Former OutKast manager Michael "Blue" Williams is leading an initiative that aims to rid New York City of its illegal gun problem. The “Guns for Greatness” program encourages young people to trade in their firearms in exchange for mentorship and possible prizes, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z concert tickets.
Williams has already raised $75,000 for the program and is seeking support from NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to get the program moving. Plans are in order to launch the private-sector gun buyback program on March 23 at a Brooklyn church.
"This program aims to provide young people with an opportunity to receive guidance and inspiration from committed mentors," reads a proposal Williams wrote to Commissioner Kelly. He says that the program will enable the city’s at-risk youth "to experience possibilities other than a life surrounded by gun violence and unnecessary shootings and killing."
Williams, who made his name managing the careers of OutKast and Goodie Mob, is dedicated to using his influence in the music industry to get relevant stars involved. "Our goal is to reach out to individuals who are in my industry, in my world and who I have an association with and get their support," Williams said Monday. The 43-year-old mogul also mentioned his desire to involve Beyoncé and Jay-Z, both of whom will be performing in New York later this year.
The NYPD began an effort to buy back guns in 2008 and successfully collected 2,632 firearms off of New York streets. With public cooperation dwindling of late, Williams’ plan may help boost motivation.
Williams cited the passing of business partner Chris Lighty, who shot himself to death last August, as well as his recent gun possession arrest at LaGuardia Airport, as his motivation for starting the program. The program would focus on reaching young black and Latino men ages 16 to 36 with incentives that include gifts worth upwards of $250 in addition to mentorship.
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(Photos from left: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images, Mel Evans/AP)