WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Marquis O’Neal is an 18-year-old rapper from Southeast D.C. who stresses upbeat messages in his music. O’Neal felt he had to do something positive for his community.

“Kids can go outside, have fun, play in the middle of the street without worrying about a stray bullet hitting them,” O’Neal said.

Violence is something he knows all too well, especially during middle school.

“People were shooting outside. A bullet actually went through the school. I’m so glad nobody got hit, though,” said O’Neal.

He’s one of the success stories of Peace of Art D.C. It’s an after-school program started about a year ago by Pastor Devin Turner to reduce violence around the city.

“A lot of the violence in DC comes from hip-hop music dissed on this song, this track, disrespecting each others’ neighborhoods. Talking about shooting somebody up, bragging about doing something harmful to somebody else, then putting it on social media,” Turner said.

The program uses music and film to help middle and high school students tap into talents they may not have known they had.

It’s been easier for the younger children to adapt. The old kids, according to Turner, have needed more time.

“We’ve been blessed to see youth from different neighborhoods, from rival neighborhoods, come together in this program and work on music together, and work on projects together to promote peace in the community,” Turner said.

104 homicides have taken place in Washington, D.C., through June 28, according to the Mayor’s Office. That’s 16 more compared to the same time a year ago. Most involve guns.

Turner has seen his share of gun violence.

Especially as a child when someone threatened to shoot him and his brother in middle school.

“I had a guy put a gun to my face,” Turner said as he recounted an incident in middle school with his brother. “He pulled the trigger as he moved the gun away from my face. The bullet didn’t hit me. I’m thankful to God for that.”

O’Neal and Turner hope their brand of music makes those considering violence sing a different tune.