How would you define the problem of gun violence?
I would define the problem with gun violence as the gun violence itself. I know it sounds funny, but I would say it's the teachings, because once it was implemented that handling your business with a daily measure was implemented to be the new norm, that's what became the new norm. So, that thinking alone.
When did the problem of gun violence show up in your life?
Pretty much when I showed up in my life is when the problem of gun violence showed up in my life. I was the product of a single father who was a pimp who lived that lifestyle. All my uncles, cousins, aunties, brothers: All involved in gangs, selling drugs or on drugs, all things. It was a normalcy, like at some point you grow up, you see it and you become desensitized to seeing somebody get shot or hit with a gun or [unintelligible] or beat up. It becomes what you think is the thing to do.
What do you know about the history of gun violence?
What I know about the history of gun violence is as long as there's been guns, there's been violence. Even before there was guns, there was violence. I think it all perpetuates from the same thing: from the thinking, the mind process. At least I could say for my age group: Like when I was a kid, there was no guns around. You was forced to fight. Then at some point, guns came around. So, then you didn't have to stand on anything: You couldn't be corrected, you couldn't be checked. There's nothing that could be said to you once a gun came in your possession. And that got to be used as an enabler because it commanded power over anything: You can make a permanent result to it. That's pretty much where I'm at with that.
What do you think causes gun violence?
Lack of knowledge, I think lack of skills to properly rationalize things. I mean, of course, it doesn't cover all gun violence, but as far as like the initial resolving conflict with the gun-violence aspect of it all, I think it all comes from the tools. I mean, when you're going to work, if you only got certain tools in your tool belt, you can only do a certain kind of job. So, it's the fact that there aren't the right tools in order for them to be able to process things the right way. Like I said, the precedent was set early: That violence is the way to resolve a issue. Violence is the way to exert dominance, violence is the way to show that you're bigger, you're better, you're badder than the next person. But when it comes to guns, it's an immediate equalizer. You don't have to stand on anything, you don't have to physically do anything. My four-year-old child could pick up a gun and kill somebody, but does that make her the OG of a neighborhood? Does it make her the big homey, the big killer? No, it doesn't. So, it's all in the mindset. I think it all starts with the way of thinking.
Honestly, educate. Educate, educate, educate, educate. Because once the education is put in form, put in place, the knowledge of being able to process these feelings, the ability to be able to think through things, the tools needed in order to pull off this: It's a great task at this point. A lot of the youth has decided to rely on their gun to be their dad, relied on their gun to be their big homey, relied on their gun to be the provider or relied on their gun to be all these things: Because they don't know nothing else. One thing they know is the way to protect yourself is to harm somebody. They don't know there's other routes, other ways, there's other methods, there's other techniques. So, it's, I would say in order to end it, you would have to educate, because once people get a good grasp of what's going on and how to process the way they feel, I don't think there would be a need for gun violence. You know, shooting each other and harming each other over minor things or my neighborhood, or you did this, you stepped on my shoe or whatever the case they might find. I feel like once, once you got more insight into what you're doing, it is easier for you to navigate through it.
What are you committed to doing to end gun violence?
Being outside with these babies. I'm committed to go where most people won't go, where most of these people that say they're here for the kids, for the youth, or here really trying to stop gun violence: I'm willing to be where the gun violence is. I'm willing to talk to the ones who are actually doing the gun violence, not the ones who are talking to the ones doing it, but the ones that are actually in the streets doing it. I'm willing to be the one that's gonna educate them, make a stand. Nowadays, a 14-year-old, a little four-foot dude is intimidating, ‘cause he got a gun with a clip as long as him. So, I'm willing to put myself in those spaces in order to give these gems, to give this knowledge, to give what I do know and what I received from my trainings and working here, because ain't too many people willing to do it. Everybody's saying, “Oh, you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do this,” but they don't never answer the question of “Why?” And I feel like, once you give them the answer to the question, “Why?” then it'll be easier to get it done. They pushed the whole anti-drug thing, saying, “Say no to drugs, say no to drugs, say no to drugs,” but what they never say is why, other than drugs are bad. They never was like, “It's gonna destroy your community, it's gonna do this to your family, it's gonna break down the Black household.” None of the stuff was laid out. It was just “Don't do it.” And same thing with this gun violence. You can't just be out here telling these kids or the ones perpetrating the gun violence, “Don't do it, don't do it,” because when you tell 'em “Don't do it,” they're gonna tell you why they have to. So, the only way you're gonna be able to beat that up is by giving them a “why they don't have to” and the resources to not have to. That's the only way it's gonna outweigh what they already know.
What is your vision for the Beloved community when gun violence is eradicated?
To live like them African tribes, with no war, B, like, you know what I'm saying? ‘Cause I, myself, yes, I've contributed, I've been a victim of all the stuff when it comes to gun violence. But in the back of my mind, I'm pretty sure in everybody else's mind, a peaceful resolution is always a great thing. But the thing is, it's a matter of equipping everybody with the tools to leave their pride at home. You know what I mean? To leave their egos at home and all that stuff. Cause like what I learned from what I've done, from Dr. Marshall: He gave me a different lens to look at respect, because respect is a lens to look in, look through, but it's not a veil to hide behind. You know? ‘Cause a lot of times people say, “Oh, you disrespect, you disrespect, you disrespect.” But really you just hurt my feeling, you just hurt their feelings. You know what I'm saying? It has nothing to do with respect. And without the knowledge of even knowing these things, without even the knowledge of giving them the keys and the tools to get to know theirselves, they won't be able to do it. So, once there's no gun violence, when there's none of that, we'll be able to politic, we'll be able to grow, we’ll be actually able to see each other get bigger and better. So, the goal is once there's no gun violence, there's gonna be something. But conflict resolution is a thing. It's not just gun violence. It's the whole umbrella, because we could end gun violence, but if the conflict resolution isn’t in place, they're gonna be having knife fights, they're gonna be throwing rocks at each other. You know what I mean? So, all that revolves back around to reprogramming the way of thinking and giving the proper tools to be able to navigate through stuff. So, once there's no violence, we still gotta educate, we still gotta teach, we still gotta get these right tools in, because just ‘cause there ain't no gun violence, it don't mean that the wrong thinking won't perpetuate some violence.
What is your call to action for ending gun violence?
Each one, teach one. The closest thing I could do to end gun violence, me personally, is every young youth or person that's involved in gun violence that I come in contact with, all I can do is give them the jewels. You know, all I can do is give them the jewels. I heard from somebody in our thing today, everybody knows the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make 'em drink.” But the key is to create the thirst. So, when they do get to the water, they want to drink it, you know? And that resonated heavy with me because it all goes back to what I'm saying – educate – because once you give them the knowledge to want to do certain things and not telling them— like with my youth: I don't tell these kids that come to me with their guns on 'em and all that, I don't tell them, “Hey, don't have no gun on you. Leave your gun at home. Don't come around.” I don't tell them that. I don't. But what I do is I plant seeds, because you can't expect a plant or a flower to grow without a seed being planted. And then once I plant the seed, I pollinate it with consistency of more and more information on top of it. So, even when they do do whatever they're doing or moving around, however they're moving around, they have something in back of their mind. ‘Cause a lot of times there's nothing in back of their mind other than what the big homey said, who said, “Shoot somebody.” So, it's just a matter of injecting these positive affirmations, letting 'em know that their ancestors aren't slaves, letting 'em know their ancestors were kings and queens, let 'em know that there's worth to what they're doing. Yeah. That’s my specific thing I can do. I'm only one person that can affect one to a small group at a time, but eventually that's gonna be a lot, ‘cause there's a lot of people amongst this collective that's on the same mission as me.
After the interview ended, the camera was turned on again, and Dont’e said this:
I love it, I love it, l love it, I love it. Nah, what I was saying: I’m gonna leave you guys with a quote: “Any man can kill a dragon, but it takes a real man to train one.” To give some context to it: It’s the easiest thing to do is the easiest thing to do. You know, it takes more energy to do what’s hard, it takes more energy to do what’s right. When you’re hanging off a cliff, you’re hanging there, you’re hanging there. What’s easier for you to do? Is it easier to pull yourself up or to let go? So like I said. Anybody can kill a dragon, but it takes a real man to train one.