LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Beyond the skyscrapers of downtown Louisville lurks a lingering problem.
Some say it's a beef so strong it's claimed lives for a reason that's hard to understand.
“It ain't got nothing to do with money. It got nothing to do with drugs. It's a sport,” said Young Commercial, a youth party promoter.
Smoketown, steeped in history and surrounded with the potential for something new.
Victory Park--still trying to shake a potent past--is now about to undergo a major renovation.
Those in these communities tell WHAS11 some young people from these neighborhoods have been caught up in the violence.
“Now it's not even about the anger. Now it's about you step to me, I am going to kill you,” said Young Commercial.
A frightening thought. But one young man says it doesn't have to be that way.
“You can go anywhere without a gun. You can go to the worst neighborhood without no gun,” said 16-year-old Jonah Ware.
Ware is a local celebrity who has become a powerful voice for peace in the city.
You may not have heard of him but his thousands of followers online know all about Lul Flex.
“Who is Lul Flex?,” asked WHAS11’s Renee Murphy.
“A young recording artist who does more than just music,” said Ware. “My mission is to change the world by doing positive things and just being myself. They will listen more to a young teen talking than they will an older adult.”
He may be right. While he's been very public about his music, behind the scenes he's been quietly mentoring young people in the turmoil.
“Before that I was getting locked up. I was carrying around guns. I was in a lot of violence. I was in gangs,” said 15 year old Jimie Thompson. “He'll show you, you can do positive stuff and still have fun.”
Thompson says Ware helped to bring him out of a destructive cycle.
“That's why other kids look up to him, because he know what he's talking about and he's at a young age,” said Thompson.
Ware says he's had hardship losing friends to gun violence this summer and now has testimony.
“Be a leader first of all, be a leader, you don't have to be cool to carry a gun,” said Ware.
His mom helping to guide him in the right direction
“He's experienced a lot of hurt in the last month and he could have channeled that any kind of way. He could have been rebellious, he could have got into gangs, but he chose to channel that in another way,” said Montoya Ware, Jonah’s mother. “He gets inboxes of kids wanting to kill themselves, commit suicide. ‘I’m watching your Instagram. I went on Instagram and you saved my life.’”
We brought Ware to the attention of Louisville's Safe Neighborhoods director who works closely with anti-violence efforts in the community.
“You can't underestimate how powerful that is and how that really is that kind of momentous kind of action that can make a huge difference,” said Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, Director of Louisville’s Safe Neighborhoods.
Possibly a domino effect.
“Like if I'm helping him he is going to help somebody else. It's like that, it's a chain reaction,” said Ware.
One voice leading kids on a new path