Gun violence is tearing apart our communities, debilitating our schools, and leaving our hearts shattered. I know it because not only do I see it when I work in schools and in impoverished communities, but I also lost my brother to gun violence. Eight years ago on a cold somber evening, January 12th my brother was shot and left to die. His young life was taken too soon. Jason was only 22 years old with so much ahead of him.
The events that transpired from his death changed the course of many lives. Lots of grief, pain, sadness, and depression occurred in the years to follow. With unanswered questions and a murder case unsolved, as a family we drowned in the disbelief and sorrow. Jason was loved by so many and was adored by the crowds. We could not accept or understand. Our souls surrendered to the unknown and the dust settled.
Death is just so full. My pain is real, the wounds have healed, but on this day I am filled with sadness. I let myself be sad, I cry, and I might listen to cheesy music that reminds me of him, dance it out, and drink some wine. I let myself feel, and for a day I stop the busyness, the hustle, the “go go” attitude, and I sit with my sadness. It is ok, we are allowed to slow down and feel the pain. This pain is real and helps us find solace and reflect on our own lives.
I would do anything to see him again, just a hug, a smile, a conversation, or a moment. Hearing his voice, watching him bounce around so excited about life, and having him make me laugh until I cried are things I miss dearly. I would do anything to have one last conversation with Jason. Sadly, my wishes will not be fulfilled.
Losing my younger brother to violence changed the course of my life. With any storm comes light and hope. When my storm settled, I took all my anger, grief, pain and dumped it into my business. Bulldog Solution focused on anti-bullying and anti-violence programs. My mission became to help youth, connect with underprivileged children, teens in pain, and to stop someone else from pulling the trigger. Over the years, I have sat with teens and cried with them, we have shared such a deep connection, we get each other. We know the power of loss. Every time I have had the opportunity to be real, to be raw, to be open with a child, I thanked my brother. My story is helping kids find hope. Jason’s life is giving teens a chance to talk about their experience with violence. By talking we are putting the guns down and opening doors to more love. I am filled with sadness and also grateful that such a tragedy can also save a life.
I have been to funerals, held children so tight as they sobbed. I have sat with terrified gang members (they were only kids) as they shared their crimes. I have listened to teens talk about suicide, gun violence, murder, and their pain. I have witnessed pain, and I am here to say, there is hope. If we can put our guards down for a minute, we can actually look at each other, we can share love. We need more love, we need to teach our kids about unconditional love, we need to teach them about what is right and wrong. We need to teach them to trust and believe in a better world. A world that they can create. A world where we are not terrified to go to school or to walk in our streets. A world where you don’t have to look over your shoulder. A world where we spread kindness and drop our weapons.
We can all do something, it starts by small acts of kindness. So in honor of my brother, I would love if we shared one compliment, we told someone we loved them, we say hi to a stranger, we help someone, or we pick up the phone and call an old friend today. Connection and love is how we will cease fire.
So, as Jason looks down on me from Heaven, I hope he sees how much his life has impacted so many kids, teens, and educators. I hope he stands proud knowing that he saved so many lives. He is in my heart, my soul, and my blood. Jay, I dedicate my work to you. I can’t change the past, but I can work towards a better future. I love you, and I miss you.
Kortney Peagram, Ph.D.
Bulldog Solution Inc. & Peagram Consulting
School Programs: https://bulldogsolutioninc.com
Corporate Programs: https://peagramconsulting.com
Be Brave*Be Strong*Be a Bulldog