The stars were out in Harlem on Monday when music industry heavy-weights joined the Rev. Al Sharpton and community organizers at an anti-gun violence rally at the National Action Headquarters.
The rally, titled “Responsibility is a Lifestyle: It’s Time to Bury Da Beef,” was held in response to the growing trend of gun violence
and gang activity in New York and across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 16 youth are killed per day from senseless gun violence.
Grammy Award-winning rapper T.I., Warner Music Group Executive Vice President Kevin Liles and rappers Queen Pen and Ja Rule made appearances at the event. The family of 17-year-old Corey Squire, a recent Harlem shooting victim, also attended the rally.
“This is an outrageous crisis that our whole community needs to come around,” Sharpton said. “This is not some promotion. This is real and it’s happening to our kids everyday. When we’re talking about ‘bury the beef,’ we not only have to talk about between the
gangs, we have to bury the beef between each other. The young has to respect the old, but the old has to start respecting the young too.”
T.I., who came from Atlanta to attend the event, was recently sentenced to one year and a day in jail. The 28-year-old famed rapper was convicted in March for felony weapons possession and is set to start serving his sentence on May 19. During his address at the rally, T.I. admitted that the activity he was standing up against, he was once a part of and apologized.
“A lot of people do it as a fashion statement, but for me, it was more of a way of life because that was the lifestyle I was raised in. I carried guns and slung dope as a 13-,14- and 15-year-old. It pains me to see mothers in a position where they have lost the center of
their world. Killing a man is like killing a family,” he said. T.I. told the story of his violent past coming through the ranks of the music industry. He talked about how the very people who helped him reach his star status were the same ones who made plans for his murder. He also discussed the loss of his childhood friend Philant Johnson, who was murdered in 2006.
In an effort to combat violence, T.I. started the KING (Kids in Need of Giving) Foundation. The organization provides support for low-income families with basic needs support programs.
Several organizations were represented at Monday’s rally, including LIFE Camp Inc., Man Up Inc., the CHANGE Initiative and the Political Swagger Foundation.
After the rally, Sharpton, along with T.I. and Ja Rule, led a peace walk to the place where 17-year-old Squire was shot at 141st Street and Lenox Avenue, blocks away from NAN headquarters. Squire’s mother and family, along with hundreds of supporters, joined the
trio. When the group arrived to the murder scene, Sharpton led the crowd in prayer.