A program in D.C. focused on keeping underserved youth away from violence has expanded to the Los Angeles area of California this year.
The program’s founder Rodney “Red” Grant started “Don’t Shoot Guns, Shoot Cameras” last year in the District and said he hopes to continue expanding it to other cities around the country, including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Miami and Atlanta.
Through the program, kids from underrepresented communities learn the fundamentals of filmmaking.
“They write the scripts, they shoot the scripts and they learn editing at the end,” Grant explained, adding that he believes it equips them with a “healthy and creative way” to express themselves and have a positive impact in their communities.
Grant himself is an entertainer and philanthropist who grew up in the District.
“I thought it would be a powerful situation to teach kids some of the things that I learned over my 31-year career in television and filmmaking,” Grant said. “I wanted to teach young kids how they can have this in their lives to keep them away from harm, negativity and hate.”
While Grant’s program launched in Inglewood, California, this year, he continues to host his program in D.C. where students are currently making a film called “Gentrified.”
The 10-minute short film examines issues around gentrification in the nation’s capital.
“I’ve learned all the parts of filmmaking,” said 17-year-old Iyanna Morgan, one of Grant’s D.C. students. “It can show even though we are young, our voice and our actions matter and they really do have an effect.”
Another D.C. student, 18-year-old Lydell Ellis, said he’s excited to participate in the program because his dream is to become an actor.
“It’s a way to express myself,” Ellis said. “If I’m having a bad day, I’ll create a character and I can release all those emotions through that character and it’s like therapy for me.”
The Hustlers Guild, a national nonprofit organization that started in D.C., partnered with Grant to help him develop the program.
“It’s been a really great honor for us to be a part of this massively impactful effort to empower young people,” said Kevin Beckford, a co-founder of The Hustlers Guild. “It provides youth with the opportunity to tell their stories in ways that are authentic and unapologetic.”