A New Orleans musician started a 'guns-for-trumpets' program and it's already a huge hit
via Cafe Lena / Twitter

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."

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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Demonstrators hold up signs at the Rally for Abortion Justice in Columbus, Ohio

The U.S. Supreme Court's swing to the right under the Trump presidency puts abortion rights in peril throughout the United States. The Court's decision not to act on a Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks has opened the floodgates for other states to restrict freedoms.

The Texas law deputizes its citizens to report those who've had an abortion after the fetus has a heartbeat or anyone who assisted in the process. Reporters whose information leads to a successful conviction can be awarded up to $10,000 by the state.

The law is astonishing in a state that claims to value freedom. What's more authoritarian than paying your citizens to snitch on each other for their personal health decisions?

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