Three children were shot in an incident in New Orleans' Seventh Ward on July 13. One of the children, a nine-year-old boy, died from a bullet to the head.
The disturbing news horrified jazz trumpeter, New Orleans resident and father, Shamarr Allen. "I thought how easy it could have been for that to be my own son," he said.
The news inspired Allen to save the lives of at-risk New Orleans children the same way that he was able to lift himself out of a dire situation.
"What saved me and redirected my path was a trumpet, the music, and culture of the city that it connected me with," he wrote. "It showed me that success, connections, and differences can be managed through self-expression."
@CityOfNOLA @shamarrallen @NOPDNews @wdsu "If they give us a gun, we give them a trumpet. It’s no questions asked."… https://t.co/POkRXrXFcX— Christina Watkins (@Christina Watkins) 1595295919.0
Allen had some spare trumpets lying around so he created a guns-for-trumpets exchange.
"To all the youth in New Orleans, Bring me a gun and I'll give you a trumpet no questions asked," Allen posted on social media. "People don't understand that these kids are trying and wanting to do other things," Allen told NPR. "But there's just nothing for them to do."
He wanted the children and their families to feel safe about the exchange so he reached out to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who connected him to Shaun Ferguson, the chief of police.
"I said 'Listen, I have a different connection with these kids because I grew up like them, I know what they're going through,' " Allen said. "They aren't bad kids, they're just dealt into bad circumstances."
The police agreed to liquidate the guns Allen collects without asking who gave them to him.
For the first exchange, Allen received a fully-loaded gun form a young girl. "I would never suspect that she would have [a gun]. And she was the most excited about getting [a trumpet]," Allen says.
He then put her in contact with local musicians for lessons.
After Allen gave away four instruments he reached out to fellow musicians to donate theirs and created a GoFundMe page for funding to expand the program. The campaign is called My Trumpet is My Weapon.
"The trumpet became a weapon that really saved my life, so I figured it may be able to have the same impact for another young person from New Orleans," he wrote on the GoFundMe website.
In just 13 days days, the program has received over $36,000 in donations.
"The trumpet was the first thing that showed me, 'Oh I really don't have to be here. It's really a whole other world out here,' " Allen said.
He hopes the instruments will do the same for other children in New Orleans.
"So if I can create those little opportunities for one or two or three of them, they can actually bring that back to their neighborhood and do it all over again," he said.
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