Martin and Montbello “Pass” on Violence
It’s not surprising to see Nuggets Forward Kenyon Martin on a basketball court and in the gym. On this particular day he wasn’t working on his game or practicing at the Pepsi Center, he was using his voice to try and make a difference to some of Denver’s youth. On Wednesday, Sept. 13, Martin joined community leaders in the gymnasium at Montbello High School for an anti-gang violence assembly.
The assembly, labeled “Rally to ‘Pass’ on Violence,” was coordinated by the Youth Counseling and Intervention Program (YCIP) and hosted by Denver Public High Schools. It was an effort to combat gang violence among Denver youth after three Montbello students died in the past two years as a result of altercations in the Montbello area.
Fifteen-hundred students crowded the gym, home to the Montbello Warriors, to make a pledge to live lives of non-violence. Standing and repeating after Martin, the Montbello high students recited the following pledge:
“I pledge to take full advantage of becoming an educated, empowered and productive citizen.”
“I pledge to show love and respect for my God, my family, myself, my community and others.”
“I pledge to be non-violent, to use words that show respect, not hatred.”
“I agree to stand firm and honor that which I have pledged.”
In addition to verbally pledging to non-violence, the students were to all sign written pledges during their lunch hour as well.
In addition to Martin, the students also listened to some remarks from their own Principal Antwan Wilson, Andre Shelton of the YCIP, Reverend Calvin Hall and his son, Everett Moore, a former gang member.
The group expressed the importance of trusting that their teachers and administrators are there for them and that loving themselves and one another is imperative. Moore told of his time in prison and his time selling drugs and encouraged the students to choose happiness in their lives. Moore also applauded those students who think for themselves and don’t worry what others are going to say or think of their actions.
While all the speakers presented positive messages, Martin was the speaker the students were the most excited to see and learn from. The students erupted with cheers as Reverend Hall introduced Martin to the crowd.
Martin spoke to the kids about his childhood, his experiences growing up and trying to make the right choices in life. He explained that he was around drugs and gang violence growing up in Dallas, but that he chose not to be a part of that lifestyle. He also told the students to respect their parents and their teachers and to make the right choices. “But you make one wrong choice, and it can affect your life,” Martin said.
After Martin made his plea to the students, he took questions from the audience. He made it clear that he didn’t want the normal questions that he is asked about his height and about his car, he wanted questions that pertained to the topic of the forum. One of the students asked Martin what he would be doing if he wasn’t playing basketball in the NBA. Martin told the assembly that he graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in criminal justice and that he would be helping young people.
At the conclusion of the event, Martin was asked if he felt his message got through to the students, “I hope it gets to ‘em. I didn’t have these opportunities as a kid, so I hope it gets to ‘em. The least I could do was come out and let ‘em know. I hope they listened. I hope they paid attention to what I was saying. Some of them will, some of them won’t, but I hope it reaches a lot of them.”
He also expressed that he felt that today’s youth has it a little bit harder than he did growing up. “It’s just society. You’ve got more teen pregnancies now and things they deal with on a daily basis. It was bad when I was a kid, but it’s worse now – from rap music and movies to whatever you can think of … everything is not a positive influence for them. You see guys on TV and everybody has nice jewelry and everybody has nice clothes and the thing they hear about how they got it is people selling drugs.”
While the message of Martin and the rest of the panel was aimed at the young students at Montbello High School, this is a pledge that all human beings should make and live by.