NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — For singer, songwriter, and sexual assault survivor Carl Brister, the trauma he suffered as a 5-year-old child never goes away; it is managed.
How he manages the trauma unfolds in his new release, “Trauma.” The classically trained musician and singer’s official music video opens with a child playing the piano — an apparent flashback — and then transitions to Brister surrounded by Edison bulb string lights.
With purpose in the pain he shares, Brister — in song — reveals what happens when a child learns the word “fear” too soon.
“And, after the layers came off I was able to write this song,” said Brister in a Zoom interview from his home outside Orange, New Jersey. Brister’s mother lives in Chesterfield, Virginia, and he has a host of cousins and other loved ones who live in Portsmouth.
The song, “Trauma,” released last month, is an urgent call to address the public health crisis known as violence.
“Because if it’s not addressed the cycle continues and hurt people will hurt people until they are no longer hurting,” he said.
Hurt by a bullet seven years ago, activist Cameron Bertrand responded to the Nov. 3 mass shooting in Norfolk. Months later his friend, Virginia-Pilot reporter Sierra Jenkins, was killed in a mass shooting.
24-year-old Antoine Legrand Jr., the son of one of the women killed on Nov. 3, is now charged with the triple homicide that happened outside a restaurant in the downtown section of Norfolk in mid-March. Bertrand was stunned to learn the cases have a link.
“Where does it end? When and at what point do we stop to realize that the people who are falling through the cracks are the same people who are taking lives in our own communities?” said Bertrand.
The survivor is calling for a 24-hour center that will respond to trauma as it unfolds. With plans to open in June, the Gun Violence Intervention & Prevention Center would provide 24/7 counseling, advocacy, resources, and wrap-around services to those affected by gun violence to prevent further trauma or retaliation.
Brister, who is a former teacher, is calling for compassion.
“It also takes sensitivity from our leaders, our peers, our teachers, to understand what trauma is so that they can recognize the signs and then lead with their heart,” said Brister.
This weekend, Brister is sponsoring the Love & Unity Music Fest in West Orange, New Jersey. He believes love is the answer to solving the public health crisis of gun violence.