'Freedia Got a Gun' Review: Documentary sheds light on New Orleans gun violence through touching stories
In January 2018, bounce icon Big Freedia's younger brother, Adam Ross, was killed in a shooting in Central City, New Orleans. Ross was just 35 years old. Two years later, Ross's killer still has not been apprehended, but for Big Freedia, who grew up in New Orleans, her brother's death served as a beacon as she took up campaigning against gun violence. It is Freedia's attempts to learn more about the gun violence in her city and the effects it has had on the young Black population that forms the crux of the documentary, 'Freedia Got a Gun', which is releasing on Peacock on October 15.
Through the documentary, we learn about Freedia's own experiences of growing up gay in New Orleans and of the gun violence that has permeated her whole life. She even elaborates on an incident in which she got shot while driving down a street and her quick thinking to cover the back of her head with her arms saved her – a bullet had been lodged in her wrist instead, missing her head.
For the Black population of New Orleans, their experiences are very different from others, and 'Freedia Got a Gun' does an excellent job of showing us why that is. Usually, documentaries on such issues focus on expert opinions, but in 'Freedia Got a Gun', we are introduced to members who were involved in gun violence – on both sides as perpetrator and victim – and those who have reformed from their past. In one such incident, the documentary also visits the prison that Freedia's cousin, Cardell Hayes is serving time for the manslaughter of New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith. While Hayes is not shown in the documentary, we meet other inmates who are serving time.
In a similar manner, we also meet 14-year-old Devin Walker, a young Black boy who has 14 charges piled up against him. He was even involved in a shooting accident when another boy shot at him because of a "beef" between them. By the end of the movie, Freedia and vice-principal Ashonta Wyatt, help Devin to learn to take charge of his own life so he can leave gun violence behind. Devin turns himself in and was sentenced to two years in a group home.
But it is not just the perpetrators that the documentary focuses on. We also meet Samuel Butler, a teenage athlete who was shot in the head during Mardi Gras Day in 2018. Butler was not expected to survive, but he did. The bullet in his brain caused massive damage, but his determination to keep going forward saw him walk at his graduation. He is also writing a book on his experience.
By bringing in first-hand experiences rather than just statistics and expert opinions, 'Freedia Got a Gun' is a much more personal take on the epidemic of gun violence that is plaguing America. The documentary also shows the importance of their own voices and in having Black people who are influential in many of these young folks' lives.
'Freedia Got a Gun' will be available to stream on Peacock on October 15.