Peace is a LifeStyle: A note from Russell Simmons

Every summer, I block out my weekends to spend time in the Hamptons,
most of it with my kids. My Sundays are usually spent on the Hamptons
beach, a short distance but a long way from the Queens’ hood I grew up in.

This Sunday, I was walking on that beach when I got a phone call from
Erica Ford, the founder of “I Love My Life,” an organization that has
tirelessly worked to end the violence in my old neighborhood and the
surrounding communities. She was spending her Sunday like she almost
always does, doing something a lot more purposeful; namely consoling a
young mother, Tiffany, who had just lost her 13 year old son, Ronald, to
gun violence on Saturday morning. Erica told me that Tiffany had seen
GlobalGrind’s “He Has A Name” piece that we put up and wanted to speak
to me to “thank me for acknowledging Ronald.” She didn’t want her son to
die without anyone knowing his name.

When I heard her trembling voice, her voice barely able to say a few
words…I reached inside for a prayer of comfort. I offered words from
the Christian and yogic scriptures. Trying to console her, she cried
profusely and kept saying she “wanted to hold him now.” I was deeply
saddened and my prayers seemed inadequate as they often do. I tried to
muster up some faith in them so I could understand, let alone make her
understand “God’s will” and that “Ronald’s safe now…” But it just
didn’t sit well. She told me that her 15 year old son had been missing
since Saturday night and she was worried that he might do something
really terrible. The sounds of the ocean just stopped. The waves seemed
like they didn’t move anymore. The sun closed her eyes. I prayed even
deeper. For Tiffany. For Ronald. For Amber Stanley’s family. For the
family’s of the 56 people who were shot this weekend in Chicago. For all
of those who have lost their children to the bullet of a gun

When I described Sundays, I neglected to mention that a few Sundays do
get altered, as they are not always on the beach. Like last Sunday when
I went to my old hood in Queens, more specifically Baisley Housing
Projects, where Nicki Minaj is from. I was there to support a “peace”
march that Erica Ford and Capt. Dennis of the Peacekeepers organized.
We marched with some of the other mothers whose children left this earth
too soon along with 1000 concerned community members. We spoke with the
young people and listened to their pain and their struggles. We do not
judge, but we know that the violence in our communities is not something
we should be numb to, it’s something we can change.

Having faith in this truth, I am hosting tonight*, along with Deepak
Chopra, a dinner in the Hamptons benefiting Erica Ford’s I Love My Life
program. I hope that Erica’s life-saving work will inspire my friends
to support her even more. Because the work continues…it God’s work,
but it can remind you that… is not always a walk on the beach.