I know you mentioned gangs were prevalent on the West Coast but the tremendous amount of gang members, gang related deaths, and gang affiliated young men on the East Coast is what sparked my campaign. The topic of gangs in hip-hop is even more prevalent since there are several influential rappers who publicly and proudly claim to be members of gangs. Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, and Chief Kief are a few examples.
The issue I have with these artists is the fact that they are glorifying and condoning a lifestyle that they themselves don’t really live. They promote the gangs along with perpetuating violent acts to young men. Since a huge majority of their fan base are young black men living in urban communities that is their audience. These young men look up to, admire, and want to be like the lyrics of these rappers songs. The Department of Justice estimates that there are almost 1 million gang members in America. 40% of those gang members are under the age of 18! To make matters worse, 90% of African American juvenile boys in correctional facilities are gang affiliated. Boys, as young as 12 years old, are joining gangs. In 2012 alone, approximately 20,000 people were killed due to gang violence.
I want to point out to every young African American man in this country who is apart of a gang or may be thinking of joining one; the government has them under close surveillance. They even made special gang units across the country to specifically target them. They don’t want to save these young men’s lives, they want them to kill each other or better yet, do something that will allow them to be sent to prison, where the state makes money off of each incarcerated individual. I was raised in Nashville Tn in Edgehill Housing Projects so I understand the struggles of the streets from 1st hand experience. This cause is important to me because we are loosing too many African American men to death and incarceration due to gang violence.
7 years ago, my life changed forever. My little brother decided to join the crips gang at the age of 14. Apparently he was fearless because in no time he was the leader of their youth division. (Gangs have youth divisions these days. Go figure!) They called themselves the Young Solider Boys and they were robbers. At the age of 16 my brother was tried as an adult, convicted of 2 felony armed robberies, and sent to prison. Three of his “gang brothers” testified against him to get lesser sentences. All 3 of them were 18-20 years old and one of these men was my brothers’ cousin. My brother spent ages 16-21 in a maximum-security prison due to his involvement in a gang.
You see, what a lot of our youth are not realizing is the power they have. My brother has always been a leader. Many young men who join gangs are leaders. That alone threatens our government. I want to encourage those young men to put their leadership skills to better use. The fact is, we need those young men to grow into prominent members of our society, leading our households, communities, and ultimately, our country. I want them to understand that they are no use to those of us who need them if they are dead or in jail.
My brother came home almost 1 year ago and his story is truly inspiring. He never got to go to prom. He never got to walk across the stage at his high school graduation. He missed the last few years of our grandfathers’ life. He missed the birth of 2 of his nieces. He missed so much. It doesn’t stop there because this traumatic experience hugely affected my family. We’re still recovering. The most painful thing about our experience is when my brother would go up for parole. Three times we put together a packet filled with letters of recommendation form his teachers, members of your family, church members, community leaders, local business owners, and friends of our family. Three times my family and I flew into town and drove hours to Tiptonville Tn to attend his parole hearings. Three times my little brother passed different rehabilitation programs, received recommendations from his teachers in prison, and even received his GED. Three times the parole board denied my brothers request for parole.
Imagine being sent to a maximum-security prison at the age of 16, spending 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, and on your 18th birthday being released into the general population. It’s real in these streets and it’s nothing like a Lil Wayne or Snoop Dogg’s rap lyrics.
A freethinking African American man is considered a threat in this country so why do our youth continue to give the government rope to hang them with?
I want to create a dialogue about an issue that’s being ignored and swept under the rug. When we ignore how much gangs are hurting our people and communities we are telling the youth that we don’t care about them or their futures. Due to my experience and the platform God has given me I believe it is my responsibility to bring awareness to this issue and encourage our youth to end all gang violence and activity. We all owe it to ourselves, those who have come before us, and those who will come after us to rehabilitate our urban communities all across America. I want our youth to choose life.
To help promote this public service announcement I recently had a gang unity photo shoot with Hollywood Celeb Photographer Kem West. I’ve put together a 3-minute video artistically filled with facts and a plea to our youth to end gang activity and violence.