No longer ‘brainwashed’ into violence, Richmond man sets sights on prevention

No longer 'brainwashed' into violence, Richmond man sets sights on prevention
Marcus Byrd-Ray Sr., 28, of Richmond (right) is launching a nonprofit and upcoming backpack and school supplies giveaway as part of a violence prevention effort.

Marcus Byrd-Ray Sr. says he used to perpetuate gun violence in Richmond. But after joining Richmond Ceasefire and other violence prevention groups, the 28-year-old Richmond man said his life and trajectory changed entirely.

“I was brainwashed before, thinking that [violence] was for a good cause,” said Byrd-Ray. “Now I want everyone to know that there’s more than the block.”

Today, the De Anza High graduate, college student and father of five is paying his life-changing influences forward by embarking on a violence prevention nonprofit, Change4FiveHundred.

On Aug. 19, Change4FiveHundred, which aims to mentor at-risk youth, will host its first event in partnership with Richmond’s Ceasefire: the First Annual BBQ/Backpack Giveaway at Shields Reid Community Center.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the event aims to give away at least 500 backpacks with school supplies to disadvantaged children.

“It will be a time of fun and fellowship,” he said.

Byrd-Ray says education will play a big factor in the type of work his nonprofit offers local youth.

“My past lifestyle only contributed to the nuances within Richmond,” he said. “With the recent opportunities and the pursuit of a college education, I am now focusing on solutions to help others whose lives are also conflicted by the deadly temptations easily accessible in Richmond.”

To make his first school supplies giveaway a success, Byrd-Ray has been reaching out to the community for assistance. He launched a fundraiser asking for donations of backpacks and supplies. Any monetary donations will be used to purchase backpack and supplies, he added.

“Your contributions will help empower our youth, and provide them with the materials and hope to succeed academically and socially,” Byrd-Ray said. “Thank you kindly for your consideration and time.”