Teens use death of Braylon Murray to push for change

Supporters+of+the+Braylon+Murray+Project+march+in+memory+of+Braylon+Murray.+In+August%2C+the+Memphis+teen+was+robbed+and+murdered+by+teens+armed+with+guns%2C+a+shocking+example+of+the+gun+violence+that+has+become+prevalent+in+Memphis.

Sharika Carpenter

Supporters of the Braylon Murray Project march in memory of Braylon Murray. In August, the Memphis teen was robbed and murdered by teens armed with guns, a shocking example of the gun violence that has become prevalent in Memphis.

By Chase Pittman, White Station High School

One afternoon. One afternoon is all the time it took for an entire community to be wrecked with tragedy. Braylon Murray, a junior at Gateway Christian Academy, was only 17 when he was robbed and murdered by two armed teenagers. This unexpected loss was a tremendous blow to his family and his community. 

“Everybody that met Braylon, whether it was for one second or one month or one year, they loved Braylon.” Sharika Carpenter, Murray’s mother, said. “The whole community is hurting, people all over the world are hurting.”

Murray was an up-and-coming rapper at the time — an artist who let his experiences influence his primarily freestyle music. Despite being a highschooler, he already recorded a number of songs under the name Bray Brizzle and built a fanbase of over 100k listeners.  

“He even said, ‘I’m a real confessional rapper, I don’t make hip hop,’” Jaila Hampton (11), a close friend of Murray, said. To Hampton, Murray was like the big brother she never had. “When he went into the booth, he told his story. He never tried to be like anyone else or talk about things that weren’t true to him.” 

But Murray wasn’t just a rapper. He was a lifelong humanitarian who, even at an early age, recognized the suffering of the people around him and sought to make a difference. That sense of kindness and compassion is something that his family and friends hope to extend to Memphis in the future. 

“It was not a holiday that [went by that] Braylon did not let me take him to feed the homeless,” Carpenter said. “Braylon was 7 when he came to me and his dad; he wanted to trade his Christmas and give the toys to St. Jude patients. He thought he was trading his Christmas by buying a lot of toys to send to St. Jude, but he still had his Christmas. He was an amazing kid.”

As one of many Americans killed by gun violence, Murray’s death represents a much larger issue — an issue which Carpenter and Hampton want to correct. Both have seen the terrible impact that gun violence has on both their community and the greater Memphis community and want to see it gone. The Braylon Murray Project, founded by Carpenter and others close to Murray, seeks to reduce gun violence in Memphis and bring resources and comfort to those seeking justice. 

“People around me started dying,” Hampton said, “And it was never anyone close to me, and I just knew it, and it’s sad that I knew it, but because I live in Memphis, I knew that I wasn’t that lucky. I was not going to make it out of this city without losing someone close to me to gun violence. I don’t want Memphis youth growing up thinking that. I don’t want them growing up fearing that one of their friends may not make it to graduation.”

One of the first campaigns the project will run is called the “Tell a Friend No” project which will center on addressing the problem of gun violence early on and encouraging teens to help their friends go down the right path. This is one of many youth-led programs the project hopes to start. In fact, getting young people involved with their communities to make Memphis a better place is one of the Braylon Murray Project’s major goals. 

“Everything would be youth-led from tutoring programs, after school programs and educational programs,” Hampton said. “It will be youth advocating for and teaching other youth.”

As ambitious as the project is, Hampton believes it can be done through hard work and unity. In a city that has grown apart, Hampton hopes that bringing people together to address this urgent issue will bring big changes.

“The city is really divided,” Hampton said. “In my eyes, it’s full of jealousy and hate. And we need love, we need compassion, we need unity. I hope to see Memphis unified sooner rather than later.”

While the project is currently focused mainly on gun crime, Carpenter hopes to do even more for those in need. One aspiration is the Braylon Murray House of Restoration, which would help victims of rape. Another project is the Bray Brizzle Foundation, which would help kids 12-17 achieve their dreams in the realm of music. With the Bray Brizzle Foundation specifically, Carpenter hopes to go global.

“I planned for the Bray Brizzle project to be worldwide,” Carpenter said, “Because everybody that knew Braylon knew he had big dreams.”

To Carpenter and Hampton, this project is Murray’s legacy. The legacy of a student always willing to help others. Who, even at an early age, saw the suffering of those around him and sought to make a difference. The legacy of someone who will not soon be forgotten and whose loving spirit will live on to help many, many others. 

“Braylon lives on: today, tomorrow and forever,” Hampton said. 

This story was originally published on The Scroll on December 7, 2021.