Firearms are a subject which have been at the center of debate since the founding of our nation. Regardless of where you stand on this important matter, we can all agree that these weapons play a role in the national fabric throughout the United States. Understanding how, when, and where a community chooses to arm itself can be a critical tool, offering insights into the environmental and systemic factors which necessitate the need to carry in the first place. When we pull back the curtain and begin to unravel the complex web of factors impacting a young person’s decision to carry and utilize a firearm, we are empowered to create an environment which offers a safer, healthier city for all.
“Why I Carry”, directed by James R. Halsey Foundation CEO, Joseph Halsey, centers the important conversation regarding why young men residing in urban areas feel the need to carry a firearm. Reaching far beyond the typical narrative, this film highlights the personal experiences, motivations, and broader systemic factors which influenced the decision to carry. Throughout the afternoon, guests had the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from young men who have had personal encounters with firearms, gun violence, and the trauma surrounding these experiences. Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from two of the community’s fiercest advocates, Gene Bouie and Darren “Freedom” Green, who led an inspiring conversation regarding how we as a community can better show up for other young men in similar situations.
Throughout the first segment of “Why I Carry”, which will ultimately be premiered in three parts, viewers heard from eight young men who courageously told their own lived experiences. Although each of these individuals came to the table with their own story, what was shared was an exposure to trauma at a young age. From watching friends perish at the hands of gun violence to witnessing interpersonal violence in their homes, each of these young men expressed immense disturbances during their formative years. Another shared sentiment between these young men: the desire to survive.
When we think of guns and the violence associated with them, our minds typically correlate the subject with death and loss. For these young men, however, choosing to carry a firearm was a mechanism of survival. With many participants expressing deep betrayals by their closest family and friends, many of these young men saw carrying a weapon as a means to survive in a world that they perceived could not be trusted. Although in many ways the system has failed these young men, by no means should these gentlemen be viewed as a failure. Quite the contrary, these men represent the success that can be found when the community shows up and offers them the resources needed to overcome.
In sharing their stories, these young men showed incredible vulnerability in the hopes that others could be inspired to not wind up on the same path. Offering these young men a safe space to feel seen, heard, and respected yielded something truly remarkable, offering our community invaluable insights that we may not have otherwise been able to access. Building trust in a fractured reality is the first step towards healing our communities, and the “Why I Carry” series offers a revolutionary model in which we can begin to unpack the trauma, tribulations, and triumphs found by those impacted by gun violence.
This private screening was hosted by the James R. Halsey Foundation for the Arts, a vital resource for youth in the Capital City. The JRH Foundation catalyzes the art of filmmaking to foster personal growth and creativity among youth. Since their founding in 2017, the Foundation has provided countless youth with arts education and career training. Beyond just enhancing their technical schools, these encounters with the arts empower youth to heal through expression and to dissolve socioeconomic barriers for youth across the Greater Trenton region who are between the ages of 10-20. This transformative work is inspired by the legacy of James R. Halsey, who taught by example and worked alongside those struggling to fit in.
For more information on the James R. Halsey Foundation and all they do for the Trenton community, please visit their website, linked here: JRH – Home. Likewise, if you have any questions or would like to find out more about how you can get involved, please contact the JRH Foundation team at (609) 938-3673 or email@example.com for additional details. Progress is only possible when we come together as a community, and critical events like these bring us one step closer to peace in our streets.
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