“Guns Down, Books Up” group inspires city kids

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– We all know we don’t like hearing crime stories that happen across our state,especially when it involves youths.  Well one man is on a mission to reach out to young inner city kids and replace violent weapons with books.

It is crime scenes like these that inspired Raymond Wallace of New Haven to create the grassroots’ organization “Guns down, Books up” four years ago.

In many case the assailants and the victims are young black men. Wallace’s group is trying to prevent others from straying down the same bad path.

“There are some awesome kids out here. They are so intelligent and so driven, like you said they’re stereotyped a lot. Maybe because of way they dress or what they listen to that doesn’t mean nothing, that doesn’t define who they are,” said Wallace.

Raymond Wallace
Raymond Wallace

Wallace who grew up on the tough streets of Camden, New Jersey says says he can relate to the struggles of young men of color growing up in the Hill section of New Haven.

“I never ran with a gang, but I did some bad stuff. I thank God for opening my eyes honestly and said I have a mission I have something bigger for you to do,” said Wallace.

To help boys and girls realize their full potential there are mentoring workshops and a hot meal program for the elderly where youngsters serve the food but in return get valuable guidance from seniors in the community. The focus is on education and taking control of your life.

“I tell these guys, you have to dig for what you want, you can’t just sit back. There’s plenty do better for our city and better for ourselves,” said Wallace.

Guns down, books’ up also sponsors a free basketball league, other recreational activities and a summer music festival all made possible through private donations, according to Wallace.

“It’s about trying to save a race, trying to save a whole bunch of youth out there who are lost. There is a way out, because i found my way out,” said Wallace.

And Wallace says he’s already seen success stories kids on the high school honor roll and in college setting an example for the next generation. Wallace says New Haven is the first chapter of ‘Guns Down, Books Up’. He says he hopes to bring the concept to other communities in the years ahead.

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