Artist Arrest Spurs Forum On Violence

By David Betancourt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The mood was electric at Union Temple Baptist Church last night as more than 150 people gathered to discuss the arrest of R&B singer Chris Brown for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, fellow pop star Rihanna.

"No matter who you are, you shouldn't put your hands on a female," said John Tucker, 15, who attends Thurgood Marshall Academy in Anacostia.

Last night's gathering followed a week of frenzied discussions about domestic violence that forced local radio stations to consider whether to stop playing Brown's music. People of all ages recounted personal experiences with domestic violence. Some spoke of their fathers hitting their mothers. One young man said his girlfriend abused him and asked: What happens when the girl does the hitting?

The Brown case is a touchy issue for radio personality Russ Parr, a vocal opponent of domestic violence who is close to Brown and Rihanna. Brown, a Virginia native, jump-started his career on the "Russ Parr Bus Tour" in 2005 and became an international star soon after.

"It's really an awkward position to be in with him being so young," said Kara Lewis, executive producer of the Russ Parr Morning Show on 93.9 WKYS. The station sponsored last night's gathering, called "Stand Up. Stay Strong. Speak Out."

"Russ loves Rihanna and has a fatherly-type love for both of them. At this point, we're not considering taking his music off the air," she said. "Most of our listeners don't support taking [Brown's] music off the air until all of the details of the incident are out." Some calls to radio stations in recent days have blamed Rihanna, not Brown, for the incident.

Lewis said the station did not pull R. Kelly's music while he stood trial on child pornography charges in Chicago. He was acquitted of those charges. The 19-year-old Brown had a stellar reputation as a teen idol and, to fans, made the perfect couple with 20-year-old Rihanna, a native of Barbados.

Brown was arrested in California on Feb. 8, moments before he and Rihanna were to appear at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Los Angeles police said he was under investigation for an alleged assault of a female companion, who was later identified as Rihanna.

Sarita Copeland, 25, of the District said it would be premature to remove Brown's music.

"I think they should still play his music. He is young and I am sure redeemable," said Copeland, a fan of Brown. "Plus they still play worse offenders' music."

The goal of last night's event was to help people identify bad situations early, and Cree Griffin, 17, said it was a success.

"A lot of kids don't know how to speak out if they have been abused," she said. "It will teach kids how to speak out if they are a victim of violence.

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