Var

I was born and raised in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. While other children were out playing, I spent countless hours inside, nurturing a love of drawing. A lifelong love of visual arts was born. At the age of 28, I was shot over a dice game dispute that left me paralyzed from the neck down.

I’ve been trying to learn to handle my patience as I try and impact positive change with the work I do in the community. I reach out to the kids about life and my own experiences, which led me into this wheelchair life. Hopefully, through the work I do, the message will get across to them. I try and work on not letting my current surroundings get to me and shifting my attitude towards things — something I hope they also learn.

My experiences impact my art. If you would like to check that out, please check out the link.

Sean Michael Acierno

In mid-March 2021, while walking to his car to go home, my son was shot and killed by two brothers shooting at a bar. My life has forever changed, and I miss him daily. He had a good job at Swagelok, and he was getting ready to purchase his first home and move back to his high-school hometown, Brooklyn, Ohio.

Sean had a grand personality, a warming smile; he loved sports and even dancing. He was there to help anyone who needed it. Just two months after his passing, I spoke with the staff at his high school to start a memorial fund in his name. It honors his memory and brings awareness to gun violence while still helping someone further their education, as Sean would approve.

My family and I will continue funding this scholarship till the end of our days!

Jamarcus JU JU Esmon

My life changed forever on June 27, 2020: I received a phone call that my son had been shot. Of course I thought he would be OK, but as I was on my way to him, I got the call that he didn’t make it. The pain and hurt that went through my entire body was one I don’t wish on anyone.

Jamarcus leaves behind a four-year-old daughter and family and friends that love and miss him daily. To help me with my grief and to leave a legacy in honor of Jamarcus, I started the Live Like JU Foundation, which gives back to the community and is getting involved with gun violence awareness.

Kristen (Koppenhaver) Kauffman

The world stood still on that late March evening, as word began to travel about a horrific murder-suicide. Our tiny, rural Pennsylvanian community mourned, in shock that my mother, Gail Koppenhaver, was the homicide victim in this tragic domestic abuse incident. My mom died, the victim of gun violence two days before my 20th birthday.

Her beautiful smile, sense of humor and positive outlook lit up the lives of everyone she knew. Her coworkers, friends, customers and acquaintances all recognized the kindness and genuine happiness she brought into the world.

In addition to a career in banking/advertising, my mom was a dance teacher. She taught hundreds of dancers during the years she spent at the studio. My mother adored these children and took pride in her creativity and passion for the arts.

In 2008, my dad and I created the Gail Koppenhaver Dance and Scholarship Competition to give back to the community in her memory. Dancers from the region compete, share their talents and raise money for the GK scholarships. We have awarded over $100,000 to college seniors in the past 14 years … all in her memory.

Twenty years later … I miss my best friend.

Mia Reid

Gun violence has impacted and forever changed every area of my life. The way I look at the world has changed, my sense of safety has changed, being a mother of three has changed, my holidays have changed, birthdays have changed, and the way I feel when I look at the face of a mother whose child was taken by gun violence has changed. Most of all, my unstoppable fight for gun safety has been inspired by Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.

There is no comparable bond to the one between mother and child. Not because we did more, not because they loved us more, and not because we loved them more; it’s because we held our babies in our stomachs, and it was “just us.”

Gun violence took my Chuck, but nothing can ever take my memory of nine whole months of “just us.” I’m so grateful to have a global network of Survivors who “get it,” and I’m proud to be in this fight with Moms Demand Action, fighting for gun sense in America. Watch us work!

Your Mom, Britta Brown Whitehead

On September 16, 2019, at 11:16 a.m., my life and the lives of my daughters, Layla and Nea, were forever changed. I received a call that no parent, or no mother, wants to receive. My son, Luis “Lou” Eduardo Zambrana Jr., 20, was murdered at an Exxon in Newport News, Virginia, while purchasing Gatorade.

Just one week earlier, Lou had walked me down the aisle to give me away at my wedding. That is the last time I hugged, kissed, held and smiled at my son.

The man who took my son’s life did not know him and had never met him. His actions rested on the word of someone’s opinion about Lou. We are still waiting for a trial.

At age 4, Lou found a love for drama and music in the church. At age 17, Lou was majoring in theater and drama at Norfolk State University. By April 2019, his talent and passion had emerged, and he was received awards for best actor in a musical and “most improved” actor. His life was taken five months later.

As I continue to try to heal, I made a promise to stand up and talk about gun violence awareness

Marcia

Hello, I’m Marcia. I have two children by Julius Moore Sr. He lost his life to gun violence on March 16, 2019, in Maple Heights, Ohio. He moved from Chicago to Cleveland to start a new life. He was a loving, dedicated and supportive father. Our children Oubrey and Omari were only 1 and 2 years old at the time.

Since his passing, I’ve started a nonprofit in memory of him: Guns Down Hopes Up. We provide free resources to children in our similar situation. This has been by far the hardest tragedy I have ever been through. We will miss him dearly.

Stop gun violence, please. Guns down, hopes up.

Anonymous

If somebody could embody “dynamic,” that’s who he was. Always smiling and laughing. He was a few years older—the same age as my brother—so our families were close. Like a best friend, a cousin, another brother. Both he and my brother came out as gay in middle school. In a small southern town, that wasn’t easy. But I never could have expected that February morning, when my mother picked me up from class and told me he had killed himself using a firearm. I was overcome by fear, sadness and one unfamiliar feeling.

A few weeks later, my brother made his own attempt on his life, and I pinpointed the feeling: It was anger. I was furious that they had tried to leave us behind; I was furious at both of their schools for not protecting them; I was furious that someone had sold a gun to an 18-year-old. I couldn’t blame them, though; it was perfectly legal.

This anger fueled my activism. Today I am fueled by my love for the other people working for good and by my desire to help other kids survive and find happiness like my brother has. I hope this fuels you, too.

Ann

I am a survivor of domestic violence—my children and I. We endured the mental, emotional and physical abuse of being hurt when my oldest daughter, trying to protect me and her sister, ran out the house to get help or call the police or my mom. I got tired of the abuse 35 years ago, in 1986. I got my children and left my ex-husband. I was thinking about my children and their well-being—and mine—and I got us out that environment.

In 2002, my baby girl and I were held hostage by her father—same ex-husband—for five hours, with a highly powerful gun. We were thinking about how to endure getting out this hostage situation; someone called the police and the squad to come out to assist with the negotiation, to get me and my daughter out safely, and to notify my family. Thank God! Everything turned out well and blessed!

I’m a faith leader and an activist and advocate against gun violence and domestic violence. I’m a community activist as well, and I don’t tolerate any type of violence in our neighborhood. I’m a strong Survivor Fellow with Moms Demand Action and Everytown!

Aubrey Williams

I began selling drugs as a freshman in high school. I was a talented athlete and gifted academically, yet I lacked wisdom and a healthy vision for myself. Additionally, like most inner city Black kids, I had some other voids to fill as well. Money seemed to be a quick fix for all of my problems.

I wound up getting kicked out of every high school I attended—five total. I was released from juvenile detention on my 18th birthday, and I was shot only a few months later over a money-related altercation. I lost a gallon and a half of blood, and I almost lost my life.

I took heed to the warning and second chance God had given me by changing my life. I got my GED and enrolled in community college, graduating with a 3.5 GPA. I then went on to Morehouse College to earn a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in African American Studies, graduating cum laude!

My personal mission has been and still is instilling the hope into urban Black males that we can be far more than just drug dealers, gangsters and destroyers of our community. We are builders, thinkers, scientists, doctors and anything else we choose to be. I seek to motivate others!