Increasing the Peace in Oakland: D-Real Gangs Up on Gun Violence Through Dance

Photo: (MTV)

Photo: (MTV)

In order to raise awareness about gun violence in our country, MTV recently partnered with rapper Snoop Lion and Jewelry For A Cause to create limited edition MTV x Caliber bracelets. The bracelets, which feature the unique serial number of an illegal fire arm, will help fund buyback amnesty programs in Newark, New Jersey. MTV is committed to raising awareness about gun violence, which is why MTV Act is launching Increase The Peace, a new series celebrating young people who are finding creative ways to reduce gun violence and increase the peace in their communities.

If you’ve been following “World of Jenks” this season, you probably recognize the first young person profiled for our series. D-Real Carter watched as gun violence tore apart his hometown of Oakland, California. Once involved in gangs himself, Carter vowed to leave that life behind after his brother’s death.

We spoke to D-Real to find out how he’s using peaceful methods to fight gun violence and what he hopes for the city of Oakland. Check out the interview below!

ACT: How do you think we should act to reduce gun violence?

D-REAL: I feel like when you fight back it in a violent way, you’re attacking the problem. If you treat it like a math equation and put pencil and paper to it, you’ll solve it with all of the details you need — instead of using a calculator, which attacks the problem but doesn’t figure out how to break it down and actually solve it. It just attacks it to get rid of it.

ACT: You turned to dancing to have a creative outlet. Why do you think that’s important for kids who are thinking about joining a gang or getting involved with guns?

D-REAL: Once you create an outlet for yourself or you give yourself the chance to see that you have outlets, it’s more you can do. You’re limited when you get in a gang: You take orders, you gotta prove yourself over and over again. And in a way, you’re never enough; with or without you, they’ll move forward. But when you give yourself the option to be a great dancer or great rapper or great basketball player or a great lawyer or a great doctor, you create something that you can actually physically call your own. When you have a surgeon, a bunch of them went to Princeton or Harvard or Yale, but at the same time you’ll have one that’s a world-renowned surgeon for how he works. It’s his work ethic that made him great — it’s not because some of them came from poverty of some of them came from a privileged background. You need to have an outlet at your disposal. When you’re in a gang, it’s not at your disposal. It’s not at your will — it’s someone else’s will, it’s someone else’s way, it’s someone else’s time frame. If you have an outlet in other things that’s tangible for you to reach for, it’s kind of a better outcome as opposed to a gang.

ACT: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to leave gang life behind? 

D-REAL: You know in different areas and different places and different gangs, there are different sanctions and rules and things like that. But when you stand up for what you believe in, the people around you that you’re closest to, they’ll nine times out of 10 give you the chance to go after what you really believe in. No one wants a weak link, so if you don’t believe in the gang anymore, why would we hold on to you? Or, if you don’t believe in that lifestyle, why would we hold on to you? Nine times out of 10, you can’t be a better asset to the gang when you’re trying to stop gun violence. But at the same time, you can be a better asset to yourself and anybody else around you. It’s up to you as a man or a woman to be clear about what you want to do. Once you accept yourself, everyone else can accept that.

ACT: Oakland is your home. What is your hope for the city? 

D-REAL: I really hope that everyone in the community can see that the way that everyone is fighting gun violence now hasn’t solved the problem and hasn’t gotten us anything but more casualties and more homicides and more deaths and more retaliation. I would hope that they would see that there’s another way to go about it as opposed to just attacking it at the head and thinking you’re going to stop the problem. Nine times out of 10, monsters just grow another head and keep coming. You have to go piece by piece to understand what you need to break it down. I hope that Oakland will open their eyes to see the bigger problem: The problem is that regardless of how you look at it, authority’s retaliation or community retaliation is being done by both sides. We all need to come together and figure out a way to solve the problem instead of attacking it. Hopefully I see my city opening their eyes and doing everything I’m doing. Hopefully I get to be the voice for the young people so they can see that everybody here isn’t just nonchalant about the fact that we have a violent city.

ACT: How can other young people address gun violence in their areas? 

D-REAL: They can really just not help fight gun violence by not being a part of it. And by helping people around them find outlets, and when they find an outlet, don’t keep it to themselves. Be more open to the fact of sharing it. I’m going into schools to talk to younger kids to get their minds open to that, to actually not be exposed to that, to not wanting to be around it as opposed to everyone wanting to see it, to be around it, to hear about it. I want to make it where kids don’t really think of it as the norm. It’s odd for someone to be around you, talking about “I’m going to do this” or “I’m going to do that,” as opposed to kids thinking it’s normal to hear someone say they’re going to shoot someone. Where I come from it’s very normal to hear that and deal with that. You should be ashamed of yourself when you’ve got little kids will to die as opposed to graduating middle school.

ACT: As we all know, you’re one of the three stars of “World of Jenks” this season. What’s been the response been for you and your message now that you’re on a national TV show?

D-REAL: Honestly, it’s been great. People around the world are opening their eyes to the fact that we do need peace. I received an award from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association in October. I will officially be starting a non-profit, so it’s opened a lot of eyes for people and it’s helped me understand that I do have a gift to talk and to show people and demonstrate these acts of kindness and acts of peace and they can follow. And it gave people a lot of hope to understand that you don’t have to be one way your whole life. You can change; it takes time. It’s not something you can do overnight. A lot of people have accepted the fact that there is somebody that wants peace, there is somebody who wants peace for the young kids in Oakland and the young kids around the world. It’s opened so many doors and enlightened so many people. The response that I’ve been getting is so great and the response that I believe that everyone on the show is getting is so great. People in Oakland, I mean, I’ve known so many people to care about people with autism and cancer. People walk up to me like, “I have a nephew with autism,” and I actually have a little cousin with autism, so to see that story is kind of bringing me to tears because I have a little cousin who is 10 years old and she has autism. She is very smart and goes to school and everything. This has opened the eyes of so many people. It’s making a tremendous difference in the world.

Increase The Peace is an ongoing series dedicated to celebrating young people who are coming up with creative ways to fight gun violence. For more on the series and the MTVxCaliber efforts, visit Increase The Peace.

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