VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Renowned hip hop poet and spoken word artist J. Ivy recently preached hope and forgiveness to incarcerated teens at Westchester County Penitentiary's Sprain Brook Academy.
“Where do you see yourself in 20 years?” Ivy asked the group. “Because this ain’t it.”
Ivy has appeared three times on "Russell Simmons Presents HBO Def Poetry" and won a Grammy award for his contribution to Kanye West's "The College Dropout."
Ivy told the teens about his early life, moving away from Chicago's Southside and getting hooked on the standing ovations performances of his poems would receive.
He emphasized that everyone has gifts and warned the teens against distractions and those that would tear them down between delivering spoken word performances. Ivy illustrated how he immersed himself in writing until it became necessary to him with a performance of "I Need to Write."
Ivy shared the significance of forgiving his father in person before his death in 1999. His father left the family Ivy was young and abused drugs and alcohol.
The experience of forgiving his father inspired ivy's "Dear Father" poem, memoir and Dear Father Letters campaign.
The Dear Father Letters campaign aims to collect a million letters from both children and adults from fatherless homes. It invites the writers to connect as well as find forgiveness and healing in the art of self-expression.
Southern Westchester BOCES counselor Kevin McAllister brought Ivy to the Incarcerated Youth Program due to the letters campaign.
"It gives them an opportunity to talk about the past,” said McAllister. “For them, not having a father in their life sets them on a path to destruction.” It’s about teaching them, he said, to go from being victims to being victorious over their circumstances and choices."
Sprain Brook Academy is run in partnership with the Westchester County Department of Correction for students aged 16 to 21. It offers a curriculum focused on life transition and transformation.