With education being one of his biggest passions, Carl Boyd has found ways to engage with youth ever since he became a science teacher on the south side of Chicago, his hometown. For Boyd, it’s a two-way street, the youth learn from him, but he learns from them in return.
“I want to engage young people in helping me to understand the culture of the time, and me being available to them to answer questions about my generation and how there is a connection between when I was their age and now,” said 79-year-old Boyd. “The only way I can remain relevant, is to make every attempt to keep up with where they’re coming from and more importantly, where they’re going.”
It’s a strategy the Kansas City community, youth and adults, have benefited from for more than 40 years.
Engaging Youth Through Radio
When Boyd arrived in Kansas City in 1980, he dabbled in the radio industry and hosted Concerning Learning, a segment on KPRS radio about education.
When KPRS executive Primm Carter-Williams and radio personality Freddie Bell asked him to create a show for teenagers, the Generation Rap radio show was born.
Since Generation Rap’s first broadcast in 1987, the show has amassed a great deal of attention and covered hundreds of topics including addiction, homelessness, bullying, cultural awareness and special events in Kansas City.
While Boyd hosted the show, each week a few local students were invited to interview local and national figures such as: Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, Judge Lisa Hardwick, Councilman Jermaine Reed (who also served as a G-Rap host and currently serves as a mentor), Fox Movie critic Shawn Edwards (who served as a mentor), rappers Tech N9ne and Ludacris, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and comic Dick Gregory.
The live show also gave local teens the opportunity to call in and give their opinion on topics.
“The thing that captured my attention from the very first call was the attention paid by young people, because it was something for and about them,” Boyd said. “When they began to respond and parents began to tune in to see what their own children were talking about, that attracted great guests.”
In 1999, Boyd moved to Arizona and passed the show onto Jim Nunley. When he returned to Kansas City about 10 years later, Boyd created a segment on the internet radio station Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom (KUAW) Radio called Wave Your Grades, designed to educate Kansas City’s youth through interviews with veterans and outstanding Kansas City students.
The show airs every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Tune in here:https://kuaw.org/.
STOOTS For Boots
Boyd also created the nonprofit STOOTS For Boots, which encourages students to strive for the same level of excellence demonstrated by US troops. STOOTS stands for Students’ Theater of Operations, The School. Just as military divisions are assigned to a specific theater of operations, Boyd is suggesting that students also have a theater of operations, which is their school.
At school assemblies and rallies, students pledge to make a commitment to their grades and studies on the same level that those in the military make to the country.
“You may be too young to join the service, but you are not too young to pursue excellence,” Boyd said.
Every day, Boyd posts a new encouraging quote for students on the website:https://www.stootsforboots.com/morning-messages.
While Boyd himself is not a veteran, his older brothers were all in the military.
“They made it possible for me to be the first in my family to graduate from college, so I owe them whatever dedication I have to making things better because they served and I didn’t,” Boyd said.
Investing in Local Youth
At 79, Boyd has added yet another newest venture — consulting with Synergy Services’ Youth Resiliency Center based in North Kansas City, which is a youth-focused space to help youth heal from their traumatic pasts.
Local youth can participate in a number of activities at the center including art classes, cooking and fitness classes. The center also provides mental health and health care services.
About four days each week, Boyd helps provide a safe place for young people at the center through his open discussions with youth ages 12 to 18 about current events. Most recent discussions have surrounded the earthquake in Haiti, the pandemic, Afghanistan, race relations and gun violence in Kansas City.
“That’s all pretty important,” Boyd said. “My discussions on current events run the gamut as it relates to topics that we neglect to engage with our young people because we make the assumption that they are only interested in athletics and rap music.”
Boyd does use rap music to connect with the youth sometimes, but it always has an educational message.
At 71 years old, Boyd recorded a rap video called, “Not a Snitch, A Witness,” a rap he wrote about gun violence, paying tribute to the many victims of unsolved homicides and encouraging those who may know something about a homicide to come forward.
“I call it geriatric rap,” Boyd said, chuckling.
He said he’s been showing off his rap music more at the youth resiliency center, since the children there request it from time to time.
“Every song that I write, every rap that I attempt, has a message behind it,” Boyd said about the music he plays in sessions at the youth resiliency center. “The young people, they’re very kind about it. However, there is a message and I pray that they get the message as well. I am flattered that it resonates with young people. That’s a blessing.”
Boyd said not only is it possible for older generations to have contact with younger people, but also imperative, especially in these times.
“Our society needs them more than ever, because the problems we are confronting have to be addressed for the future,” Boyd said. “Our investment in young people is to help them invest in their own future and they are investing in our future as well.”