JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Eight years after her son’s shooting death, viral rap music videos have opened old wounds for Tonya Love.
Love said she was shocked recently to see a video mocking her son’s death go viral on TikTok.
“I heard my son’s name, Prosper, I’m like oh my God. It brought tears to my eyes,” Love said.
Love’s son, Prosper Johnson, was 17 when he was killed during a shootout on Jacksonville’s Northside in 2014. Now that she has seen her son’s name along with other victims of gun violence mocked in rap videos that feature details about deadly shootings, she is taking action.
Love created an online petition on Change.org to remove gang and violence-related music from the internet.
Over the years, Love has turned her heartbreak into her mission. She created a nonprofit in her son’s honor called “No Weapon Shall Prosper” that advocates for gun violence awareness with her own voice in music videos.
Since her son’s name is used through the nonprofit, she’s hoping to get his name trademarked to prevent his name from being used in more songs with violent lyrics.
John Phillips, an attorney not connected to her situation, said trademarking can be tricky considering artists have the right to freedom of speech.
“The problem is, you’re dealing with a decedent’s name and the law just hasn’t done a good job protecting that,” said Phillips.
Phillips said even if parents like Love can’t legally get the songs taken down, applying pressure and awareness can help.
“The mom applying pressure to record labels and venues that play the songs can work regardless of trademark and First Amendment,” said Phillips.
Love said she will not give up fighting to protect her son’s name.
News4JAX reached out to TikTok about the concerns with these videos. We’ve also talked with other mothers whose sons’ names have been used in rap videos, they tell us they’ve tried reaching out to different social media platforms, but never got any response.