August 10, 2020
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A New Orleans jazz musician launches a trumpets-for-guns exchange in his city

Shamarr Allen created Trumpet is My Weapon to address gun violence in his city—and inspire a new generation of musicians.

Photo via Unsplash/Ernesto Carrazana

Musician Shamarr Allen has a proposition for kids in New Orleans: You can have a free trumpet, but you have to ditch the gun.

The idea was inspired by the tragic shooting and death of 9-year-old Devante Bryant in the city’s Seventh Ward on July 13. Allen responded with an Instagram post to make his offer.

Allen, is a New Orleans native, growing up in the Lower Ninth Ward. For him, playing music in the French Quarter as a young man was a way to earn money as well as express himself—and that led to a career in music that took him around the world.

“What saved me and redirected my path was a trumpet, the music, and culture of the city that it connected me with,” he wrote.

Now, he wants to offer that same opportunity to kids today.

“I know they aren’t bad kids and I know they want help,” Allen told WWLTV. “I know they want to do better so if I have a way to help I’m going to do that.”

The program, now called Trumpet is My Weapon, was developed further with the help of Mayor LaToya Cantrell and New Orleans police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson. Young people are able to hand over weapons to Allen, which he then gives to the New Orleans Police Department to be dismantled, without any questions asked.

“I wanted to build a relationship and trust with the kids so that they wouldn’t have to worry about getting in any trouble,” he told NPR.

Along with the trumpet, kids will receive free virtual music lessons from local musicians who have volunteered their time.

Since beginning in July, people have reached out to donate more instruments and to provide more music supplies to New Orleans’ youth. According to Allen’s Go Fund Me, the program has raised over $40,000. The musician is also offering merchandise on his website to raise funds for Trumpet is My Weapon.

“The trumpet became a weapon that really saved my life, so I figured it may be able to have the same impact for another young person from New Orleans,” Allen wrote on the GoFundMe website. “With a communal effort we can make a difference in the lives of others. Even one life saved is a step in the right direction.”

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the Deputy Editor of The Renewal Project.