Gabriel Dunham didn't hear about the death of another young black male from gunshots this week in Rock Hill on Baker Street, and say, "this is not my problem."
Dunham, 22, learned in the same Lesslie Elementary and Saluda Trail Middle and Rock Hill High classrooms as did Anthony Whitlock, 23, now dead from bullets.
He's going to rap about it. Sing about it. Pray about it. Rally about it.
"I don't want another young black man to die for nothing," Dunham said.
Never miss a local story.
Now a Christian rapper, Dunham says he once was part of the problem. The problem is the lure of the streets among so many young black men, teens or early 20s.
Dunham knows the accompanying hurt to families and clasp of handcuffs that come from the stupidity this violence brings upon so many.
"I knew what I was doing was wrong," Dunham says of his younger days.
He got in trouble just once on a weapon-and-drug charge. He got probation.
"I wasn't thinking about my future. None of these guys are. They are just living in the present, making these poor choices, and when it is all over somebody is hurt or killed and somebody else is gone off to jail. We have to do something - all of us."
Dunham's stage name is "Yung Semaj."
Semaj is short for 'Soon everyone must accept Jesus.' His music is rap and hip-hop because that is what young black men like him listen to, and it reaches them. So Saturday, Dunham will team up with others like him, at Rock Hill's Christ Deliverance Church, for a stop the violence rally organized by Rev. Alvin Murdock, the church's pastor.
"If not me to take a stand, who?" Dunham asked.
Murdockis a third generation activist in his family. He has known Anthony Whitlock's familyall his life while living in the Sunset Park neighborhood.
For years, his church was between where the gunshots took Whitlock's life and Sunset Park Elementary School, where Murdock's son attends.
Sunset Park is a predominantly black neighborhood where the few bad acts by a few people besmirches the heroic efforts of most of the people who live there, who are working, raising families and going to church just like anyone else.
"What we have to do is try and reach young people and help them before they make these dumb decisions that harm themselves and people around them," Murdock said. "We all know it starts at home. Parents have to start taking responsibility for their children, and young black men as they turn into adults have to stop this anti-social behavior. We know what the problem is. It is that simple."
It is a plain truth, Murdock knows and admits, a horrible fact, that the most common cause of death in America for young black men is homicide. It is fact that the least likely person in Rock Hill, and South Carolina, and America, to graduate from high school is a black male. It is a fact that the highest percentage of any group, in state and federal prisons, are black males.
"We have to stop it," said Murdock.
Dunham the Christian rapper knows it, Murdock the pastor knows it. We all know it. The call for parental accountability, an end to violence and to staying in school, has come from everywhere. From the highest level, President Barack Obama. From local leaders in the black community such as Rock Hill NAACP President Melvin Poole. From church pulpits and street corners and mothers and fathers and grandparents.
Out in the street, the cops are doing what they have to do: investigating crime and reports of violence and arresting violent people. Prosecutors and ultimately, judges, are doing what they must do: putting those violent people in jail. Gunshots, killings, cannot - and should not - be tolerated.
The calls to police to rid some streets in predominantly black neighborhood streets of drug dealing and violence comes right from the black community itself. They want what all people want: safety after a hard day's work.
What people such as Murdock are doing is saying plainly that the time for action is now. Murdock held a gang awareness summit in June, and his church offers etiquette classes for young men. Another group of black activists in Chester, after a rash of shootings and deaths, had a march and rally a month ago.
A stop-the-violence rally will not solve the crisis. But it is something. It is action. It will include a deejay nicknamed "Churchboy" from WPEG-FM, Power98 in Charlotte - the station that has an ear of the young black community.
"Our job is to show young people there are alternatives," Murdock said.
Alvin Murdock is doing what all of us should do every day of our lives when it comes to keeping our future out of prison or the grave - all we can.
Want to go?
Christ Deliverance Church, 145 E. White St. Rock Hill, will hold a stop the violence rally and Christian rap/hip-hop concert after its fall festival Saturday. Festival events start at 5 p.m., concert at 7 p.m. The festival and concert are free and open to the public. For details call 803-386-9127.