It took Jevin Lamar Ware a month to write a song about his cousin, Thomas “TeeJay” McNichols Sr.
His mind kept focusing on the anger he felt toward the man who gunned down McNichols and eight others on Aug. 4 in Dayton’s Oregon District.
“The things I was writing were coming out hateful,” the Dayton native now based in Los Angeles said. “I am still angry, but I tried to flip my anger and make it an uplifting song about still holding on.”
Ware, who raps under the moniker Jevin Lamar, has released “Still Holding On” in honor of McNichols.
The track is part of Ware’s six song EP, “Street Orphan.”
Still Holding On includes the lyrics:
“got a bone to pick the world is sick
Mental health and entitlement
Devil supremacist lead to this
Together we stand divided we fall
We should throw hands before we bear arms
For all the victims I’m crushed by your loss
Even tho you’re gone we still holding on”
A video for the song features members of Ware’s family, including some of McNichols’ four children.
Ware said he was in Switzerland serving as ring bearer at the wedding of his mentor, author Greg Palast, when he learned his cousin was killed.
The mass shooting happened on Ware’s 25th birthday,
the age his cousin was when he died.
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“When you are 25, you are not even halfway through your life,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine not living my life.”
The man who took McNichols’ life, Connor Betts of Bellbrook, was killed by police within 32 seconds of the massacre that also left dozens injured.
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Ware said he could not imagine gunning down innocent people like Betts did at 24.
He said he was struck by the recently released video of Oregon high school coach Keanon Lowe disarming would-be shooter Angel Granados-Diaz and hugging him.
“This kid (Diaz) just literally needed a hug,” Ware said.
People often point out violence in other countries, but Ware said America has its own problems.
“I feel like we are the most violent country,” he said. “It just is not fair that anyone can take someone’s life, innocent people at that. Anyone can go pick up a gun.”
Ware said his song is for his cousin and family.
“I am praying for my city. I am doing the best I can to get the word out for TeeJay, and I am not going to stop talking about my cousin,” Ware said. “It’s getting too normal for these things to happen.”
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Ware said he hopes to raise awareness of the importance of mental health.
“I think people should work on mental health. I want to press that to help damage teens not became damaged adults,” he said.
As part of the campaign for the song, the Trotwood High School graduate, is asking for donations for Daybreak, a nonprofit that provides shelter and other services to runaway, homeless, and troubled youth and young adults.
Ware said he spent two months in Daybreak after suffering abuse in his home at age 14.
“The reason I like Daybreak is because they care. They ask, ‘How are you doing? What are you interested in doing?’” Ware said.
He recalled an inspirational visit from Liz Murray, the subject of the 2003 movie “Home to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story.”
“It gave me hope I was going to make it out of the situation I was in,” he said. “It just opened my eyes to new possibilities.”
Through his song about McNichols, Ware said he wants to show people that they can hold on through tragedies.
“The worse thing is only for a moment,” he said. “It is going to get better.”
Ware recalled playing kickball with his cousin when they were children and seeing him at family events.
“The thing about TeeJay is that he was calm. He was so chill,” Ware said.
He recalled McNichols words when he told him he was going off to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music three years ago.
“He said, ‘That’s what’s up’,” Ware said. “It was a brief and passing conversation.”