I just watched the video for your new song “No Guns Allowed,” featuring Drake and your daughter, Cori B, and I felt compelled to write you a letter to tell you how proud I am of your Reincarnated movement. I am the national executive director at the League of Young Voters, an organization that has led anti-violence campaigns in low-income, urban communities for 10 years. At a time when it seems that our culture of violence is leading America toward self-destruction, you have stepped up to say that enough is a enough when it comes to gun violence. You’re right — our daughters and sons are losing their minds.
Every hour, four people in the United States are killed by firearms. While that’s a heartbreaking statistic, I am so inspired that you are using your platform to speak up about the nation’s violence issue. I want you to know that the League of Young Voters is committed to spreading your anti-violence messages to prevent future tragedies.
After watching your film, Reincarnated, I realized that this couldn’t have been an easy decision to use your art in this way. Not only has your brand become synonymous with the take-no-nonsense aggression of gangsta rap, but you also know that the harsh realities of Southern California street culture won’t simply disappear because you have adopted a more peaceful attitude. When I was a hip-hop journalist on the West Coast from 2001-2006, I knew that violence could break out anywhere and at any moment. It takes real courage to be a leader for peace when others are still actively promoting destruction.
I ultimately left Los Angeles because I felt a calling to work in my home community of Milwaukee. Most people don’t know it, but Milwaukee is one of the youngest, poorest and most segregated cities in the country. I have lost family members, students and mentees to guns. When I lived in LA, I often grimly joked with people that Milwaukee was just like Compton, because of the all-too-familiar hopelessness I felt when interacting with youth from South Los Angeles.
When I moved back home, we started an organization called the Campaign Against Violence, which eventually became the Wisconsin League of Young Voters, to inspire young people to live less violent lives while simultaneously tackling the structural causes of poverty. By providing good jobs and increasing access to technology and art, I have seen firsthand that young people can transcend street life and transform their communities. That’s why I believe that your song “No Guns Allowed” can be a catalyst for a positive movement for change. Over the years, the League has fought for responsible gun laws and policy changes at the local and national level, but we also believe that we have to reincarnate a spirit of love and community in our neighborhoods. Your leadership, from the Snoop Dogg Youth Football League to your new music, is an example for all of us.
Given your street cred, and your efforts to mentor young musicians long before you ever adopted the new moniker, Snoop Lion, I believe that your “No Guns Allowed” campaign can inspire people from all backgrounds to think proactively about transforming their own communities. I know that the new generation of rappers, who grew up on classic gangsta hits such as “Murder Was the Case,” have to be looking at your movement with curiosity. Hopefully, they will be inspired by “No Guns Allowed” to step up.
While policy-makers and mainstream media will be busy discussing the finer points of America’s gun laws over the next month, your message serves as a voice of reason for all of us working to make the United States a safe place. I hope that the nation’s leaders, including Congress and President Barack Obama, stand with you in this critical moment. While America needs responsible gun ownership laws, you and I both know that our communities won’t become less violent until more of us step up to inspire positivity. I applaud you for your courage. Please continue to be brave and bold.
Your leadership on this issue has motivated me, along with the League of Young Voters team, to work even harder to promote peace in our neighborhoods. We are committed to helping make the “No Guns Allowed” message a movement and we’re starting by asking our friends, colleagues, supporters and celebrities like yourself to take a pledge to end violence by texting PEACE to 69866.
Our reinvigorated campaign to decrease gun violence in our cities is just beginning. You can count on the League to support your peaceful movement by spreading the word to young people at our 2013 Put the Guns Down events and creative calls to action. For more information on the League of Young Voters, you can check us out at YoungVoter.org.
With much appreciation and love,
Rob “Biko” Baker
National Executive Director
League of Young Voters