(Memphis) Gun violence on the streets of Memphis and seen through the eyes of teens like Briana Winters.
“I see it first hand on the news and I hear about young man in my neighborhood dying and it hits close to home for me,” Winters said.
It hits too close to home for Taimara Ballard.
“People I’m very close to have died because of gun violence when I was in middle school,” Ballard said.
The problem of gun violence in Memphis and nationwide is why entertainers like Stevie Wonder told News Channel 3 back in March of this year that solutions must be found.
It’s why we asked Mayor A C Wharton about finding celebrities in Memphis to help reach young people about putting down weapons.
“If it takes a Stevie Wonder, if it takes a Justin Timberlake, or if it takes a TI(rapper) and there are more people listening to him than folks like me,” Wharton said back in March.
Earlier this year, Wharton unveiled his Memphis Gun Down plan.
It includes working with lawmakers to create tougher penalties for illegal gun activity, several community outreach activities and law enforcement programs.
But is the program really connecting with teens?
Retired MPD Colonel Bishop Mays heads the Memphis Gun Down anti-violence program.
“Having a face for Gun Down, I thought about it, but I am more along the lines it should be many faces. It should be an Al Kapone, it should be a Justin Timberlake, a Morgan Freeman or a Mayor Wharton,” Mays said.
Memphis Hip Hop artist, Al Kapone, is known for his hit songs such as “Whoop That Trick” from the movie “Hustle and Flow.”
The song became a chant for Grizzlies basketball fans during the playoffs.
“For those who don’t know I go by the name of Al Kapone or Al Kappezie, Oh boy! (laughter),” Kapone said.
Kapone isn’t just rapping these days, but he was also enlisted by the city to help shoot down gun violence in Memphis.
“When most people grow up in that environment it’s kind of like a survival of the fittest and things can escalate out of control out of the smallest thing,” Kapone said.
The rapper is back on the mic and also in front of the cameras recording a new public service announcement or PSA for the city’s Memphis Gun Down program.
“When it’s all said and done it(gun violence) doesn’t help anybody. You either got somebody getting locked up or you got somebody murdered or killed and that’s somebody’s son or somebody’s daughter,” Kapone said.
The Wharton administration said Memphis Gun Down is working in communities and there’s been a ten percent drop in gun violence in the 17-to-24 age group since the program started.
“We’ve seen a difference. Fiscal year ’13, we had two focus areas: one in North Memphis, one in South Memphis and each one of those focus areas we’ve had a decline in gun crimes committed by individuals considered youth,” Mays said.
From teens like Briana Winters and Tamaira Ballard to well-known musicians like Al Kapone, they’re all speaking out in this video to say ‘enough’ to gun violence in Memphis.
“Basically for me, it’s just trying to prevent gun violence with adults and the youth and just stay positive,” Winters said.
“It shows they care about the city’s youth and what’s going on with the city’s youth because we need more adults and celebrities to help save lives,” Ballard said.
The Memphis Gun Down PSA will hit the airwaves soon, in the meantime, organizers say they’ll continue to work closely with Al Kapone and others in the community in hopes of reducing gun violence.