Shamarr Allen ran out of trumpets in two weeks. Now, he started a fundraiser so more kids can participate in 'Trumpet Is My Weapon,' a gun-for-trumpet exchange program.
Shamarr Allen is a musician based in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the lead vocalist and trumpeter of his band Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs and has influences in jazz, hip-hop, rock, funk rhythms, blues, and country. As someone who grew up in the city, hailing from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, he knows how bad gun violence can get and how early it affects young kids. Therefore, when he found a bunch of trumpets just lying around in his house, he decided that he would run an exchange program of sorts. Taking to social media, he announced that he would gift a trumpet to every kid who gives him their gun in exchange.
He stated in a post on Instagram, "To all youth in New Orleans, bring me a gun and I'll give you a trumpet. No questions asked. I'm doing this until I run out of trumpets." If a child was interested, all they had to do was send him a direct message on the social media platform. He planned to turn over any guns he received to the police. Ultimately, his little gun-for-trumpet exchange program, which he calls Trumpet Is My Weapon, was actually quite successful. So far, he has collected a total of four guns in two weeks and handed them over to his local police station. In an interview with NPR, he revealed what motivated him to initiate the program.
The trumpeter had learned of Devante Bryant, a nine-year-old boy who was fatally shot in front of his home in Seventh Ward. "I have a nine-year-old son, so for me, it just hit me different," he said. "I had some trumpets lying around, and I know for me, the trumpet saved me." When the musician decided to start the exchange program, he wanted to make sure that the kids who approached him felt safe, so he got in touch with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who connected him to Shaun Ferguson, the chief of police. He told the chief that the police could not ask him where he got the guns from because he didn't want to ask the kids any questions either. The chief agreed.
Allen explained, "I wanted to build a relationship and trust with the kids so that they wouldn't have to worry about getting in any trouble. I said [to Ferguson], 'Listen, I have a different connection with these kids because I grew up like them, I know what they're going through. They aren't bad kids, they're just dealt into bad circumstances.'" The police just wanted the guns off of the city's streets. From his very first exchange, a young girl, he knew he was changing lives. He shared, "I would never suspect that she would have [a gun]. And she was the most excited about getting [a trumpet]." In addition to the trumpet, he gave her contact information of local musicians who have volunteered to give the kids free music lessons. For Allen, his exchange program is a way to encourage children to find something they are passionate about.
"People don't understand that these kids are trying and wanting to do other things but there's just nothing for them to do," the musician said. "The trumpet was the first thing that showed me, 'Oh I really don't have to be here. It's really a whole other world out here.' So if I can create those little opportunities for one or two or three of them, they can actually bring that back to their neighborhood and do it all over again." Allen exchanged all the trumpets he had but wanted to do more as he knew more kids wanted to participate in the exchange program. He thus started an online fundraiser and was able to raise more than $26,000 for music supplies in just a week. Some folks even donated instruments. He hopes music will continue to have a transformative on these children's lives as it has in his.