The 17-year-old high school senior stepped on a small stage in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall and launched into rhyme just as yesterday’s drizzle gave way to sunshine.
“It was all good in the beginning,” Tyriek Overton said as he began his short rap. Then, he said, a few months down the line, a man hits his girlfriend and expects her to understand. “But you shouldn’t even try to. You know what you’re in the middle of? An abusive cycle.”
Overton, who attends Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, received Beats by Dr. Dre headphones as one of the two winners of the Rap for RAPP contest. The Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, which operates in 67 schools in New York City, sponsored the competition to increase teens’ awareness of the program and its annual efforts to get the city to renew its $3 million budget.
The contest’s other winner, Jovan Martinez, didn’t make it to the event because he was stuck in traffic.
Overton, who has been a peer counselor at Truman for more than two years, recently started writing hip-hop rhymes. “In today’s youth, everyone listens to hip-hop, so what better way to get a point across?” he said. He cites Jay-Z as one of his stylistic influences.
The peer counselors receive training from social workers, who provide outreach to students in abusive relationships and to the peers who want to help them. Social workers teach teens about the different kinds of relationship abuse: how to spot it, avoid it and get out of it.
RAPP member Lucia Riviecchio said the program’s effectiveness in teaching teens about abuse saves hospital costs and legal fees. RAPP officials also say the program boosts academic performance among some participants.
Three years ago, the program was cut from the city budget. Since then, RAPP has had to appeal annually to the City Council to continue funding the program.
As for Overton, he says he plans to continue writing rhymes when he goes to college, perhaps at Syracuse.