New program focuses on teens, turning anger into poetry and rap

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Calling all teens who have an interest in rapping, poetry and music: There’s a new program coming to Portsmouth to put those skills to good use. But the goal of the program isn’t only about creating music.

The streets of Hampton Roads are no strangers to violence.

“Anger is a virus. It spreads and it’s been spreading throughout our community,” said Pezo Johnson.

Johnson grew up in Portsmouth. Now, he’s coming home and bringing his “POP Program” with him.

“It’s music therapy. It’s cognitive behavioral therapy combined at once,” said Johnson.

The Atlanta resident started Pain on Paper/Poems over Pistols in 2009. He’s worked with nearly 650 teens in that time. He is hoping he can reach more by coming to Virginia and bringing his message with him.

Johnson said, “Music calms the savage beast and music is a great bond that’s with kids. It gets them stimulated with the message that we are conveying about how to be able to redirect your anger, pain and frustration into writing a poem, a rap, a song or a short story.”

The program will begin in the next week. Johnson is joined by the Portsmouth Police Department. Both sides hope this will be another bridge between law enforcement and the community, while giving teens a creative outlet.

Portsmouth Police Officer Allen Washington, who is the executive director of the Portsmouth Police Athletic League, said, “I think this program will be great for them to develop the skills that they need to put their stuff on paper, whether it be frustration or whether they want to talk and get things out.”

The sessions will take place at the police department’s NEAT office in Churchland — teaching teens how to channel their anger to change their lives.

“Anger is a cool emotion, but you just got to direct it in the right way. it can also give you that, that energy and that motivation and that fuel to accomplish your goals if you direct it in the proper way,” said Johnson.

For more information on the POP program, you can visit their website or email them at popprogram1@gmail.com. Officer Washington can be reached at washingtona@portsmouthva.gov.