Rapper Quavo turns grief into action at first Rocket Foundation Summit

Vice President Kamala Harris joined the Atlanta artist for the inaugural event.

When Quavo arrived at the Carter Center Tuesday afternoon, he looked overcome with emotion.

“We’re turning tragedy into triumph, but it’s kind of tough at the same time,” he told reporters.

The Atlanta rapper and entrepreneur hosted his first Rocket Foundation Summit at the Carter Center on Tuesday, what would’ve been the 30th birthday of Takeoff. The late Migos rapper and Quavo’s nephew, born Kirsnick Khari Ball, died after being shot in Houston in 2022. Shortly after, Quavo launched the Rocket Foundation, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence.

Since then, the rapper has taken his efforts to the White House and even launched a program, Spark Grants, to fund Atlanta nonprofits that center community violence intervention. The Rocket Foundation Summit is the latest extension of Quavo’s advocacy for sparking change in his community and beyond.

The all-day event featured panel conversations, grant announcements and a fireside chat with Vice President Kamala Harris. Greg Jackson, deputy director for the first White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, opened the event.

“This summit marks a critical moment for all of us committed to safety and well-being of our neighborhoods, cities and nation,” Jackson said. “We gather not merely to discuss, but to act — to forge pathways forward that are rooted in evidence-based strategies.”

Attendees heard from community leaders like Mike McBride, the executive director of the national social justice network Live Free USA; and Anthony Smith, leader of the Kentucky-based gun violence prevention organization Cities United. Both speakers gave advice on how Atlanta communities can continue to demand policy-driven solutions.

“It’s very important for us to become experts of our own work,” McBride said. “It is a reality that many are experts of our experience, but we’re not always investing in ourselves to become experts of the work of peacemaking, the work of healing, the work of organizing power in our communities to force elected officials, who tell you no, to change their mind.”

Recipients of the Rocket Foundation’s Spark Grants Program were also announced during the event. In March, Quavo launched the program to award $10,000 to 10 nonprofits committed to raising awareness for gun violence. The 10 winners are: Center for Employment Opportunities, Community Justice Action Fund, Girassol Wellness, Hope Hustlers, Hopeful Change, Life Anew Restorative Justice, Live Free USA, Mothers Against Gang Violence, Offender Alumni Association and Tyme to Thrive Beyond Grief. The Annie E. Casey Foundation matched the donations for each organization to receive $20,000.

Greg Jackson moderated Tuesday’s fireside chat between Quavo and Vice President Harris. Harris opened her remarks by thanking Quavo for his work to address gun violence.

Vice President Kamala Harris (right) greets hip-hop star Quavo at his summit to stop gun violence at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

“The pain that is associated with gun violence in America is almost unspeakable,” she said. “It is everywhere. What Quavo has been doing with the Rocket Foundation — to translate that pain and that grief into something that is about creating strength and empowerment in the community, including among our young people — is really extraordinary. … You are an incredible leader and a national leader on this.”

During the conversation, Harris emphasized the toll of gun violence on mental health while highlighting the work of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which includes allocating $1 billion for mental health counselors in public schools. She also gave the audience one task for Juneteenth: ask others if they’re registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

For Quavo, his efforts with the foundation is a second chance to improve his community and make the changes that his nephew didn’t get to see.

“When I saw [Takeoff] laying there, I feel like I saw me laying there, so when I’m doing something like the Rocket Foundation, I want to uplift his legacy and keep his name alive.”

Vice President Kamala Harris (right) speaks at hip-hop star Quavo’s (center) summit to stop gun violence at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Tuesday’s summit ended with remarks from Mayor Andre Dickens, who, along with Rep. Inga Willis (D-Atlanta) and Council Member Jason Winston proclaimed June 18, 2024, as Takeoff Day in Atlanta.

“I miss my son every day, and still wish he was here on earth,” said Titania Davenport, Takeoff’s mom. “I know his uncle and our family are doing God’s work in Takeoff’s name with the Rocket Foundation. … He really did leave us too soon. I know he’s shining down on upon us today.”