Most Friday nights, Brandon Warren would typically stay out late. However, on May 5, 2017, his instincts told him he needed to go home early.
He went to bed shortly after but woke in the middle of the night and noticed an alert on his phone: there had been a shooting on the west side of Indianapolis.
Seven hours later, Warren’s sister told him three of his classmates were involved in the shooting.
“The entire month of May was the toughest month of my life,” Warren said. “I felt lost, but toward the end, I felt motivated to start We LIVE. It was a vision from God.”
During the summer between his junior and senior year of high school, Warren decided to take what he experienced in May to fuel his efforts in preventing future violence.
On March 2, We LIVE will be hosting the 2019 March for Our LIVE Event in Indianapolis in support for universal background checks. About 5,000 people are expected to attend.
“There were nights when I was scared to turn off my light,” Warren said. “I realized that I never wanted to deal with [that] again in my life, and I saw all the pain that it was causing my other peers.”
Warren started the We LIVE Movement — which, he said, stands for “we are linked to intercept violence everywhere” and rhymes with five — with the goal of deteriorating youth violence and allowing his peers to have a voice in society.
With the help of his friends and parents, along with consent from Warren Central High School administrators, the then 17-year-old worked to unite Indianapolis through the “We LIVE Peace Walk.”
“I only wanted [to create] somewhere that the city could come together in unity,” Warren said. “There wasn’t much unity, and that was a huge part of why the violence was happening.”
To further his mission, Warren and his friends also created T-shirts to sell featuring the “Peace Walk” logo. According to the We LIVE website, there is now a selection of apparel ranging from windbreakers, T-shirts, sweatshirts, zip-ups and pullovers. There are also limited amounts of special-edition T-shirts made for each new rally and event.
With an alliance of dedicated individuals, Warren said the success of We LIVE was inevitable, but there were obstacles along the way, including finances and finding a personal balance.
“I really had to balance myself mentally. I was thinking, ‘How am I going to play sports? How am I going to be a community leader at the same time?’” Warren said. “But at the end of the day, it worked itself out in my favor.”
As his organization began having influence, Warren found himself in a variety of interviews and on the covers of newspapers around the country.
In November 2017, Warren won the National Black Caucus of State Legislators Regis F. Groff Award — an award given to students who exemplify dedication to public service and have the drive to change the course of young people’s lives everywhere. He has since won several awards and been featured in a MTV episode, “Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male Exhibit Opening with Kevin Powell” and IBE’s Classic Parade, according to the We LIVE website.
What shocked him the most, though, was seeing his face in Times Square.
“It was a true honor and blessing to see my face before thousands in one of the largest cities in the world,” Warren said. “I felt [that] it enlarged my platform to only enhance my voice.”
In Warren’s first semester of college, he was reminded that his message was still relevant after he experienced racial profiling at Indiana State University. After transferring to Ball State, he took the opportunity to spread his message.
“We live on a college campus, and violence can happen in different ways,” Warren said. “Whether it’s a mass shooting threat or someone being perpetrated by the way they look or the way they appear to someone else is still violence.”
James Jordan, freshman telecommunications major and a friend of Warren’s, said he is excited for We LIVE to expand to Ball State.
“I always knew that youth violence was a major issue in the community, but I never once thought of starting a student-led organization to oppose it,” Jordan said. “It made me look at things differently and cherish my own life more.”
Jordan, who also went to Warren Central High School, was a part of the video team when Warren originally started the We LIVE movement. On campus, Jordan said he hopes to play a more active role in video production for the organization.
“If you want to get involved in something and see it grow, this is where you need to be,” Jordan said. “You're helping put an end to one of the country's biggest problems.”
Ball State is just one step in expanding Warren’s mission, however. On March 2, Warren will present his ideas at the 2019 March for Our Lives event in Indianapolis, with hopes of further impacting Ball State and Indiana communities.
“It’s not me trying to dictate anything. It’s just me trying to start a fire with students,” Warren said. “I really want to use this university the same way I used Warren Central High School.”
Eventually, Warren said he hopes to have We LIVE chapters on college campuses across the nation and expand his talking points beyond youth violence.
“However I can use my platform, I want to be able to bring other issues to the table besides youth violence,” Warren said. “Every social injustice issue has a link somehow.”
Contact Tierra Harris with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.