Jahlil Jackson

When I was 12 something happened that made me think buying a gun wasn't the worst idea. I thought it could give me what I would like to call, a twisted peace of mind.

One morning I was on my way to the bus stop when I heard gunshots. I looked back and saw no one. Then out of nowhere I spotted a guy running towards me, wearing a grey sweat suit with a gun in his hand. I took off in the opposite direction. As I was running I saw someone on the ground, across the street. It was my teenage cousin, lying in a pool of his own blood.

Growing up in West Oakland, I've witnessed robberies, drug deals and even people being paid to commit murder. It wasn't unusual to see my older cousins load their guns before going to the corner store to buy some eggs and milk. Wearing a gun seemed as essential as wearing a pair of boxers. There have been plenty of times when I've had the money and the right connections to purchase one.

But each time, at the last minute, I stop and think to myself, "Do I honestly need a gun?"

Then I'd buy a pair of shoes instead.

My friends ask me things like, "Why don't you tote? You too scared to get a hammer?" and quite frankly the answer is yes. I'm scared of losing my freedom. I'm scared of the effect the gun could have on my personality. And I'm scared of the thought of ending a person's life.  

Thankfully my grandparents and I relocated from West Oakland to a much calmer neighborhood. For the first time I was free to think more about music, sports and… shoes, without those thoughts being drowned out by violence.  
Every now and then I still find myself in a potentially threatening situation, and I start to think about getting a gun. But then I remember buying a piece would only ruin the peace I already have.

With a Perspective, I'm Jahlil Jackson

Jahlil Jackson is 17 years old and lives in Oakland. His commentary was produced by Youth Radio.

  • Mr. Mirth

    Live long and well, Master Jackson – without packing!

  • deborah

    What a brave, bright & thoughtful young man. I’m so glad to hear your family moved into a safer neighborhood. May you go on to do wonderful things.

  • Jeanettt

    Thank you so much for your awesome statement! It was great to hear such a smart and thoughtful perspective on managing the difficult issues you and so many others know so well. I really appreciate your taking the time and effort to put this out there for the rest of us to hear. Again, thank you!

  • jessica

    Bravo Mr. Jackson. The world needs more young people like you! I hope you continue to share your perspective with those around you.

  • Tripp

    Jahlil, I highly respect your insight, courage and solid thinking, and your willingness to express your fears as well as hopes. You have brought a clear and direct compass about the gun situation to your peers, your community and our society, and to me. Your last statement about a piece ruining your peace strikes my gut, and I stand with you arm in arm. As a black man now living in the country I am well aware of horrible violence that can happen anywhere. Although I suspect many in my rural community are armed, I choose to not be. Your situation has been much more tenuous and threatening, yet you see the way forward. We all deserve a comfortable and peaceful freedom from firearms without worry of personal violation. Thank you for your wisdom.

  • Sarah

    this incredible teenager has a more informed perspective on this subject than most adults i know. beautifully said!

  • Pamela

    I listen to perspectives almost every morning and this is probably the most moving one I’ve ever heard. The courage and wisdom that Jahlil displays is striking, thank you for being such a strong example for others.

  • dgirlinpink

    Jahlil I was so impressed with your perspective this morning! Thank you so much for your well written and moving piece i’m sharing on my facebook opage so others can hear. You have a great future ahead of you!

  • Cara G.

    I wanted to tell you I’m really impressed with your courage. It takes strength to choose hope over fear, especially when one’s surroundings may feel a little perilous. But to envision a peaceful world – …and then to live with one’s actions toward that vision…it really does take courage. I’m glad to know there’s someone like you speaking out. Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated so well….positive change starts with an action toward a vision…it’s the only way we can change our world. I’m grateful to you. And I hope you find a rockin’ pair of new shoes! : )

  • Elaine

    A beautifully written and recited perspective from a brave young man. Well done.

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