by Cornell Dews (@MrCornellDews)
Baltimore, like many urban cities in our country, is presently experiencing an unprecedented amount of violence. We’re witnessing violence against women, elderly people and particularly children at an alarming rate. I’d go on record to say that many of the victimizers are young themselves. A few weeks back, I woke up to the awful news that a child was shot and killed not far from my home. Ironically, the community in which the young man was murdered, was the same area a Maryland Transit Administration Mobility driver was shot and killed, while working, weeks prior. I became increasingly alarmed and concerned.
It didn’t take long to apprehend someone for the MTA Mobility driver’s murder. I was concerned that the 17 year old’s death may have something to do with the first tragedy. I learned that I couldn’t be more wrong. It was revealed that the gun shot victim and his 16 year old friend were playing with a handgun. The gun discharged, firing into the young man’s head, causing immediate irrevocable damage to the families of both. One died in his family home. The other was arrested and charged as an adult. Authorities revealed that the gun belonged to the father of the deceased.
According to Gun Violence Archives website there have been 10 juveniles, ages 12 to 17, who were either killed or injured in Baltimore City by gunfire since the start of the year. To be exact, as of March 23, 2021, seven were injured and three were killed. The youngest in this group to be charged with murder is 14 years old. In Chicago, during the same time span, 53 teenagers ages 12 to 17 were either killed or were gunshot victims. Forty-eight were injured and five were killed. Of the Chicago homicides between the ages of 12 to 17, a 16 year old is the youngest charged with murder, thus far. As you can see, looking at the map below, gun violence amongst teenagers is running rampant throughout the east coast, Midwest, the south, and parts of Los Angeles.
The fact that so many kids are being shot and killed is heartbreaking to me. To know that guns are just as accessible as cellphones to our children enrages me. The idea that our youth feel the need to be armed is unspeakable. What happened?
When I was a child, my generation ushered in the absurdity that going to prison was a “rites of passage” for boys. In addition to that, many during my generation would proclaim that they never expected to live past 21. In my early 20’s, I heard Tupac rap “5 shots couldn’t stop me, I took them and smiled.” And I remember thinking to myself, “damn, we must be invincible.” Years later, 50 Cent rapped about getting shot nine times and catapulted into the biggest Hip Hop artist in the world. By that time Tupac had been murdered by gunfire. Nevertheless, our community became convinced that getting shot was just a part of life. It could possibly become our narrative and pathway to riches and fame. Seemingly in response to the times, Jay Z then rapped “y’all respect who got shot, I respect the shooter.” This was also around the time that “RIP” apparel became fashionable. People began to adorn rest in peace tee shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, bandannas, caps and anything else that an image could be heat pressed on. I began to watch the dead get celebrated in a way that most were never recognized during their living. I also began to wonder how do these celebrations impact and influence the minds of our children who were tuned in. Will it desensitize them? Will it make them want to be celebrated in the same way?
From the ‘80s until now, we’ve been on a slippery slope. The influx of teenage drug dealers turned teenage murderers. And all along Hip Hop has played an integral role in telling the stories. CNN’ing our plight. Now the stories seem so intertwined with the life of the story tellers. You can’t differentiate them. Guns and gun violence is seemingly the new “rites of passage” for boys.
I watch a lot of videos of youth in rap talk about gun violence. As a matter of fact, for click bait, many of the videos include in its title “so and so rapper talks about getting shot and how many people he shot.” Or “so and so rapper talks about how many years he spent in prison and the number of people he stabbed while there.” All topics of discussion that we’re now finding out are being used in the court of law to help convict said individuals. I’m not suggesting that Hip Hop is the blame for the aforementioned violence that today’s youth are engulfed in. I love Hip Hop too much to do that. Furthermore, that would be irresponsible of me. I just personally know how influential a certain narrative could be to impressionable and undeveloped minds. We have to change the narrative. It’s imperative that we change the narrative. I don’t want “stay dangerous” to become a common exchange between brothers when they depart one another. Hopefully you don’t either. Sincerely. Cornell