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Every summer, I block out my weekends to spend time in the Hamptons, most of it with my kids. My Sundays are usually spent on the Hamptons beach, a short distance but a long way from the Queens hood I grew up in.

This Sunday, I was walking on that beach when I got a phone call from Erica Ford, the founder of “I Love My Life,” an organization that has tirelessly worked to end the violence in my old neighborhood and the surrounding communities. She was spending her Sunday like she almost always does, doing something a lot more purposeful; namely consoling a young mother, Tiffany, who had just lost her 13-year-old son, Ronald, to gun violence on Saturday morning. Erica told me that Tiffany had seen GlobalGrind’s “He Has A Name” piece that we put up and wanted to speak to me to “thank me for acknowledging Ronald.” She didn’t want her son to die without anyone knowing his name.

When I heard her trembling voice, her voice barely able to say a few words…I reached inside for a prayer of comfort. I offered words from the Christian and yogic scriptures. Trying to console her, she cried profusely and kept saying she “wanted to hold him now.” I was deeply saddened and my prayers seemed inadequate as they often do. I tried to muster up some faith in them so I could understand, let alone make her understand “God’s will” and that “Ronald’s safe now…” But it just didn’t sit well. She told me that her other son, a 15-year-old, had been missing since Saturday night and she was worried that he might do something really terrible. The sounds of the ocean just stopped. The waves seemed like they didn’t move anymore. The sun closed her eyes. I prayed even deeper. For Tiffany. For Ronald. For Amber Stanley’s family. For the families of the 56 people who were shot this weekend in Chicago. For all of those who have lost their children to the bullet of a gun.

When I described Sundays, I neglected to mention that a few Sundays do get altered, as they are not always on the beach. Like last Sunday, when I went to my old hood in Queens, more specifically Baisley Housing Projects, where Nicki Minaj is from. I was there to support a “peace” march that Erica Ford and Capt. Dennis of the Peacekeepers organized. We marched with some of the other mothers whose children left this earth too soon, along with 1000 concerned community members. We spoke with the young people and listened to their pain and their struggles. We do not judge, but we know that the violence in our communities is not something we should be numb to, it’s something we can change.

Having faith in this truth, I am hosting tonight, along with Deepak Chopra, a dinner in the Hamptons benefiting Erica Ford’s I Love My Life program. I hope that Erica’s life-saving work will inspire my friends to support her even more. Because the work continues…it is God’s work, but it can remind you that life is not always a walk on the beach.

Russell Simmons

For more information on how to support Erica’s work, please visit I Love My Life’s website.

 

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