Guns Transformed into Shovels for Tree Plantings: In Honor of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s Assassination

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50 weapons are being transformed into 50 shovels to hold ceremonial tree plantings at sites impacted by violence to honor the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. The intention is to disrupt environmental racism and reimagine violence.

“Since our national government is unable to move forward on gun control policy, we the people are taking matters into our own hands. We see how guns tear apart our communities and desecrate our world. We are ready to disarm and reimagine." - Kyle Lemle, Co-Founder | Lead to Life

While hundreds of thousands gathered to “March for Our Lives” in cities around the world this weekend, artists, community leaders and activists are preparing for Lead to Life: A People's Alchemy for Regeneration , a radical response to the proliferation of gun violence and systemic injustice in the US. Just as people across the country are asking how they can liberate themselves from their own weapons, Lead to Life is launching a “National Call to Disarm & Transform” on April 4th, 2018, the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s Assassination.

With every gun received, Lead to Life and RawTools’ Swords to Plows program will transform it into a garden tool and plant one tree. Leveraging a network of metal artists and civic partners across the US and the #oneless campaign, Lead to Life & RawTools will help people across the country disable their weapons, and send them in to be transformed into garden tools. Lead to Life is sending a call to action to millions to reimagine artifacts of violence into artifacts of peace and ecological regeneration.

“Since our national government is unable to move forward on gun control policy, we the people are taking matters into our own hands. We are ready to disarm and reimagine. We see how guns tear apart our communities and desecrate our world. We are ready to commit to being peace with each other and with the whole Earth.” - Kyle Lemle, Co-Founder & Program Director, Lead to Life.

This national disarmament campaign is being launched with a Week of Healing Justice in Atlanta, GA, April 4th - 9th, as part of The King Center’s MLK50 Forward commemorative campaign. The partnership aims to honor the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination while interrupting the larger impacts of gun violence reverberating throughout the country.

“We extend the invitation to folks across Atlanta, across imagined borders, across differences designed by the myth of separation, to join us in decomposing environmental racism, reimagining violence, seeding food security, exploring what ecological restoration as restorative justice looks like, and trusting that when we support the healing of the most marginalized (in the human world and the more-than-human world), we all get free.” - brontë velez, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Lead to Life.



For more information, please contact brontë velez ((678) 978-7010, or Kyle Lemle ((415) 308-6540,, or visit .


WED, APRIL 4th - The People’s Supper: On the night marking 50 years since Dr. King’s assassination, The People’s Supper will bring together 50 intergenerational guests from across Atlanta to eat the last meal Dr. King never had the chance to bring into his body. In so doing, we will nourish ourselves to carry his vision forward. Lead to Life will host a conversation rooted in King’s legacy of creative nonviolence and environmental justice, in collaboration with The People’s Supper (who has hosted 4,000 community dinners since Trump was elected) and local chefs, Chicomecóatl & The Plate Sale .

FRI, APRIL 6th - Reimagine Violence - A Guns to Shovels Ceremony: A live public ceremony in which families and friends impacted by the trauma of gun violence will be offered the opportunity to melt down weapons into tools and art, hosted by Lead to Life, in collaboration with acclaimed metal casting artist James Brenner and blacksmiths from Rawtools . Mothers and families directly impacted by gun violence will join us to deliver the weapons to the furnace to be transformed - women like Pati Poblete, who is also sponsoring the work, will be present. Pati lost her son to gun violence in 2014 in Vallejo, CA and through her grief created transformative beauty through The Robby Poblete Foundation . Before Robby was killed, he was learning how to weld. In his memory, the organization holds gun-buyback days to get guns off the streets and works with artists to transform the firearms into instruments of hope, awareness and dialogue through its Art of Peace program, and raises awareness about opportunities in vocational jobs, such as sheet metal work and welding fabrication.

SUN, APRIL 8th - Tree Planting Ceremony @ the King Center | 50 Guns, 50 Shovels, 50 Trees : A first tree will be planted in honor of Dr. King by families and friends impacted by the trauma of gun violence, joining with spiritual leaders from across Atlanta and officials from The King Center. The participants will then break up into groups to plant 50 trees at sites impacted by violence and sacred sites across Atlanta, in partnership with Trees Atlanta. The trees will be planted with soil collected from lynching sites across Georgia – with the intention to heal the trauma still present in the soil alongside the South’s historical relationship with trees, where trees still stand as symbols of lynchings. The soil collection is also in service to the archival work of Equal Justice Initiative's Community Remembrance Project .


Lead to Life’s physical act of "turning swords into plowshares," creatively fulfills the prophecy Dr. King invoked throughout his speeches—the gun metal will be liberated from their histories of murder, and the soil & air where violence took place will be remediated by the trees. For in his final Christmas Sermon on Peace , Dr. King said, “I still have a dream today that one day war will come to an end, that [they] will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, that nations will no longer rise up against nations, neither will they study war anymore.”

One of the members of Lead to Life, brontë velez, lost their friend to gun violence on the Kirkwood bike path in Atlanta in 2013. brontë’s friend, who was murdered, was also a young artist. She has since wondered how we might disrupt patterns of violence by transforming their design. The project was born in 2016 when brontë met Kyle, a tree planter and community forester, as inaugural recipients of the Spiritual Ecology Fellowship. They decided to put their dreams together to reimagine violence on Earth and to transform that which ends life into that which sustains life. Now they are transforming weapons and planting trees in cities across the United States.

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Kyle Lemle
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