Russell Simmons inspires LA youth with 'Keep the Peace' initiative

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- With each signature, students from South L.A. pledged to keep the peace, with the help of entrepreneur and music producer Russell Simmons.

"When I was young, I'd liked to have someone who I thought was, you know, successful tell me that I could be successful, too," Simmons said.

The co-founder of Def Jam Records made a stop to the University of Southern California (USC) as part of a Community Coalition Summer Enrichment and Literacy Program.

A student asked Simmons what made him want to choose a path of positivity over a life as a gang member.

"You just decide your friends are going that way so you go that way. You got to make a choice," Simmons said.

Many of these kids are no strangers to street violence. A few months ago, 17-year-old Augustus Hawkins High School student Kevin Cleveland was shot and killed walking home from school.

Ryan Bell, 20, said Community Coalition helped him avoid every path that could have led to bloodshed.

"While I was in high school, I've seen people die. I've seen people get shot and many of these kids deal with the same issues," Bell said.

The room fell silent when Simmons taught the students how to meditate, hoping that finding peace internally could help lead to peace in their neighborhood.

"We grow up, unfortunately, in these circumstances. However, we don't need to let that negatively affect us," said 17-year-old Jaquan Jones.

"We give a lot and we get a lot, and they can pull themselves into a new opportunity and greater meaning, you know, in terms of the world and themselves," Simmons said.

This stop at USC is Simmons' first of six stops on his nationwide "Keep the Peace" initiative.
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