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What do you do when you have a choice to make? Texas-based rapper Litarodi posed this question to a gym packed full of Faith Middle School students Wednesday. Litarodi told his story as well as gave several song performances for the students. This is his second tour to Fort Benning, as part of the Army Substance Abuse Programs activity for Red Ribbon Week.
Litarodi, born Anthony Gonzales, was at several crossroads after dealing with tragedies in his life. When he was 16, he lost his mother to Lupus and within a few months, his twin brother, Andrew, in an alcohol-related car accident.
These life-altering events led to Litarodi dropping out of high school and a four-year struggle with drugs and alcohol. After going a few weeks without drugs, Litarodi said his life changed when he suffered a heart attack in the backseat of a friends car and spent four days in intensive care. Since then, he pledged to turn his life around and make more positive decisions.
From this day forward, he recalled saying. I am going to dedicate my life to doing right.
Eighth-grader Tyrique Williams, who listens to rap music, said one thing that struck out to him the most is there is little to no cursing in his lyrics.
This is intentional. Instead of living the fast life of a gangsta rapper, Litarodi said, which had negative consequences in his life and instead of producing lyrics about all of the problems in the world, Litarodi decided to do music that (has) a solution.
His lyrics are meant to encourage others to do better for themselves, as he often performs at schools, prisons, churches, detention centers and other events.
He challenged the students to make positive choices in their lives in order to achieve their dreams.
What does it mean if you never get the chance to live that dream? he asked.
Today, Litarodi said he has had more success now than during any point in his past listing his successful music career and his family as the most important achievements to him.
(His performance) taught me that whatever we do in life its going to have an impact on what we do bad or good, said eighth-grader Destiny Saraza.
An example of how decisions can affect the future Litarodi said at one point he never imagined he would have a family. But now he is married and has two children. He named his 2-year-old, Andrew, after his brother and 5-month old Amri after mother.
Litarodi went back to high school and graduated in 2004. He performed at his high school homecoming and was crowned the homecoming king.
Litarodi encouraged the students to do well in school, recalling a time where he had to drive five hours to Corpus Christi, Tex., for a performance at midnight while still attending school. Because the concert was in the middle of the week, he still had to go to school the next day. Despite no sleep, he said, he managed to go to school, turn in his homework as well as do well on a quiz that morning.
Litarodi said that if anyone had a reason to not turn in his homework, he did but there were no excuses. You make time for what you want, he said. One of the final points he made if he could be successful despite his past, so could they.
It is extremely important that when you are faced with trials and when you are faced with opposition in your life and obstacles come into your path that you make the right choice, Litarodi said. Because you have your whole life ahead of you, you have your dreams ahead of you and dont let somebody else on the outside influence you in a negative way to do the wrong thing. Because at the end of the day, who is really going to be there for you? Nobody will believe in you more than yourself. But you have to believe in yourself.
For more information on Litarodi, visit his website at http://litarodi.com.