Sheyaa Joseph, more popularly known as Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage, is teaming up with the Fulton County solicitor Keith Gammage for the “Guns Down, Heads Up” anti-gun initiative. The program is aimed at high school students from Atlanta public schools and the surrounding counties.
Over 700 students attended the Guns Down, Hands Up summit on Tuesday where they heard from the rapper, along with members of law enforcement and victims of gun violence and their families. The chief judge of the George Supreme Court also offered some wisdom to the hundreds of young people in attendance.
Atlanta, which has been plagued by consistently high gun violence rates for years, is in the unique position of being a major urban center which is situated in the Deep South. Data has shown that the South is already predisposed to gun violence because of the culture surrounding firearms there. In fact, there’s even an ordinance on the books in Kennesaw, an Atlanta suburb, that states, “Every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm.”
21 Savage told local WSB-TV Channel 2 reporter Tom Jones that he has lost over 15 of his friends to gun violence over the years. He saw an opportunity to use his renown among local young people to help persuade them to avoid guns and prioritize their education and financial futures.
To drive the point home, there was a job fair on site at the summit, which 21 Savage referred to as the most important part of the event. His message to Atlanta youth is clear: “Guns kill people, so it’s best to just stay clear of that stuff and just do the right thing.”
The program, already in its second year, has garnered more widespread attention this time around with 21 Savage involved. Organizers have already planned to hold the event again next year as well.