Despite the heat, more than 500 people turned out Saturday for a seminar on eliminating gun violence in urban areas.
The seminar, “No Guns Allowed: Disarming Violence in Our Community,” was held at L.A. Live as part of the BET Experience. It cleverly packaged blockbuster rapper-entertainers Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg) and TI with Congresswoman Maxine Waters and on-the-ground, anti-gang interventionists. It also marked the launch of a nationwide campaign by the League of Young Voters to eliminate gun violence.
The League of Young Voters is a San Francisco-based organization that empowers young people nationwide to participate in the democratic process and create progressive political change on the local, state and national level with a focus on non-college youth and youth from low-income communities and communities of color.
Attendees stood in a long line to get into the free seminar and were enthusiastic about the ideas espoused during the 45-minute session.
TI particularly grabbed their attention, as he recounted the grief of holding his dying best friend as he took his last breath, and the agony of having to inform his friend’s mom and 4-year-old daughter of his death.
He also spoke of the realization that he, too, could have met that same fate as his friend, and credits God for sparing him.
“The country has made gun violence as American as apple pie,” said TI.
TI and Snoop admitted that their music and actions had played a big part in promoting the image that gun violence, gang-banging, and incarcerations was “cool.”
Snoop then talked about the youth football league he created in Southern California, in part because he was tired of the violence and craziness. His goal now, added the California native, is to eliminate the violence one day at a time.
North Philadelphia anti-gang activist Brandon Jones, who said he spent 2 1/2 years in the penitentiary, said he is the “foot in the ass” of the pimps, hustlers and dope sellers and the younger generation. He talks with them about doing something with their lives, like one of the neighborhood old-timers did with him when he came out of prison.
He has also created a youth entrepreneurial training academy.
One question that echoed throughout the seminar concerned solutions. With Snoop, it was about his youth football league.
Melvyn Hayward of Amer-I-can noted that the solution starts with each and every individual there. He urged the activists to duplicate themselves and their organizations and commit to train young sisters and brothers to come up with solutions.
At the end of the session, Rob “Biko” Baker of the League of Young Voters, led each person there through an affirmation and pledge that they would make every effort to help a young person avoid violence.
In addition to the no-guns seminar, the BET Experience included sessions about wealth accumulation, branding yourself and helping young Black girls understand their worth.
In the Wealth Accumulation and Retention session, Master P (Percy Miller) and Janice Bryant-Howroyd of ACT 1 Group, a staffing firm, and professor/author Dennis Kimbro talked about the difference between being rich and being wealthy, and moving Black money from one generation to the next.
“Rich versus wealthy is a different mindset,” asserts Howroyd. “Wealth begins from the cradle. You have to invest (in your kids), and you have to equate reward with success,” pointed out the entrepreneur.
Master P also stressed the importance of education in the ability to keep and build on wealth. “Without education you are going to lose it,” said Master P about the riches. That is why he is encouraging all of his children to go to college. “… I want some lawyers and doctors in my family ….”
The rapper also noted that now, as he takes his business enterprises to the next level, he is concentrating on something different. “I can’t just look at putting family members in the business; I have to find experts to put in the business.”
For Howroyd, keeping that wealth means making sure that her kids know how that wealth was built in the first place, and that they participate in the building of that wealth.
At the same time, she also said it is vitally important that parents understand whether their children actually want to be in the family business.
The Black Girls Rock session featured founder of the nonprofit organization of the same name—Beverly Bond; Professor Trisha Rose of Brown University, actress Holly Robinson Peete, rapper ‘Lil Mama and moderator/author Harriet Cole.
The panel discussed the need to help young Black girls develop a positive self-image and have the courage to stand up for what is right. ‘Lil Mama particularly stressed the need for girls to know that they do have a choice in the image they project, and as they make that choice they need to be careful that they do not become complicit in their own destruction, added Rose
Additionally, they discussed the need to teach young people how to respectfully navigate in a cyber world where every word tweeted and facebooked can be seen around the globe.
The BET experience, was a three-day set of activities built around the annual BET Awards ceremony, including comedy, Gospel and pop concerts; a film festival, seminars, a food festival, as well as a BET exhibit at the Grammy Museum. Some of the events were paid and others were free.