In the midst of a string of globally acknowledged killings of Black people due to gun violence, Jada Pinkett Smith invited actress Lauren London to discuss an often overlooked dynamic: the effect of gun violence on women. 

“As we are witnessing our Black men being murdered in the streets, very rarely do we talk about the women who are left behind, grief-stricken and shattered,” Smith said to open her latest episode of Red Table Talk

Both London and Smith recalled how gun violence shaped the earliest parts of their youth, noting how they didn’t even realize that they were growing up in a virtual “war zone.” London mentioned that attending high school parties meant first seeking out exits and always being on guard for their safety. 

“Growing up in LA just in the area I was around. Like in high school, a lot of the boys were in gangs and I just remember a lot of our friends, by summertime they were gone. They had transitioned from gun violence. So, you kind of got … I wouldn’t say numb, but used to hearing it,” the ATL actress said. 

London's longtime partner Nipsey Hussle was gunned down at his Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles, California, while he shopped for a friend who had just been released from 20 years of incarceration, as Blavity previously reported. The outpouring of love catapulted the “Victory Lap” artist into instant icon status as stories of the artist’s business savvy and commitment to his community took center stage. 

When asked how she copes, London said that interactions with people who tell her how Hussle changed their life and outlook fortify her. 

“I love to meet people that Nip has really inspired because it feels like he’s still here, even though he is — in a way. He’s touching people still. I find that when I run into people who tell me how he’s changed their life, what they’re doing with their life right now, it fills me up. I’m like ‘ugh he would have loved to hear that,'” she said. “And when my kids hear it, they’re proud.”

London acknowledges that staying strong, a performance often asked of Black women, can be challenging and she allows herself to be human. 

“For me what’s been really important is connecting with God. … It’s not easy. I don’t always wake up on the enlightened side of the bed. And the days that I don't, I let myself because I’m human.”

For loved ones left with the trauma of violence, London says that “love helps” and encourages them to surround themselves with people who “remind you who you are.” 

Because of that, she has started the work of sharing her story with other women and girls whose lives have been upended by gun violence. 

Smith thanked London for being her gateway to activist Erica Ford, whose programming during a speaking engagement offered unexpected solace to London.

"It was a group of girls that were affected from gun violence. They lost fathers, brothers, and they’re traumatized by that. We could all relate together,” London said. “They healed me in a lot of ways because … trauma feels so lonely.”