"If I can gather 100 'bullies' and 100 wanna-be gangbangers, I can try to change 1,000 lives," rap entertainer and motivational lecturer Tee Nyce told hundreds of freshmen at a high-powered show Tuesday in Niagara Falls High School.
"I am tired of the killing. I am tired of the nonsense. There is more to life than guns and drugs. We should be looking for the right life. Let's stop the killing. Put the guns down, and let's fight to unite," he told the wildly enthusiastic audience.
Tee Nyce, who has appeared with numerous top-level celebrities, answered the students' welcome with "I feel like I'm home."
And, indeed, he wasn't far from home. He was born in Buffalo as Terrance Warren, lived in the former Willert Park public housing project, attended Emerson Vocational High School and graduated from Bennett High School. He lives in downtown Buffalo but travels widely with his message for young people.
His tour is called "Where Am I Going When The Music Stops." Tee Nyce called it "a show as well as an inspirational talk."
He said there were few options for many young people when he graduated from high school: the streets, college or the military. "The streets were not an option for me, and I couldn't afford college, so I joined the Army," he said.
Tee Nyce strongly promoted military service as an attractive goal for today's freshmen, pointing out that service members are paid, fed, housed, trained and offered college educations. The 37-year-old speaker spent five years in the Army, where he became a specialist in welding.
To those who cited ongoing wars as a reason to avoid military service, Tee Nyce asserted: "The war is right here on the streets in our neighborhoods!"
He has spent the last four years as an inspirational lecturer, becoming even more certain of his message after the shooting death of his brother, which "had a profound effect on my life." His brother, Jermaine Wilson, 29, was killed by another man in a dispute Sept. 6, 2009, in Buffalo.
The rapper cited other senseless street violence, criticizing television and other media for glamorizing that way of life. "What you see on TV isn't real. What's real is what's right out here on the street," he said.
His message included dressing properly and acting with dignity and purpose in life. He told youngsters not to bully one another, to remain in school, and to refrain from drugs and guns.
Tee Nyce said he has dedicated his life and career to helping young people to live better and more productive lives and to steer them away from the perils of violent behavior.
He has worked with artists such as JayZ, DMX and Jamie Foxx, as well as role models and sports celebrities including Shaquille O'Neil, Lebron James and Steve Smith. He has appeared on the Mo'Nique Show and four times on BET's "106 & Park Show."