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Drums Up, Guns Down was designed to help stop the cycle of gun violence in our communities in Knoxville, Tennessee. The program was conceived by Obayana Ajanaku following the deaths of three students who were killed by gunfire in East Knoxville.  All three students attended Austin-East Magnet High School and their deaths happened within a three-week period. One of the students who was killed was a student of Mr. Ajanaku.


One afternoon, following the deaths, Obayana noticed the best friend of one of the deceased students, in a room by himself, playing the drums with all he had in him. He was attempting to release his emotion and pain. At that moment, the idea of Drums Up, Guns Down was birthed.  


Traditional drumming has always been a tool to help people deal with anger issues, frustration, and pain resulting from trauma. Mr. Ajanaku saw an opportunity to create a program to introduce workable alternatives to violence for youth and young adults. Mr. Ajanaku believes that through the process of learning to drum, participants will not only experience emotional healing, but will be able to express themselves, develop effective communication and problem-solving skills, and learn to work with others in a positive environment. 


It is widely observed that youth in East Knoxville, for a host of reasons largely beyond their control, have limited opportunity to be involved in positive, life enhancing, activities. The Drums Up, Guns Down program will provide such activities. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to prevent our youth from becoming either a shooter or a victim of gun violence; recognizing that, in the end, both are victims.

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