists aren’t good role models for these kids, but you can’t go into a situation like that and just expect all of them to just say to hell with this stuff we’ve grown up on…

  • zachattack

    Loving all the negative comments on here. I’m sure all of you live in some perfect utopia that has never seen an ounce of trouble. Where there is no crime, no democrats, and no welfare. Let’s try to find hope for a change, instead of just complaining when someone tries to do good.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8FvmesaxXg Sam Fisher

    You could try but liberals would just regulate the hell out of it making it impossible Just look at What Micheal Bloomberg did with donations to the poor.

  • zachattack

    True, but I’m just saying that there has to be at least an attempt to get this city back on track.

  • Anonymous

    Defeat poverty. Teach your kids NOT to vote Democrat.

  • Anonymous

    This is in Highland Park, Mi. NOT
    Highland, Mi

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8FvmesaxXg Sam Fisher

    Also true. Don’t get me wrong I think it is a step in the right direction but nothing is going to change in that town until you guys get better leadership.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome!!

  • jalina susan stutte

    As log as they have a positive influence around them they will make it! God Bless this teacher.

  • jalina susan stutte

    After losing the jobs due to greediness of the Unions, the people chose to accept WELFARE AND ENTITLEMENTS! Also to be led like sheep by the communist democratic party.

  • jalina susan stutte

    That’s not what he said at all and why are you turning it around? Maybe your a liberal.

  • Anonymous

    With all due respect to the posters from Detroit, the issue is not what caused the bankruptcy of Detroit. The issue is that a teacher took the effort to bring out the best in a group of children, and that the children responded. That is the hope for the future, but one that I sadly feel will not come about – there are not enough Mr. Vs in our educational system, and many who would be are limited by PC rules.

    Children should be challenged not coddled. By that I don’t mean forced to do more than they can handle, I mean challenged to learn and improve their skills. Mr. V. seems to understand that balance. Our educational system, particularly the elementary and middle schools, seems to be more interested in teaching an agenda rather than teaching the basics and allowing the children to learn. I have no problem with teaching the “times table” by rote, but a big problem with teaching social skill by rote. The former is a tool, the latter an attitude.

  • zachattack

    Hahaah! Maybe I’m a liberal eh? The reason I said what I said was because I read “(Detroit) is a losing battle.” Maybe I misunderstood him at first, and we’ve since had a discussion (without name calling), and worked it out. I guess I’m just tired of people giving up on my city. And I’m far from being a liberal, so you can take that comment and shove it.

  • Anonymous

    The ironic part is that the teacher probably is a liberal. Which doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, just misguided.

  • Anonymous

    Another weird random post, I just need to post a pic, totally off topic. Detroit needs the MEN in the community to step up to the plate period.

  • Anonymous

    If you lived in an area with 24% unemployment, you’d damn sure accept help from whoever was offering, as “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” isn’t always so easy without selling drugs or worse. Don’t be so quick to judge people you know nothing about.

  • Anonymous

    your “suggestion” is simplistic and blinded by ideology

  • Anonymous

    There’s NO HOPE for black youth until they GET RID OF RAP and start communicating like real people who live on this planet.

    As long as they GLORIFY the “rapper” and their anti-social life style and way of talking, the black community is going to continue to fall further and further behind………….they feed on the RACIST, SEXIST, MASOGINISTIC lyrics and beat of the music. OUTPUT equals INPUT……..and what is allowed to be standard fare, regarding input, guarantees an ever increasing amount of ignorance in black communities.

    After almost 300 years in America, they’ve slipped back to the level of “intellect” as their uneducated early ancestors.

  • Anonymous

    Detroit’s downfall has a lot to do with sending auto jobs overseas and greedy unions too. But Detroit has been a mess for at least 25 years. If you go to Scottys fish and chips and eat…you won’t feel so blue…the houses are gone…the streets are scary…then ahhhhhh Scotty’s fish and Chips!

  • Anonymous

    Welfare is overblown as an example of WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICA AND ITS PEOPLE,” specifically by folks like you. People often throw out ridiculous claims, like “We spend more money on welfare than anything! Those lazy bums should get a job!”

    The first problem in demonizing welfare is that it often gets tossed around without a proper context. When we refer to welfare, what are we really talking about? Just food stamps and unemployment or are we adding Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security? One could make the (simplistic) argument that Medicare and Medicaid= taking government money in some form so therefore it automatically equals welfare.

    According to a 2012 study by the WaPost, 3/4ths of all federal entitlements go to the elderly or disabled. Additionally, 60 percent of all entitlement benefits goes to middle-income households, which is proportionate to the income population. So whatever disproportion of entitlement you believe exist in poor communities is either misconstrued or misguided.

    It’s true, some people go on TARP when they are unemployed. Imagine that- someone utilizing a program designed to help those who are unemployed for a period of time and cannot continue to pay their current bills and lack the financial fortitude to move away to a better situation.

  • Bill Norris

    The democratic leadership is the key to why Detroit is in bankruptcy. Welfare, like you say has many forms. I have a friend that works for social security and she said there is a disproportionate amout of people that game the system and take everything they can, especially with social security disability. I would submit this happens in Detroit like it happens everywhere else. Detroit was badly mismanaged and it should be a warning sign to all other cities that this can and will happen to them too if the same policies are followed.

    One thing to clarify: welfare has doubled in five years from where it was in 2008. 46% of Americans are on some sort of welfare. When welfare is encouraged and the federal government goes out of their way to get people signed up, that is a welfare management problem that will have a devastating effect on the economy. Welfare is a good thing as long as there is a pathway out of it. A little focus on jobs and the economy by this administration would be nice.

  • Bill Norris

    The democratic leadership is the key to why Detroit is in bankruptcy. Welfare, like you say has many forms. I have a friend that works for social security and she said there is a disproportionate amout of people that game the system and take everything they can, especially with social security disability. I would submit this happens in Detroit like it happens everywhere else. Detroit was badly mismanaged and it should be a warning sign to all other cities that this can and will happen to them too if the same policies are followed.

    One thing to clarify: welfare has doubled in five years from where it was in 2008. 46% of Americans are on some sort of welfare. When welfare is encouraged and the federal government goes out of their way to get people signed up, that is a welfare management problem that will have a devastating effect on the economy. Welfare is a good thing as long as there is a pathway out of it. A little focus on jobs and the economy by this administration would be nice.

  • Bill Norris

    So, where the hell is the reverands Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? When leadership is needed the most, these two are silent. Glenn was right though…it doesn’t fit their agenda. If Mr. V called them n***** they would be all over it and the president might even weigh in on it.

    What a gift Mr. V must have and thank God he chose to use it. Let’s hope that other teachers and kids will be inspired by this little miracle in Highland.

  • Bill Norris

    So, where the hell is the reverands Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? When leadership is needed the most, these two are silent. Glenn was right though…it doesn’t fit their agenda. If Mr. V called them n***** they would be all over it and the president might even weigh in on it.

    What a gift Mr. V must have and thank God he chose to use it. Let’s hope that other teachers and kids will be inspired by this little miracle in Highland.

  • Anonymous

    There is only one way to know where you are supposed to stand:

    Proverbs 3:3-7-
    Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
    Bind them around your neck,
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.
    4 So you will find favor and good repute
    In the sight of God and man.
    5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    And do not lean on your own understanding.
    6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
    And He will make your paths straight.
    7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.