Teen musicians unite their talents for first Anti-Hate Songfest


They showed up with guitars, basses and violins, ready to make music.

Ludwin De La Paz, 18, walked in with a wrinkled sheet of paper full of lyrics -- about a mother who has lost faith in him, a father who can’t stay sober and a dream to one day escape South-Central and graduate from USC.

A new way to live is what I wish

for, Every one of my dreams

is what I breathe for

I’ll give it all, make things

right, I’ll pray on my knees

all night

The aspiring musician from Mid-Wilshire Education and Career Center joined 50 other youths, ages 14 to 18, from across Los Angeles County on Saturday for the first Anti-Hate Songfest, an event partnering talented teenage poets, rappers and songwriters with award-winning musicians to create music to fight violence, racism and indifference.

The program was organized by the county Commission on Human Relations’ youth initiative called zerohour: No Haters Here.


Like De La Paz, many of the students said that they have endured discrimination or been tempted by gangs and drugs, but that music has saved them. After a series of educational workshops earlier this year, the students were chosen to come together Saturday at the Los Angeles Music Academy in Pasadena, where they were separated into groups. With help from professional musicians, they wrote more than a dozen songs that will be compiled on a CD. The students will perform in small concerts in coming months.

“I’ve seen so many of my childhood friends choose the wrong path, but I want more than that,” De La Paz said.

So for nearly six hours, students holed up in closet-sized recording studios with Grammy-nominated and multiplatinum-selling songwriters, stopping only for a quick lunch. They fused hip-hop with folk and alternative, rock with rap and electronica, and ballads with pop, creating lyrics with positive messages of love, friendship and optimism.

In one room, student Tom Pepe kept his head buried in his notebook, writing a few verses about the environment.

She told me hold me close, I’m

getting cold and lonely

We’re abusing Mother Earth,

Understand she’s our only


Pepe, an 18-year-old freshman at Pitzer College in Claremont, moved to Southern California from Seattle five months ago. He saw little gang violence growing up in his neighborhood, but he said he understands the influence music has over people’s lives.

“This is about unity and having a purpose for yourself,” he said.

According to the commission’s annual report, hate crimes in the county rose 28% last year, to 763. One-tenth happened in schools. One in three high school students has complained about being harassed because of race, sexual orientation or religion, among other reasons.


Inside De La Paz’s recording studio, the group immediately settled on the message they wanted to convey.

“I don’t want to see nobody down,” said 14-year-old Tavis Hunger.

The student from Bethune Middle School used to rap about guns and “bad stuff,” he said, but then “I grew up.”

“I want to say things that help people,” he said.

With help from Lindy Robbins, a songwriter who’s worked with “American Idol” winners such as Jordin Sparks, and from indie hip-hop musician Chris Devcich, the group completed a song that tells listeners they are not alone with their fears and worries.

I’ll be around, I will not forsake


Won’t let you out, I’ll be here, I’ll

be here

I’ll be around.