‘Lay Down Your Guns’ Backstory (part 1) – Youth Caught in Crossfire
When my family came back to the U.S. from Israel over ten years ago, we settled in the Bay Area of California. At that time, Richmond and Oakland were leading the country as two of the most violent cities in America to live in. So, as strange as it sounds, I went through a period of ‘gun violence culture shock.’ You see, I had lived in Israel a number of years during a time of peace, where life was pretty simple.
Back then, kids in Israel could run and play carefree around the neighborhood without fear. And although this privilege was abused by some (i.e. ‘Where is that child’s mama?’), it was no small matter that you as a parent never had to worry about someone snatching your child off the street – or just as terrifying – your baby getting intentionally murdered or caught in the crossfire of gang or street violence.
So, fast forward Babylon, headlines here were filled with the horror of young black and brown faces whose young lives were being snuffed out in showers of gunfire, caught in the crossfire of bloody gang terrorism or outright assassinated. It was horrifying! And As families mourned their children, their grief was often compounded by a code of silence in the community that deadlocked any real convictions.
This was the bloody landscape that gave birth to the lyrics of the original version of ‘Lay Down Your Guns.’
Lay Down Your Guns – Verse One:
“Let the innocent (man’s soul) go free
Blessed be the man of peace
Cursed be the wicked, prey upon the weak
Let all this war and fighting cease”
The first line of the song says, ‘Let the innocent go free.’ Who are the innocent? All unarmed civilians are innocent. Yet, our youth are the most vulnerable and innocent of all. It is our job to protect them, yet they are paying the worst price for this country’s insatiable lust for guns.
The precious little face of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine is hard to forget. This sweet little girl, lovingly called ‘Ladybug’ by her family, was killed in 2013 during a sleepover at a friend’s house when a gang member rang the doorbell and riddled the apartment front door with gunfire as she walked toward it. Although her killers have been caught and sentenced, the mother and family will live with this trauma forever.
Sadly, a shocking 21 children under the age of 17 were caught in crossfire and lost their lives to gun violence in Oakland to from 2011 to 2013. During this time, Lay Down Your Guns was written. Insanly, some of these 21 children were literally babies.
In 2011, 23-month-old Hiram Lawrence Jr. was shot in the head by a stray bullet while sitting in a car with his father during the filming of a rap video. In that same year, 3-year-old Carlos Nava was killed in a drive by shooting, while his mother pushed him in a stroller on a two-block walk home on International Boulevard from the store.
If the facts and faces of these children does not stir your emotions, then you may not have a pulse at all. But we need to do more than just feel the depth of this tragedy, we must do something NOW! Lay down your weapons and push for gun control laws that make sense. The article ‘What can I do about Gun Control,’ from The Cut will give you some solid answers on how you can become active for this important crucial cause – gun control.
Here’s the first version of the song Lay Down Your Guns over the Wailer’s ‘Lively Up Yourself’ Riddim, from Reggae Gyal’s International Women’s Day Concert at Pier 23 in San Francisco feat. Queen Makedah and the Sheba Warriors Band:
Lay Down Your Guns only begins to channel the collective emotional trauma of the mothers and fathers, the youth, and the communities suffering from this plague, who are crying out to mankind, ‘Lay down your guns!’ My prayer is that this song will inspire you and many to do just that, put down your weapons and work for peace.
You can also support my new album. A remix of ‘Lay Down Your Guns’ is one of the final songs to be recorded for the ‘Peace Process’ album to finally be released in Spring of 2019. If you’d like to contribute to the album, visit the Peace Process Go Fund Me page.
Make sure you sign up for for Queen Makedah’s mailing list to keep up with the latest music news, blogs, videos, live performances and more at www.queenmakedah.com.
‘Caught in the Crossfire,’ Mercury News, 08/07/2013.