2 Bronx shooting victims join to start nonprofit for inclusivity
A pair of shooting victims who lived in the Morrisania Houses have taken their traumatic experiences and used it as fuel to help start a nonprofit to spread their message.
Namel Norris and Ricardo Velasquez did not know each other growing up, despite both living on the 14th floor in different buildings of the Morrisania Houses. Velasquez was shot in 1996, struck by a stray bullet while walking home from school. Norris was shot by his cousin who was playing with a gun at his sister’s birthday party when he was 17. The shootings took place three years apart.
Both Norris and Velasquez are now in wheelchairs as a result of being shot and have come together to create a nonprofit in their years of healing. Velasquez was a DJ at the time when he was shot, spinning turntables while gearing up for his newest song, and Norris was an aspiring basketball player who also was venturing into music.
The two of them shared a unique vantage point – victims of shootings who suffered spinal cord injuries that took away their ability to walk. The pair quickly bonded through their similar trauma, bonding over their love for music.
“I didn't know what to expect. I just knew that he was in a wheelchair like me.,” said Norris. “When we went to his house, he was working on a beat and to me, that was all I needed to see at that moment.”
Norris and Velasquez joined together to start the nonprofit 4 Wheel City. They use hip-hop to enact change and promote messages against gun violence. They also use their music to inspire others to never give up and promote inclusion of those with disabilities.
“I try not to think about it. But now it's a blessing,” said Velasquez. “It’s no longer a sad day. It’s a celebration of life. It made me realize why I didn't die that day.”