All Articles Tagged "gun violence"

Janelle Monae’s Cousin Natasha Hays Killed In Drive-By Shooting

September 1st, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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natasha hays feat

Janelle Monae has been outspoken about quite a few things. She’s been vocal in support of Black Lives Matter, penning a song for the movement, “Hell You Talmbout.” She performed at a benefit concert to aid the victims of the Flint Water crisis. And she’s been outspoken in promoting the rights of women.

And now, unfortunately, after the death of her cousin, she’s having to speak out about against gun violence.

Yesterday, the singer tweeted:

According to the Kansas City Star, Natasha Hays, 37, died when gunfire struck her home at about 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday. Hays three children, ages 14, 16, and 18 were not harmed.

Marco McElwee, who is married to Hays’ cousin said, “She was a hard-working mother of three. She did not deserve this. She did not deserve to be in the predicament she is in right now- for us to be in the predicament that we are in now.”

While a neighbor heard the gunfire and looked out the window to see a gray car with a sunroof and spoiler, speeding away, police have not made any arrests.

McElwee said that Hays worked as a caregiver.

“She spent the majority of her time helping somebody else, and she ended up in a helpless situation. The community lost a good citizen, a good person.”

The family is asking anyone with information about the drive-by shooting to call the police. They are also asking any local businesses or anyone else in the area who has surveillance cameras to submit the video to authorities.

Every death is a tragedy but Monae’s cousin is the latest in a string of relatives of celebrities affected by gun violence. Dwyane Wade’s cousin was recently killed in gun crossfire. T-Pain’s niece was stabbed to death in front of the Walgreens where she worked. And Toya Wright had to bury both of her brothers after they were killed sitting in their car in New Orleans.

Apple Takes A (Small) Stand By Replacing Gun Emoji With Water Pistol

August 3rd, 2016 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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pistol-emoji_custom-c6cc2806e5b210876f035543fe3c4c62acdec1c5-s800-c85Starting in September, Apple will replace the gun emoji with a green water pistol after the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) group launched a campaign titled, Disarm The iPhone. NYAGV started the movement to stand up against gun violence that is plaguing the country and to show politicians that “stricter access to real guns” is needed, reports Cosmopolitan. By Apple removing the gun emoji, Leah Barrett, the executive director of NYAGV told CNN that the company “has stood up to the bullying tactics of the NRA and gun industry by showing that there are many more life-affirming ways to express oneself than with a gun.”

Aside from changing the gun emoji, Apple will also introduce a more diverse group of emoticons such as female emojis working in the male-dominated career fields of law enforcement and construction. It will also feature the Pride flag, female athletes, and even single parent families.

Despite the changes Apple and Microsoft are making to help shift the attitudes people have towards gun violence, one problem still remains: police brutality. Several children and men of color have died at the hands of the police because they had water guns, plastic swords or even wallets in their hands. If the NYAGV and tech companies want to help introduce change, then it’s imperative they go further than just removing or revamping emojis to helping donate money to the legal funds of the families affected by police brutality to fight this numbing injustice.

Toya Wright’s Brothers Gunned Down In New Orleans This Weekend

August 1st, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Reality star, author and businesswoman Toya Wright’s brothers Rudy and Josh Johnson were killed this weekend in New Orleans according to officers in the city and several news outlets, including

The brothers were discovered inside a car, shortly after midnight on Saturday in the city’s 7th Ward. Both had been shot multiple times and were pronounced dead at the scene.

Toya’s brothers were just two victims of the violence that rocked New Orleans this weekend, as another man was shot to death just an hour later.

At this time, police had not released any information about a motive or possible suspects in the fatal shooting.

In the wake of their passing, Toya posted this memories of her brothers on her Instagram page.

Can’t sleep. #RipJosh 💔

A video posted by Antonia Wright (@toyawright) on

She and her family are in our thoughts and prayers.

11-Year-Old Rapper Baby Kaely Creates Powerful Song About Race Relations

July 21st, 2016 - By Kweli Wright
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Baby Kaely and Marsai Martin," Better Place" video

Baby Kaely and Marsai Martin,” Better Place” video

In a time when race relations and gun violence are in the forefront of most social conversations, our younger generation is just trying to make it all make sense. Baby Kaely, an 11-year-old rapper and YouTube phenomenon, has questions, and has made it her mission to express that she just wants to be “living in a better place.”  Baby Kaely teamed up with Marsai Martin, 11-year-old actress of ABC’s “Black-ish,” to push the message of equality through their song titled “Better Place.”

The video for “Better Place” has already managed to garner over 19,000 views in one day. With more than 730,000 subscribers on YouTube, and more than 165,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram combined, as she has been rapping since she was the tender age of four, Baby Kaely is pushing to use her platform to vocalize social issues that the average 11-year-old only sees on the news, but doesn’t quite talk about amongst their peers.

“I’m so worried for our future;  what kind of world do we live in when even the superheroes wanna shoot ya?” raps Baby Kaely. For this powerful  message to be pushed by an artist so young, shows just how much these issues are affecting everybody, no matter age or race.

Also, check out Baby Kaely rapping her heart out in her song “Heaven.”

The then 7-year-old rapper wrote the song with her father as a triubte song for the kids affected by the Sandy Hook shooting that occurred in December 2012. The music video for “Heaven” was directed and produced by gushed about Baby Kaely, saying, “I am honored to have work with this 7-year-old wonder child.”


For more information about Baby Kaely please check her out on Twitter and Instagram.

What We Know About Alton Sterling And Philando Castile

July 8th, 2016 - By Nneka Samuel
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July 16 would have been Philando Castile’s 33rd birthday. He was shot and killed by officer Jeronimo Yanez in Falcon Heights, Minnesota after being pulled over for an alleged broken taillight on Wednesday. His girlfriend, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, recorded the aftermath of the shooting and live-streamed Castile’s final moments on Facebook. In the incredibly horrific video, Reynolds said that Castile, who was licensed to carry a weapon, was reaching for his identification when Yanez shot him not once, but “four or five” times. Minnesota Governor Mark Drayton gave a statement about Castile’s unwarranted, heinous death, saying, “Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers, were white? I don’t think it would have…I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”

A day before Castile died, Alton Sterling, 37, was tackled to the ground, tasered, and then shot and killed by officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The officers were initially responding to the call about an armed man. Sterling did not brandish his gun or threaten officers. Like Castile, he was shot multiple times.

These men, these innocent Black men, were treated inhumanely. They did not deserve to die, and there is more to their story than how they left this world. Here’s what we know about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

For The Sake Of The Families, Think Twice About The Way You Share Videos Of Victims Of Police Brutality

July 7th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 9.44.31 AM

The way I remember seeing my brother last, alive and well, was when he was leaving our family home after visiting with a girlfriend. He was wearing all black, but would literally light up when he smiled. He was 22.

The next time I saw him, he was being wheeled out of his apartment complex in a velvet body bag during a 5 a.m. news broadcast. I immediately fell out, and my mom and sister found me on my bedroom floor screaming. Thankfully, they both missed the image when they came to my aid, but it has been ingrained in my mind ever since. Seeing someone you love who was the personification of joy, goofiness and positivity be treated as “the body of,” is an incredibly hard thing to wipe from the brain.

I won’t get into the who, what, when, wheres, whys and all of that in terms of my brother, out of respect for my parents. But I will say that he was killed by a police officer years before people were really using social media, years before people were really peacefully protesting the death of Black men and women by law enforcement, and years before there was a Black Lives Matter movement. I use that moment in my life as a way to say, that as family of someone taken in such a way, a little tact in telling their story would be nice. I didn’t need to see him in that way. And the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile (even if it was his girlfriend who filmed), Michael Brown, and more probably won’t want to see their loved ones like that down the line.

It’s a struggle for sure. The idea of sharing a video or image of someone in an attempt to let the world know that an injustice has been done to them, juxtaposed with the reality that you’re literally sharing video of someone’s death as though it’s the latest meme or viral clip. I too want to be informed of what is going on, but I didn’t feel comfortable, whatsoever, with people sharing videos of Sterling being shot repeatedly as I had to scroll through my feed to avoid autoplay. And after coming across countless videos of Castile being shot in his car, and the latest New York Daily News cover of Sterling on his back, blood on his chest and eyes rolled up in the back of his head on my feed, I’d had enough. I deleted my Instagram. Again.

We want justice. We want what happens to these men and women to not happen to our own children. And so, many people pass around these things, I hope, with good intentions. But then there is a level of desensitization going on in the way that we don’t even second-guess the way we ration out these things. At a certain point, not everyone who sees these videos has the same feelings of sadness, the same intentions to speak out for change. At some point, these clips become something entertaining to numb people.

While we say that these people have names, that they’re not just, the “black man” in a lazy news title like “Anger swells over killing of black man,” I can’t help but feel very conflicted and disturbed about the way we share images and video of people in their last moments, just for the sake of feigning sadness and anger over the reasons they’re taking their final breath. “My God,” I said to myself, “nothing is private or sacred.”

To you, they may just be death. Victim No. ____. A symbol of a larger issue, in this case, police brutality. But to the people who knew these individuals, they’re so much more. And knowing that we live in an age where the children of some of these victims will be scared to type in the name of their loved one in Google for fear of what they might see, of what might take precedence over the positive memories they have of that individual, makes me incredibly sad.

I think having video of what happened to my brother could have been a good thing for the sake of clearing his name of some of the things said about him in an attempt to protect the officer. However, when I really consider it, I’m glad there isn’t. He has a child who knows him based on the stories and memories we share with her — not because of what video of him says about his life, or rather, how it ended. Trust me, I understand the importance of these images to many. I get it. But as someone stated, the violence against our people isn’t new, it’s the cameras recording it that is. And as I said before, some tact would be nice in the way we dole out these clips. Until there is a real, tangible way for justice to be served, for law enforcement to be held accountable for these lives, to keep these things from happening over and over again and to keep human beings from becoming hashtags, sharing a video over and over again (and rarely giving people a choice before it plays) of someone laid out, taking their last breath as though it’s a not significant moment in human existence, just feels like a knife in the wound of the families these people leave behind. Trust me, I know.

When It Comes To Gun Violence, America Could Learn A Thing From Australia

June 17th, 2016 - By Christine Mwaturura
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When people ask me why I moved from America to Australia, I hate to admit that one of the reasons was gun violence. It seems almost outlandish to cite gun violence as a reason for shipping oneself off to the farthest corner of the globe, but while I was living in America, the fear of being gunned down by a random assailant burrowed itself into the back of my mind and continued to grow with every occurrence of a mass shooting.

Here in Australia, the news is uneventful (and I’d like for it to stay that way). But Australian news could have very easily turned out to be like the American news we see today, had it not been for the swift gun control measures put in place by the Australian government following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre where 35 people were killed by a mentally unstable gunman. Between 1996 and 2014, the incidence of gun related deaths dropped dramatically — by about half. Moreover, by some definitions, there have been no mass shootings in Australia since 1996 (by other counts, one has occurred). Let’s discuss why. 

Australian gun law reforms

Under the National Firearms Agreement of 1996, Australia took a unified approach to regulating gun ownership across all states. As summarized by the Library of Congress, the reforms included:

a ban on certain semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns, standard licensing and permit criteria, storage requirements and inspections, and greater restrictions on the sale of firearms and ammunition.  Firearms license applicants would be required to take a safety course and show a “genuine reason” for owning a firearm, which could not include self-defense.  The reasons for refusing a license would include “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.”  A waiting period of twenty-eight days would apply to the issuing of both firearms licenses and permits to acquire each weapon.

Alongside legislative reforms to implement the National Firearms Agreement, a national buyback program for prohibited weapons took place in 1996-1997 and resulted in more than 700,000 weapons being surrendered.

Some Second Amendment enthusiasts reading that may think, “Wow, what a nation of sticklers!” Yup, Australia might be the uncool kid who shows up to the skating park wearing knee and elbow pads, plus a helmet. But I’m good with uncool for the sake of safety.

But gun laws infringe on individuals’ freedoms, right?

We live in a world that looks drastically different than the world of the 18th century when the Bill of Rights came about: hate propaganda can now spread rapidly and easily via the internet, we see unprecedented levels of mental health problems, and gun technology has advanced significantly. It would be negligent to ignore these very different circumstances in which we live in the context of public safety and the laws that are meant to protect the public. Or, put in another way by an Australian gun owner who wrote in an article in Time, “Australia is a great country. You can go hunting, you can go shooting. And as long as you hurt nobody and abide the law you can continue to do it. That to me is freedom. The idea of having people own guns with no concept of gun safety and no reason to have a gun? That is not my idea of freedom.”

But “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” right?

Despite empirical evidence that more stringent gun laws do reduce gun related deaths, some people will argue that gun access is not the real issue at hand because, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I do agree that gun violence is a symptom of other societal issues such as: poverty, mental illness, depression, racism, homophobia etc… These are very real issues which certainly deserve attention. However, treating the root cause of a problem does not necessarily have to preclude the treatment of its symptoms. If I go to the hospital with a broken leg, I want the doctor to fix my leg and also to give me pain meds. I wonder how much longer America can ignore this symptom–how many more lives need to be lost at the hands of armed attackers.

While it might not be feasible to 100% replicate the Australian solution in America, I believe that there are worthwhile elements of the Australian example that America can pull from in its fight against gun violence.

When I hear about the mass shootings in America, a place that I grew to love and called home, I am filled with both deep empathy and grave disappointment. The sad thing is that as I write this, I know that there is a good chance that in a few months there will be yet another mass shooting tragedy in America, and the world will go through the same cycle of outrage and frenetic social media hashtagging #PrayFor[insert name of city] #WeAre[insert name of city]. Often times people are left shaking their heads, wondering what they can do to help. There are grassroots movements to end gun violence (like the Everytown movement) that offer practical suggestions and resources for individuals who would like to get involved by signing a petition, completing a form letter to send to congress, donating to the movement, or getting information about how to connect to your senator. The time is now to speak up–what are you going to do to end gun violence?

How Mass Shootings Have Altered The Way I Live My Life

June 15th, 2016 - By Niki McGloster
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Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

I was consumed by the fatal shooting of 49 human beings in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub the moment I caught wind of its subsequent hashtag, #PrayForOrlando. As minute-by-minute facts and stories of the victims continue to flood in since news broke early Sunday, I’ve come to realize the full scope of its impact on all of us. We pray, we beg for gun control reform, we donate blood and even update our social media to show our support of every person this world lost that day. But what we usually refrain from discussing is how our day-to-day lives are completely reshaped because of such tragedies.

From what I can gather, this is about the fifth time where my day was totally eclipsed by news of a gunman opening fire on a group. Before what’s being called the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, I remember Columbine, when I was too young to fully process how someone could kill 13 of their high school classmates and a teacher. I also recall that fateful day at Virginia Tech when my school, Norfolk State University, though roughly 300 miles away, was put on lockdown until authorities confirmed Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people, then himself. Then, there was the Aurora shooting during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises and, of course, Sandy Hook, which arrested the entire country after the killing of 27 people, including 20 children.

Though it’s easy to believe that we’ve become desensitized to children being shot in classrooms, people being gunned down while trying to have a good time at the movies or in a nightclub, and another AR-15 making headline news, but what’s real is that, because it takes just seven minutes to buy an automatic weapon, and mental health is still talked about in whispers and hushed tones, I almost jump out of my skin whenever someone takes a bathroom break during a movie. I keep my eyes almost squarely on the exits when I’m in a crowded bar. Even somewhere in the small spaces of my mind, I second guess bringing kids into this world, because Lord knows my heart would stop beating if I received an “I’m gonna die” text from my child.

That’s why, as stories and facts still come pouring in through tickers on CNN and news anchors and witnesses give live reports and accounts, Americans are begging for gun control NOW. Let’s face it, though. Guns are only a part of problem, not the sole problem. This hate crime was unequivocally aimed at gays in a country that doesn’t do enough to fight in their favor. They’re a tragically marginalized group of folks who solely want to love freely and without consequence. Still, even after such a massacre, the FDA continues to refuse to lift the ban on blood donations from gay men who haven’t been celibate for at least a year. Furthermore, the minute Omar Mateen was identified as the Pulse shooter, media, and Donald Trump, immediately conjured anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Trust me, the problem runs much deeper than firearms.

These horrific accounts aside, there is an overwhelming amount of good in this world. It’s seen in the way we band together in times of distress. But until we combat systemic and individual hate and intolerance with preventive laws, these senseless acts will continue to chip away at all of our lives, be it in the form of yet another mass shooting or the sheer fear of pumping gas in broad daylight or going to a crowded festival, not knowing what may happen next.

Until there is a true solution, I pray for those who’ve had to personally endure these brutal acts. I can’t even begin to fully grasp the haunting feeling of losing a child or being blindsided by the barrage of bullets from an AR-15 while dancing with friends. I pray for our country, which at the moment, seems overly concerned with eradicating “radical terrorism” and mislabeling entire groups and cultures as our enemy, to fix the emotional and physical corrosion caused by these undertakings. We deserve better from those elected to govern, protect, and serve.

These are scary times we’re living in right now, and it’s hard not to live in fear. As it stands, those leading us and hoping to lead us down the line need to realize that the only way to make America truly great is to make it safe for every single one of its citizens. Period.

“They Were Very Close”: Ohio Dad Shoots, Kills 14-Year-Old Son After Mistaking Him For Intruder

January 13th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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NBC News

NBC News

The day started like any other. Georta Mack, 14, was dropped off at the bus stop in the very early hours of Tuesday morning by his father to make his way to school. Afterward, the father headed back home. But unbeknownst to him, so did Mack. The teen decided to skip school and soon after being dropped off, he headed back home, sneaking back into the house through the basement.

According to Cincinnati’s WCPO, when Mack’s father heard a noise coming from the basement, he grabbed his handgun and went to see who or what it could be. That’s when the unthinkable happened.

“I just shot my son by accident,” Mack’s father said when he called the 911 operator. “He scared me. I thought he was in school. I heard noise and then I went downstairs looking. He jumped out at me. I shot him.”

The teen was shot around 6:30 a.m. and was hit in the front of his neck. The father claimed that when he was startled by his son after flinging open the basement door, immediately after, the handgun discharged. During the 911 call, the operator told Mack’s father to apply pressure to the teen’s neck to help with the bleeding, doing so as Mack was struggling to breathe. Sadly, after Mack was rushed to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, he died.

Those who knew Mack and his family told WCPO that they were a tight-knit bunch, making this tragedy all the more heartbreaking.

“They were very close,” said neighbor Courtney Williams. “His dad is actually a good guy, too. He was a very good guy.”

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the father’s story matches the forensic evidence, so no charges will be filed.

“It is impossible to imagine how horrible this father must feel for mistaking his son for an intruder,” Deters said. “All of the forensic evidence matches what the father told police, and, therefore, no charges are appropriate.”

And the 911 call definitely shows a concerned and confused father, as he can reportedly be heard saying, “Oh God” repeatedly and even asking his son, “Why didn’t you go to school?”


Obama To Honor Gun Violence Victims With Empty Seat At SOTU

January 10th, 2016 - By Ashley Monaé
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With his last term in the White House coming to a close, President Obama is doing all that he can to dedicate his time to pushing gun control and educating Americans on why taking action on such matters are important, since Congress has not passed legislation doing so.

In an effort to continue this task of executive action, Obama has decided to leave a seat empty in the first lady’s box to honor slain victims due to gun violence during the State of the Union address on Tuesday (Jan.12), The Huffington Post reported. Historically, the process of deciding who will sit next to the first lady takes a significant amount of time, but instead of a high-profile figure, Obama felt it was only right to use that opportunity to reflect on larger issues the country is facing at large.

“We want them to be seen and understood that their absence means something to this country,” Obama said.

A White House official explained, “because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence—survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.”