The Continued Legacy of Brothers Against Guns


My brother was murdered on Easter Sunday, 1995.

I had come from a certain lifestyle: ex gang member, ex drug dealer, had been to the penitentiary. After my brother was killed, all my homeboys were ready to retaliate. But my mother begged me not to seek revenge. She said look, I lost one son, I can’t lose another.

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That changed my life. I decided not to retaliate and instead do something positive. A week later, right after I buried my brother, I started Brothers Against Guns.

I don’t want anyone to think that my life was all negative before my brother’s death. For example, back when I was a teenager, I was one of the first members of the Omega Boys Club, which is now called Alive & Free. Seeing the impact that the Omega Boys Club had primed me for what I wanted to do with Brothers Against Guns. From the beginning, we offered school site mentoring programs, taught classes in juvenile hall, ran programs in the school district, and had an afterschool program in the community.

Thinking back to that very first year of the school site mentoring program, we only had five kids that graduated from high school. But by 2000, we had approximately 250 kids graduate. They responded because we were from their communities and we gave them the truth of what could happen if they didn’t turn towards a positive life.

Then there was the first successful gun buy back campaign in San Francisco. That was ‘96 when violence was very heavy in San Francisco. We also protested a gun show at the Cow Palace that brought Kamala Harris out to support us, and put together a program that hired 60 African-American men and put them to work with city jobs. To this day, 47 still work for the city and county.

Brothers Against Guns did all of this because we knew it wasn’t just about giving someone a job. It’s also about wrap-around services. It’s about mental health, jobs, housing, education, violence prevention, all of the things that allow a person to be successful by providing a stable base they can grow from.

These are the things that can’t be denied in terms of what we did and contributed to San Francisco, and we’re still active, still in the communities, still in schools and juvenile halls, still pushing forward with the legacy of non-violence.

We’re about giving back to the community, and that’s where SFEG and Brothers Against Guns come together. SFEG gives me a platform to contribute financially to families that are in need, and be able to help others who want to do some good in the community.

SFEG and Brothers Against Guns share a struggle. We know what it’s like to try to meet the needs of families in our communities and never have the resources to fully do so. So we’re always going to give back—that’s not ever going to change.

Shawn M. Richard