Music Video Puts the Spotlight on Gang Violence in Kern

October 5, 2016 /

South Kern Sol, Question and Answer, Staff

Ed. Note: When Danny Morrison launched a music video last month on social media featuring a handful of local artists and musicians, Kern County was on track to hit a record number of homicides for the year. Morrison’s video, which took close to six months to produce, focuses on the continued violence, with a message of uplift and healing for those communities most affected. The video first premiered at the #howlong Healing Summit on Sept. 15 at the Fox Theatre. It has since garnered some 60,000 views and has been featured in local print media and broadcast stations. South Kern Sol spoke with Morrison about the video and what inspired him to make it.

What inspired you to make this video?

Kern County is on pace to eclipse the 100-homicide mark for the first time in our history, a number that I thought could never be possible. And I wasn’t going to sit back and do nothing about it. So I came up with an idea…

Back in 1989, fights were running rampant at rap concerts all over the country. Hip-Hop was riding on a fast wave of popularity and becoming more mobile, monetized and mainstream by the second. To push back against the negative rap narrative dominating the news media at the time, the most high profile rappers on Earth came together to create a song and video entitled, “Self Destruction.” It was a “We Are The World”-esque project that would create awareness for young people committing crimes at rap concerts and in rough neighborhoods as a whole.

So here’s what I did… I grabbed the 12 most high profile MC’s in Bakersfield… got a talented music producer… used all original music and verses… created a darker, more aggressive song called “Self Destruction 2.0…” grabbed Brittany Tanner to sing the hook… grabbed a collection of St. John’s Choir members to sing background… shot video of each rapper on location in the city… chose places of significance to send the message home like a cemetery, a school, a local jail, the train tracks, a liquor store, and the blocks they grew up on… used local news clips and statistics specifically about Bakersfield… And what if I did something groundbreaking… MAKE THE LAST RAPPER ON THE SONG A LOCAL RAPPER THAT TRAGICALLY LOST HIS LIFE TO GUN VIOLENCE JUST A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO. Using raw video from his life posthumously to add emotion to the message?

So I did it.

And it’s magical.

It’s blessed.

And second to the birth of my children, the BEST thing I have ever done.

What’s your relationship to Bakersfield?

Bakersfield is my hometown, the place of my birth. And I love my city. I grew up on Cheatham & Cottonwood Road, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in B-Town. That’s why watching the further deterioration of the gang culture and its effect on the youth here breaks my heart. Seemingly every night when I turn on the local news, there is a young man that has been shot or stabbed to death within the city limits. Sad. What’s even sadder is that it appears as though the community has grown numb to the killings. I guess it’s commonplace to start to lack empathy when a community problem rears its ugly head far too often.

What kind of impact do you think your video will have?

I made the video to create awareness for the youth, to add positivity to the local music scene, and most importantly … to shake up a gang culture in a city that has lost its way. I believe this video will change AND save lives. I will be showing this video to people (young and old) at facilities all over Kern County to drive the message home even further. Why? Because God instructed me to create this project. And he will see it through. I did it for my city. I did it for the youth. I did it for my God. And I’m blessed to be able to have the opportunity to bring it to the masses. FOR THE TOWN.

Why do think gang violence persists in Bakersfield and elsewhere?

Gangs are becoming surrogate families for a lot of young people and violence and murders are a part of those families. We have to get a stranglehold on what’s happening or things will continue to deteriorate.

Do you feel that the issue of gangs and violence is a product of structural racism?

Yes and no. Yes, I believe systemic racism is a real thing that deserves to be looked at even further. Generational poverty doesn’t continue by accident. There are barriers in place in America that thwart young people of color from reaching their fullest potential. However, I also believe that men stepping up to the plate and raising our sons will alleviate a lot of our issues. I’m not someone that believes that the answers lie in other people’s hands. I believe that change comes from two sources on most occasions… GOD AND SELF.

The film has prompted folks to donate money. How will those funds be used?

The profits made from the donations to this movement will fund the Project D.Y.N.A.M.O. Mentoring Program, the New Life Residential & Training Center Transitional Facility and start college funds for the children of Daniel “Rezzo” Watkins, the last rapper in the video who lost his life to gun violence two years ago.

What can people do to help?

Watch the video. Share the video. Tell people about the video. And DONATE. Please. We can’t change people’s lives without the resources to do so.