Gun Violence Survivor Strikes Powerful Chord With Concert Across America

by Marcus Harrison Green

No more silence

How you feeling?

Stop the violence… start the healing

The nectar laced voice pouring through the phone is blues singer Courtney Weaver belting out the chorus of her uplifting anthem Stop the Violence, Start the Healing.

Weaver is prepping to perform the lead single from her Paper Tiger album at the Columbia City Theater on Sunday night as part of the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. More than 350 venues and 1000 musicians nationwide will participate in the live concert series in a bid to make the topic of gun violence prevention a central issue in this year’s presidential election. 

As a gun violence survivor herself, Weaver’s decision to both perform and organize Sunday’s concert came easy. In addition to the event at Columbia City Theater (from 6:00 to 9:00pm) at one of South Seattle’s oldest music venues, you can catch her performance earlier in the day at Café Racer – the site of one of the city’s most harrowing mass shooting in history. Last year more than 13,473 people were lost nationally to gun violence.

“I feel some of the gun violence prevention movement is kind of trendy. There’s an element of Ivy League twenty-somethings that see survivors as commodities. I wanted to have the Seattle concert be something that put survivors at the forefront,” says Weaver.

That the majority of the Sunday’s concerts across the country were organized at the community level is a point of pride for Weaver, who has dedicated the majority of her life to being a grass roots organizer against gun violence since being shot in the face by her then boyfriend six years ago.

She recounts the horror of running down the street from her Los Angeles home with teeth and gums spilling from the hole the 45 hollow point bullet from her boyfriend’s gun opened in her face.  In extreme demand on the festival circuit, the incident derailed a promising music career, requiring her to undergo 13 surgeries in two years.

For the next several years she battled depression and the stigma often associated with being a survivor of domestic abuse that any injury incurred was ultimately their fault.

With time and support from fellow musicians who were also survivors of gun violence, Weaver amassed enough resiliency to begin singing again.

Her music career’s second act has seen a focus around the experiences of gun violence victims, and the need for reforms in the nation and state’s gun violence policies.

“Making music that talks about it and gives it context can be beautiful,” she says, sharing that initially club promoters were wary of her booking her out of fear that the subject matter of her songs would scare of patrons.

Bookers have gradually come around to her however, as she says many venue owners have opened up to her about their own experiences with gun violence, and expressed their admiration for highlighting it in her performances.

It has also seen her take on a much larger role directly in politics. Weaver helped spearhead the successful I-594 campaign in 2014, requiring universal background checks for gun purchases in the state.  

She also founded the Survivor Voices Collective, a support group made up of artists and musicians who have used music as a transformative tool after falling victim to domestic and gun violence.

Weaver’s passion as an advocate is what first attracted Lara Lavi to her music. As a result it took Lavi, who owns the Columbia City Theater, all of a millisecond to open her venue’s doors on Sunday.

“Domestic violence is real and ongoing in homes at every economic strata. Courtney is a brilliant artist on top of her efforts and her experience as a victim of domestic violence and her efforts to raise awareness as to the lack of adequate gun control regulation to protect her,” said Lavi. “The show will be amazing, important and deeply moving. As a mother of a teenage mixed race son, I pray every day my son will be safe from a vigilante with an unregulated gun,”

In addition to Weaver acts include: Wiscon, Radio Raheem and grammy-nominated piano player Josh Rawlings, who will be playing music from Paper Tiger.

As much excitement as Sunday’s performance causes Weaver, she realizes its just one more step towards a enormous goal of reducing the scourge of gun violence in America:

Beg your pardon,

But your hearts a garden

Tell me what seed will you plant here…

She’s not done singing yet.