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Comedian Bill Cosby, campaigning for Richmond mayoral candidate Doug Wilder, speaks to students at four of the state capital's public schools.
Date published: 10/12/2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
RICHMOND--Bill Cosby spoke bluntly to students at Richmond's mostly black public schools yesterday, urging them to dedicate themselves to graduation, not gangs, and to control anger that threatens to derail their dreams.
Cosby toured four schools with former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is running for mayor. But instead of talking politics, Cosby stuck to his no-nonsense message to inner-city black children that at times has made him the target of criticism.
"Study. That's all. It's not tough. You're not picking cotton. You're not picking up the trash. You're not washing windows. You sit down. You read. You develop your brain," Cosby pleaded at Fred D. Thompson Middle School, where 65 percent of the 700 students meet low-income criteria for free or reduced-price lunches.
There and at George Wythe High School, the 67-year-old actor and comedian implored black children in their teens to begin studying in groups, for girls not to allow themselves to get pregnant and for boys not to compensate for love they lack at home with gangs or sex.
"I'd like to tell you I don't think things have changed since I was 14," Cosby said. "There are still old people who drink, do drugs--who will stop and take the time to tell you don't be like them. Have you heard them? Pay attention to them."
Last month, the entertainer and educator took part in a black-tie gala at the University of Mary Washington and pledged to do 10 performances to raise millions of dollars for the U.S. National Slavery Museum that Wilder intends to build in Fredericksburg.
In Richmond, Cosby mentioned sex and an auditorium packed with sixth- through eighth-graders buzzed with laughter, catcalls and whistles. Then he mentioned algebra and the room momentarily quieted.
"Everybody knows about sex. Not too many people want to know about algebra," he said.
"Let's think about love. Let's think about where it is and where you can get it, but not sex. You're too young for sex," he said, joking with the children. "You don't have sex 'til you're 50 years old. What, that's too old? Well how about 49?"