Zy’mir Blythe comes from a neighborhood heavily affected by gun violence, where deaths and are commonplace - on the streets, and even in schools.
Despite the violence around him, Zy’mir believes in the importance of staying on the right path. He is driven to pursue his aspirations - after graduating high school, he plans on attending college and eventually going into law enforcement. He advises younger people in his shoes to stay focused on getting their education and setting goals for themselves.
Will I Be Next?
“I grew up around a lot of violence. I’m just trying to stay on the right path and not get thrown to the streets … Seeing people get killed around me, especially close friends - that makes me go harder every day. I lost a lot of them, it was crazy. When people die, I was not the same … because you get used to it.
“Every day, or every other day, you hear that someone got shot, or at night you hear gunshots. Gunfire is always around our neighborhood … If something happens in school, gun violence can [result from it] … It can just be a fight, and then turn into a shooting.
“A while ago, one of my friends was killed in the park by accident. One of my other friends was playing with a gun, and he killed him.
“It’s scary - you think, will [I] be next, or something like that. So I just stay out of the way and stay in the books … Sometimes you want to hang out in the streets, do stuff you’re not supposed to do. But I know I have a goal - I’m trying to make it out of the hood.”
“At funerals, I see [my friends] experiencing the same pain that I’m going through. I guess they feel the same as I do.
“I’m so used to going to funerals, it’s crazy. You go to a funeral, you see the same people. Everyone is coming together and we’re trying to stop [the violence] but we can’t. At the funeral, everyone is crying, because we are losing young people left and right.”
The Right Track
“[Friends] keep me on the right track as far as taking me out, doing different things, taking me out of the neighborhood. They take me away from it and tell me … that I don't have to be like everybody else … Stay in school, stay out of the streets. Find some activity or extracurricular program that can keep you focused, and away from the streets. Don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke weed, or drink, or do anything like that. [My advice is] basically stay on the straight and narrow path.”
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December 2015 | Interview and Portraits by Chelsea Alexander-Taylor | Text by Janne Hu