Hip hop manager Blue Williams has helped the careers of some of today’s biggest stars. Now he wants to help New York City's youth get on the right track with his Guns for Greatness iniative.
The program, which has just been given the go ahead by the NYPD, aims to revolutionize the gun buyback model by adding a mentorship component to help guide its participants down a path to which they might not have otherwise had access. Blue spoke to BET.com about what inspired Guns for Greatness and why it was important for him to help re-brand the relationship between guns and hip hop.
"Seeing young men and women have to take this plea [deal] or become a felon and serve jail time got me to thinking; wouldn't it be better if they could make a choice before it got to that point to change the path that their life might be heading in?" recalls Blue, who also drew inspiration from personal tragedy when his partner and friend, Chris Lighty, killed himself last year with a gun.
Having managed some of the most celebrated names in hip hop like OutKast, Nas and Cee-Lo, Blue knows firsthand that the relationship between hip hop and the NYPD has been rocky since before A$AP was even born, but with the support of Commissioner Raymond Kelly, he hopes to change that.
"[The NYPD has] been supportive and have tried to create as much of a clear path for me to make this happen as we would've expected," Blue said, emphasizing that, "I really felt like it was time for hip hop to get on the good side of the news cycle."
Guns for Greatness does more than just give money, it offers new direction and opportunity. "NYPD already has this gun buyback program where you bring in a gun and you get $200 and that's it. My goal was to take that component and add a mentorship component to it," Blue noted.
He went on to explain the step-by-step process of the program, saying, "I try to partner [the participants] up with a specific mentor in whatever it is that they want to be because that will help keep them engaged. As far as the tickets, if they do the necessary work, whatever it is, I want to reward them with tickets to concerts or events or maybe headphones, things of that nature."
Guns for Greatness will start out in New York but Blue hopes to take it national, and he also hopes that other stars like Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys will get on board as well.
Participants need not worry about being traced back to guns brought in, as the program is anonymous.
With Guns for Greatness, Blue hopes to spark a change that will propel future generations to improve their community. Even if the program falls short of any expectations, Blue knows that he has already won.
"If I get one gun off the street, then it's a success because for every one gun I take off the street, I've probably saved two lives: I saved someone who might've been the victim of that gun and I saved someone who might've used that gun that could've ended up in jail or dead themselves."
This past weekend, the first Guns for Greatness event snagged more than 100 firearms off the streets of New York.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Family Tree Entertainment)