LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In an effort to save lives in what has become a violent era in Louisville's history, the newly formed Respect Project hopes to foster an atmosphere of respect among young teens and young adults.

The project started coming together late last year. Much of it is inspired by the late community activist Angela Newby Bouggess, whose 19-year-old son was shot in the back and killed in January 2004 by an undercover LMPD officer.

Bouggess’ response of peace to the tragedy is what the Respect Project wants to see for the city.

Two well-known Louisville rappers are using their words to spark interest and funnel attention to the project. Tonio and Raja Williams both recently released songs that come from their own painful experiences with gun violence.

“Nobody my age got respect,” Williams said. “Everybody is disrespectful. But they want respect. And then when they don't get respect, their outcome is guns."

The Respect Project is working to build respect by encouraging open, honest discussions among young kids.

"A respect barrier,” Tonio said. “Like a level of respect for each other, so everyone can coexist."

The Respect Project started with a basketball tournament with the LMPD Community Policing Unite late last year. Then there was a rap session, including Tonio and Williams, in early January. After each event, the group takes time to discuss three topics: police tension, violent shootings and race issues.

The hope is their example of turning the other cheek will inspire others to reject violence, exchanging bullets for words of peace. And those in the project hope to use this conversation and music to connect people to existing opportunities for jobs and other resources that will keep them from a life of violence.

“People is angry out here,” Tonio said. “And we don't have no respect, but we can change it. We just really got to come together as one. It don't hurt to talk."

The group wants to target the California neighborhood next. And it hopes police officers will pay attention to their efforts and join in with them.

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