- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

The Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday admonished students at Central High School in Capitol Heights to stay in school, say no to drugs and stop teen violence.

It’s a seemingly banal message, but one that carries extra weight on the heels of a spate of shootings that has claimed nine lives in Prince George’s County since March 16.

Earlier this month, 2006 Central High School graduate Maurice Powell was fatally shot outside a Metro station. Prince George’s County police arrested a 16-year-old Capitol Heights boy Tuesday in connection with the shooting.

Khiry Montay Moore of Cindy Lane in Capitol Heights has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder, police said.

Police said several of the recent killings appear to be drug-related.

While Mr. Jackson did not directly address recent violent incidents in the county, he spoke generally about the dangers of drugs and guns.

He asked students a series of questions and told the ones who answered “Yes” to stand up: How many kids know someone in their age group who has died because of drugs? How many kids know someone who is in jail because of drugs? How many know a peer who has brought a gun to school?

For each question, roughly half or more of the 1,200-member student body packed into the gymnasium stood.

Most importantly, Mr. Jackson said, it’s never too late to turn one’s life around.

“Be wise enough to go another way,” he said. “No matter how deep life’s hole may be for you, you can always dream your way out.”

Mr. Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, called the high-school dropout rate among black males a threat “of epidemic proportions.” He challenged students to make smart choices and uphold the freedoms for which civil rights leaders fought and died.

“They paid those dues for you to have access to this school,” Mr. Jackson said.

The civil rights movement was fought in vain if today’s youth throw away its achievements, he added.

“Life is full of choices and consequences — it’s grow-up time,” he said, calling on students to repeat the sentence, “No one can save us from us for us but us.”

The civil rights leader faced challenges growing up similar to ones faced by today’s youth, Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson said.

“Young people, if you want to see yourselves a number of years from now, look at Jesse Jackson today,” said Mr. Johnson, a Democrat.

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