South Bronx AIDS Orphans Rap a Positive Message for Other Children Facing Harsh Realities
“Pull Your Pants Up” iTunes Single Produced by Gore; YouTube Video Directed by Award-Winning Broadway Choreographer Joey McKneely
Newswise — NEW YORK, November 12, 2012 -- Singer Lesley Gore (“It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me”) spent the summer quietly riding the 6 train to the South Bronx to help give voice to a group of kids who often find themselves voiceless in a noisy city. The kids, ages 5 to 20, who are part of South Bronx-based Health People and its Kids-Helping-Kids mentoring program, beat the heat by rehearsing their powerful rap, “Pull Your Pants Up,” with the pop legend for its iTunes and YouTube debut.
Now, with Broadway choreographer and director, Joey McKneely (“West Side Story,” “Smokey Joe’s Café”), they are unveiling the new rap single and video aimed at educating other kids to reach higher and build their own lives even through their often difficult situations of family breakup, addiction, illness and foster care.
The song, with its pointed message of “Don’t sag, saggin’ ain’t cool, sagging ain’t right” and advice to “be proud of who you are and not what you’re not…just stay in school, educate your mind, get good grades and you’ll be fine” was recorded at Nola Studios, the storied 57th Street studio where Barbra Streisand first recorded in 1955.
“When I first heard the lyrics to ‘Pull Your Pants Up,’ I was blown away,” says Gore. “And then to meet the kids and witness their attitude and spirit, I was beyond impressed. These children, who have already faced the kind of trauma and adversity many people will never, ever know, wrote a song that was so positive and so inspiring that getting on board to produce the single and help them get the word out to other children in similar circumstances was a no-brainer. In fact, it’s been an honor.”
Twenty years ago, Health People pioneered the groundbreaking approach of peer education and peer mentoring whereby community residents affected by HIV-AIDS are trained to educate each other about AIDS prevention and treatment. That peer-to-peer approach, which has expanded to include diabetes, asthma and smoking, is also at the heart of the Kids-Helping-Kids program, which trains older teens to help younger kids overcome difficult situations, stay in school and build their lives.
“The work that Health People does in the community is so critically important, especially when funding for AIDS and other health programs in poor communities has been cut back so drastically. The peer approach works. It penetrates deep into the community and right into people’s lives,” said Gore, adding that friends jumped at the chance to help with the song and video, including Nola owners Jim Czak and John Post, recording engineer Bill Moss and McKneely.
“Kids-Helping-Kids is a beacon of hope for these children. It’s a safe haven where they find stability and friendship and learn about responsibility for others kids who face daunting challenges because their parents can’t be there for them,” said McKneely. “And incredibly they become leaders and contribute to their community even in their ever challenging world."
According to Health People, the number of parentless kids has soared over the past decade, with a doubling of the number of American youth being raised by grandparents. New York City is the center of American parentlessness. The city has some 170,000 children being raised by grandparents, some 75,000 AIDS orphans and children living in AIDS-affected families – the most in the Western world – as well as many other factors feeding the soaring number of parentless youth.
“For most of the children, this whole experience of recording ‘Pull Your Pants Up’ and shooting the video has probably been one the most thrilling of their very young lives,” said Chris Norwood, founder and executive director of Health People Community Preventive Health Institute. “But even more thrilling for them is the opportunity to help other kids who are facing extremely challenging circumstances – which is what Health People’s peer education and peer mentoring program is all about.”
About Health People
Health People is a groundbreaking peer education, prevention and support organization in the South Bronx whose mission is to train and empower residents of communities overwhelmed by chronic disease and AIDS to become leaders and educators in effectively preventing ill health, hospitalization, and unnecessary death.
Established in 1990 as a women’s AIDS prevention and support program, Health People has grown, using its peer-education model, to provide a full range of HIV/AIDS services for men, women and families. It also has conducted community asthma programs, New York’s first diabetes peer-educators program, and a community smoking cessation program. Health People’s Junior Peer program, Kids-Helping-Kids includes teens who are mentors for younger children with sick or missing parents.
For more information, please visit www.healthpeople.org.
About “Pull Your Pants Up”
To view the video and donate to Health People directly, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/HealthPeopleKids/featured
To purchase the song ($.99), please visit iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/pull-your-pants-up-feat.-lesley/id574236216.
Proceeds from the sale will benefit Health People and its programs.
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