Metro Atlanta teacher says youth music program provides solution to violence

A weekend shooting that killed a 12-year-old boy and injured five other young people near Atlantic Station has prompted new conversations about how to stop the violence happening among Atlanta’s youth. One metro Atlanta teacher said his non-profit aims to do just that.

"I feel like it’s getting to a point where we have to do something," James Weaver IV said in an interview Monday.

As a Chicago native, Weaver told FOX 5 Atlanta he was no stranger to the negative effects gun violence can have on the community and the young people in it.

"I’ve lost friends, I’ve lost family and things like that to gun violence at young ages," he explained.

Mother of murdered 12-year-old Zyion Charles cries as she speaks in front of Atlanta City Council.

A metro Atlanta family is now dealing with that same loss after Atlanta police say a dispute between a group of young people lead to gunfire on Market Street Saturday—claiming the life of a 12-year-old Zyion Charles.

"That situation was heartbreaking and unfortunately there are so many stories like that," Weaver stated.

During a press conference, city leaders called on parents to step up, after parents of several of the young people involved admitted to not knowing where their kids were.


Weaver, a Gym teacher at The Kindezi West Charter School in Atlanta, said the shooting is just another reminder of why he started the Southside Soul Youth Empowerment Program.

The program gives kids an opportunity to explore career paths in music. Students who participated in the program this past summer got to write, produce, and create original music at a recording studio.

James Weaver IV prays with the student participants in his metro Atlanta non-profit, Southside Soul Youth Empowerment Program. (FOX 5 Atlanta)

"I’ve been that kid before you know just witnessing everything around them and the gun violence and the temptation to do what everybody else does," Weaver said. "You don’t even have to be an artist. I also teach my kids about lights and stage design—other things that are real jobs—graphic design. All of that stuff," he went on.

Weaver said his belief is that there’s power in positive outlets that allow students to express themselves and talk about what they’re dealing with.

"Ultimately I just want to put those opportunities in front of the kids. That pretty much is what fuels my fire to want to go out and help these youths," he told FOX 5.

Though it’s just one solution to a complex issue, Weaver said he’s hoping to expand after a successful first summer program with a smaller group of kids.

The investigation into that shooting is ongoing. If you’re interested in learning more about Weaver and his non-profit, Southside Soul Youth Empowerment Program, you can click here.