“Niggas get shot every day, B.” A line made famous by Cam’ron as the character Rico in the cult classic film Paid in Full. Rico was trying to convince Ace (the connect to the plug) to get back into the dope game after being shot in the face. The incident really rattled Ace, but Rico was trying to assure him that it wasn’t a big deal. It happens every day, so just get over it.
For most of my life, this line made perfect sense and I even remember watching as a teenager thinking Ace should just strap up and retaliate. Rico was right, getting shot wasn’t really that big of a deal. Several of my friends and family had been shot or at least shot at during some point of their life. My most memorable connection to gun violence was at 7 years old. My father was dope fiend and his addiction would make him violent and unsafe, so my mother kicked him out. In order to get money for his habit, he would steal any and everything he could. He would raid our house, usually sometime around 2 a.m., but my mother was a warrior. The bruises on her arms and her swollen face showed evidence that she didn’t win every battle, but she fought as hard as she could. Until fighting became too risky and she believed the next fight might end in her not only losing that round, but her life.
So she bought a little 22 caliber pistol and warned my father that she was done fighting. Unfortunately, my father — high and trying to get higher — found his way to the back door one night and started banging on it, yelling for my mother to open up. The banging turned into kicking and the door was a few good strong kicks from coming off the hinges. My mother yelled, “Stop! Don’t do it! I’m ah shoot you!” A couple more kicks and you could hear the wooden door frame splintering and starting to crack. My mother yelled, “I’m serious! Don’t…” She interrupted her sentence with three shots and I could hear my father yell in pain. She’d shot him.
I vividly remember coming out of my room and seeing my father on the floor, yelling, with blood coming out of his leg. I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream, I didn’t make that big of a deal out of the situation. I just remember thinking, “I guess sometimes people get shot.”
Acts of violence can be traced back to biblical times and it’s a historical fact that America was obtained and built using violence. Over the years, disenfranchised low income neighborhoods have suffered extreme levels of brutality and gun violence, so unfortunately my story isn’t unique. No, maybe everyone hasn’t seen their mother shoot their father, but in some way or another, the people in my community become desensitized to violence. People debating why this happens or offering quick fix solutions flood social media timelines daily, but this discussion still hasn't led to a true solution. Part of the reason is that after witnessing something for so long, we start to accept it as a common practice. Even if you didn’t grow up in a violent neighborhood, you hear about shootings and gun violence every day on the news. Often to a point where the shock factor has been removed.
So between the victims of violence accepting it as a part of life, and spectators ultimately unimpressed by this level of savagery, it’s inevitable that the cycle would continue. I don’t believe that this is solely tied to gun laws, neighborhood zoning or systematic oppression. Yes, these are all areas that need great improvement and have caused damage, but they won’t ultimately bring peace on earth. And to be completely honest, I don’t believe anything we can do ever will.
At 17 years old, I had a conversation with a pastor at Denny’s that would either change my life forever or be the biggest lie I’d ever hear. My friend set the meeting up because he felt my life was headed in a dangerous direction. I disagreed. My life was pretty parallel with most of the homies from my neighborhood. Outside of chasing girls, selling syrup and being obsessed with Houston street culture, I was a pretty good kid. I was actually, “the good one.” I hadn’t even been to jail yet.
Nevertheless, we met and I told him very plainly, “My only goal is to get some money so I can get my people out of the struggle. We been down our whole life so I’m gone do what I have to to make it out.” He responded, “So you want freedom for you and your family?” “Yes,” I said. “What if I could offer you that right now?” he asked. This concept of freedom right now would change my life.
I would go on to learn that we as a whole are flawed people living in a broken world. So even if I was to obtain riches beyond measure, I couldn’t pay my mother to forget the emotional and physical damage she suffered at the hands of my father. And I couldn’t pay to have my broken childhood mended. If my mother, myself or my family were to ever start true healing, it must start within. And who better to enlighten His creation than the Creator? No, this is not a cliche or a general “Jesus can fix it” blanket statement. I believe many of the answers we search for externally are found as we discover who we truly are.
A family member of mine was almost shot over $25 once. I later got a chance to ask the shooter, “Bro, was it really that serious? You were willing to kill over $25?” His response was simple, “No. It wasn’t about the money, it was about the principle.” A principle is defined as, a fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for a system of belief. This means that based on his response, he would risk life in prison for a “belief system” worth $25. This is a man that clearly does not understand his value. I can’t help but think if he truly knew he was created in the Image of God, whose value for him is immeasurable, he would consider a new belief system.
The acceptance of Jesus and the practice of Christian principles is not an end to all earthly suffering. People still get shot every day. However, acceptance of Jesus provides an upgraded version of the peace people often spend their life searching for. As a believer I am “in the world but, not of it” (John 17:16), meaning my belief system and core values are not based on the world’s metric, but a Godly criteria.
Baptism is a symbolic burial of my sinful past life, and my ascension from the water represents a new man in Christ. As a “new man” I will still face daily warfare. The distress of spiritual and possibly literal "Gun Play" may still find its way into my life. But I am no longer bound to the belief that the world I live in can give or take life. As a Christian, I adopt the belief that this current life is only a drop in the bucket, just the warm-up before the big race. So while my physical body is subject to the effects of this world, my soul rests peacefully in the hands of God.
Watch the video for Corey Paul's "Gun Play" above.