“I was told by doctors I would never walk again, I would never talk again, I would never do half the things that I’m doing right now, I’d be paralyzed. They told me everything under the sun. The fact that I’m here is a real big blessing to be sharing my story,” Christian Kimbrough explains as he reflects on his near death experience—being shot in the head at thirteen. “I was questioning everybody. I was questioning God. I did all the right things.”
Initially, Christian felt that his encounter with gun violence was not worth telling because he felt that it occurred so often. He eventually allowed himself to see just how impactful telling his story would be and arranged his first speaking engagement at his old middle school in 2015. He continues to tell his story and is dedicated to educating others on gun violence—especially the youth—through his testimony and clothing brand, Revive Minds.
You’re originally from Little Rock, Arkansas. How was your upbringing there?
I come from a loving mother and a little sister. My father wasn’t quite in the picture and I fell in love with being that support to my mom because I had to be the head of the household.
What were some of your interests when you were younger?
I fell in love with swimming and basketball. I played basketball in middle school leading up to that day—my accident.
It sounds like you were pretty active. You’re also very in tune with your family, especially being that you had to step up at a younger age. You sound like a nice big brother! [laughing]
[laughing] Yeah, I was you know… I try. I got to put on my cape sometimes. I try. I try a lot.
And as far as schooling, did you enjoy school or were you more focused on the activities?
A little bit of both because I made all A’s during my schooling. I was very active and talkative. I liked to dance. I was very much in the scene.
December 18, 2005 is a really significant date or you. What do you recollect from that day?
Well, I recollect a lot. So, December 18, 2005 that was the day that I got shot in the head. I was told by doctors I would never walk again, I would never talk again, I would never do half the things that I’m doing right now, I’d be paralyzed. They told me everything under the sun. The fact that I’m here is a real big blessing to be sharing my story.
You know how people tend to say oh, you got shot so you might not remember as much or things like that, but I have perfect memory, if not better memory than I did before, so that’s kind of crazy.
I had a best friend since second grade and it was the eighth grade when that incident happened, so it was about six years of us hanging out. I’m going to his house one weekend, he’s going to my house on the weekend, and we flip flopped every weekend almost. And this is the weekend that I was staying over at his house. He had a play cousin or a friend of the family who was living there. He was bouncing around from house to house and this is the weekend he was staying over at their house and I don’t know if—when I say I have perfect recollection of what happened that day. I remember what the radio was playing. R. Kelly’s “Wine For Me” was a smash hit at that time. I remember we went to go see Æon Flux. It was a movie about a futuristic woman killing everybody. It was with Charlize Theron. We had went to iHop to grab some pancakes. I remember exactly what I had. I had the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity.
As we were pulling in on December 18, mind you he couldn’t get in the house. He was in the driveway—I’m talking about the cousin, the friend of the family. He couldn’t get in the house because my friend’s mom had the keys. We all go upstairs and this might be TMI, but they had one of the biggest houses on the block and so all the rooms are on the second floor almost. She says, talking to my best friend, go get me some tissue. He went downstairs to get some tissue for her and the cousin came from the attic into the bedroom with a handgun. Now I know that it was a 38 Special handgun—and he pointed it in my direction. Now, I’m getting dressed. I have on my t-shirt, my boxers, I’m about to go to sleep. When he points the gun at me, he’s in the threshold of the door, so about one and a half yards give or take. He says, “it’s two blanks in the gun and two real bullets in the gun.” Me being at that age I didn’t quite understand the terminology and I was like, what, and so I stood up with my hands up because I’ve only seen guns—I haven’t even seen a gun in real life. The only thing that I know is guns kill people, that’s my thought process even when it’s pointed at me. I’m like, “hey don’t point that gun at me” and he repeats it. He fires it. My eyes were closed and it felt like he just punched me square in the head on the left side. Naturally I’m right-handed. Your left controls your right—I didn’t know that. So, when I’m trying to move my right arm I couldn’t and he put the gun in my hand and ran out screaming, “he shot himself!”
This is the actual skull. [shows replica skull] All of this was blown off so it’s the size of my hand basically. That’s why that date is so significant. December 18, 2005, I got shot, was in a coma, and December 25—I woke up on Christmas Day.
I took note of the fact that you said you didn’t—guns weren’t what you were familiar with and it’s like, hey why are you pointing it at me and everything that you knew of guns was considered negative. It’s also wild to me that you didn’t know this person. You didn’t know what their intent was.
The thing is… I just met him and I didn’t even know him a full twenty-four hours. He was eighteen, nineteen and we were thirteen. I didn’t even know him. He ended up committing that act on me.
Wow, and then of course you were in the hospital for some time. Like you said, you came out of your coma on Christmas Day and you also said that the doctors and everybody pretty much doubted the fact that you were going to push through, that you were going to remember anything. The odds were stacked against you so to say. As a thirteen-year-old, what was your mindset while you were going through recovery? Especially since they had already deemed that you weren’t going to pull through.
So, a little bit about that and I’ll get to the mindset. The doctors didn’t want to pull the bullet out of my head because my brain was swelling up so bad. They told my mom yeah, he has this percentage to live. His chances are very slim. As you notice, the lump on the back of my skull’s replica is engrained directly in my skull. I had brain matter that was missing. But my mindset was—when I finally woke up I was just like, why me? I was questioning everybody. I was questioning God. I did all the right things. I wasn’t a part of any gang activity, I wasn’t a part of anything. I made all A’s in school. I was a good kid and like, why was I placed in that position to suffer that? My thought process was just why me? It didn’t hit me until I got older on what I could be doing.
I just had to pause because that whole “why me”. I feel like we’ll touch on that a little later, but just—I feel like a lot of people, regardless of where they are in life or what’s going on in life it might not be as traumatic, but I feel like we all come back to that phrase—why me? Once you relearned all these things, you regained your mobility, and you gained a sense of normalcy. At what point did you begin to share your testimony and become an advocate against gun violence?
In 2015. To go back, when I was in high school I took theater, so I was really a theater head. I won Broadway Bound in high school and so I moved out to Atlanta to pursue that—to pursue theater acting. But, something told me—I was like, I’m not going to do that. Then, God spoke to me. He was like, you’re going to continue to speak, but you’re going to redirect your message into kids. You’re going to pour into kids that were your age. I was like, okay! I remember where I was. I was at a Chili’s and was like, man, it’s on my heart to make my brand right now. So, I knew I was going to do something with clothes. I knew I wanted to give back in a major way, so I just created Revive Minds and I used that platform and I used the connects that I did have at Horace Mann where I was going to middle school. I used that connect to set up my first speaking engagement and my first speaking engagement was actually December 18, 2015 and that was the ten year anniversary of that incident happening to me. I just wanted to leave them with that message and it was highly needed at that time.
That’s wild! You set out with your mind set on one thing and then you just kind of like… get pushed somewhere else. You tapped in!
My mind was like, yes, I’m going to do this acting thing. What do I need to do? I’m moving down to Atlanta for it and then oh, okay now I see. Never mind, I’m going to do this instead. I think it worked out in my favor!
Definitely! But at that time did you understand your impact or the value of your life? Before you came to that realization that you were going to create your platform.
I wouldn’t say so. Just for the simple fact that I thought it was like, okay I don’t have a story to tell. Before I gave my big speech I was like, this happens all the time, so I don’t really need to put any effort in broadcasting my story because it happens so much. I’m reading gun violence statistics and I’m like, okay this happens a lot so let me keep quiet and go about my day. When I started building my platform and I started along the lines of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to do it with and who I wanted to touch, then it became a lot clearer to me.
That is so powerful! It’s so motivating. I know that was something traumatic—I can’t relate in that sense. That hasn’t happened to me, but I’m so inspired.
Everybody can really relate though. Everybody has a story. It’s just a story about whatever you want that story to be. It’s all in how you broadcast it and how you pull it out of yourself.
Yeah, but I think it’s also important that you said it happens so often so why do I need to share my story? Everybody has a story regardless of if it’s something that is continually happening in this world. Your story is yours and it’s your calling to tell that story. Nobody else can tell your story but you, you know? So, what compelling piece of information have you learned in regards to gun violence and how did that information alter your perspective?
One thing that I did realize is that it can happen to anybody. Just off the last piece of information. It’s just about how you use your platform or your voice. Growing up and me being at that young age, I think me getting shot really saved my life kind of. Not saying that I was going to go down that path of gang banging and doing all that stuff because I still had sense of—I was scared of my mama. My mama was that person in my life. I didn’t want to bring anything to her that would come out crazy. It saved my life because if I was to continue to hang around that crowd or just be involved in something I probably would have went down the path. And who knows, I probably wouldn’t be here at seventeen or eighteen later on down that line. So, I think it really helped me out a great deal.
It’s amazing to me that people are able to find beauty in their trauma, which is something I feel like you’ve done. Be that a near death experience or a toxic relationship—whatever. I personally feel that it takes a special person to flip that trauma into positivity, but also speak their truth. Tell us about your brand Revive Minds and what it represents.
The word revive is so profound to me because… since I got shot in the brain I wanted something to do with the mind, so that’s where the Minds part came from and then the Revive on top of that—I’m like, okay I can restore, uplift, and rejuvenate minds back to life. That was my whole thing. When I was at Chili’s in 2015, I instantly went to GoDaddy and was like, why isn’t this name bought already? That is so crazy to me so I just went and bought the domain. Revive Minds just means to me restoring and getting that charge and bringing that charge back got life. It’s like a revival.
How did your brand come about though? From like brainstorming it like you said, you came up with the name, to you actually bringing it to fruition?
I brainstormed a lot before I finally put the first design out. Now, I don’t know if I still have my first design, but it was a crappy design but people bought it because they knew what I went through and who I’m trying to reach. It was the first design and things didn’t pan out like I wanted them to. My second design was okay. I had a lot of ideas and I had a lot of names as far was Revive Minds. I had names that just didn’t stick because I wasn’t necessarily passionate about what I was doing or passionate about the logos. Once I decided to take this route—I just got passionate.
You said that you knew that you wanted to be involved with clothing, so whenever you brainstormed Revive Minds were you like, okay this is going to be a clothing brand and I’m going to tell my story through this platform? Is that how it was?
I mean I always saw myself owning a brand. For Christmas my mom bought me a heat press machine and I still have it. The names and the stuff I was trying to do just didn’t stick—Revive Minds stuck.
So, for you, why fashion though? Why create in this way?
I’ve always been—before I even got Revive Minds started—when she bought me this heat press that I still have right here I always was like, okay I’m going to do some shirts. I’m going to come up with this name and it’s going to sell—this is me being young—yeah, it’s going to sell. And then I tried, tested it out two or three weeks later and be like nah. And I started a whole different—the cycle just continues. But I was always interested in selling shirts, hats, hoodies and everything like that, but I just didn’t have something to stand on at that time.
I want to go back because remember you moved to Atlanta with the mindset like, I’m about to pursue the whole theater acting thing and then you got derailed and was like, you know what, let’s switch that up! But, you had this interest but didn’t have anything tangible to really be like why are people going to tap into what I have going, but you telling your story and speaking truth allowed you to match that with your interest in creating clothing, so that’s perfect. But you probably weren’t thinking that’s going to happen—
Yeah, I was just trying to put two and two together. I wasn’t using anything and God was like, hey you can use this. It didn’t add up for me and it didn’t register for me until 2015. I moved out here way before I thought about starting a brand or starting an organization. Now we have curriculums and we’re trying to get curriculums in the school system. I was awarded my own day in the city of Little Rock, which is December 18. So, my day will live forever and it doesn’t matter who comes after me. When you have a proclamation, you have it for life. So, shoutout to Gerald! I just started using my gifts and things started falling into place.
I definitely want to talk about your creative process. Are you a one man show?
Yeah. I need to appoint and delegate some people. Basically, I’m a one man show when it comes to shipping. I’m trying to hire people to do that and I have somebody for graphics. I have a creative director who is also head of my graphics and she does really good, but I come up with my own designs. Just trying to figure out what’s going to be eye catching because I don’t want it to be like a generic streetwear brand. I don’t want my stuff to be lost in the sauce. I wanted to make it something that you would wear but it has a message. My clothing brand, I give back proceeds to inner-city programs. We’re working hand in hand with the Brady Campaign and just inner-city programs like non-profits that I deem to be successful and are actually doing something.
You might think it’s dope. You might think this hat or this hoodie is dope, but it has a message behind it. I put on the hangtags gun violence statistics to make it seem like a Snapple. Like when you pop the Snapple open you’re like, oh okay! I just try to base it around that. You can wear this hat and you can wear this hoodie, but we have a real meaning behind it and we do give back to the community and I’m glad I was recognized for my efforts in Little Rock. I just plan to expound and expand with my platform.
I think that’s beautiful because you have your brand and that’s great. And like you said people might be attracted to it because it’s aesthetically pleasing, but you’re representing a bigger message that’s tackling a huge issue that we have in regards to gun violence. Where do you find the inspiration for your designs? Especially for your newer designs as you’re continually creating? I do see that God is deeply rooted in your brand.
We had to drop the Revived By God collection because with me putting myself out there I just realized that I didn’t have a single design dedicated to God. If it weren’t for God I wouldn’t have woke up out of my coma on Christmas Day. If it weren’t for God we wouldn’t be doing any of this. I was just like shoutout to God. I’m Revived By God. That’s one collection we have, but the inspiration for my designs is trying to be as unique as possible. Always stand out in the crowd and just simple streetwear, but it’s you. I put out some shirts that your granny might like, your auntie, your cousin, your mama, your dad might like. But then I put out some designs like yeah, we’re still streetwear. So, I just try to make my stuff not be as generic.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced as a creative and business owner and how have you combatted those challenges?
Man… budgeting and delegating my tasks. I think those are the—I couldn’t budget as much as I wanted to. I’m wondering if I’m spending this much money and all of this stuff is going to this place, so I had to get better with budgeting and delegating tasks because Revive Minds is my baby. I don’t want nobody to touch it, but once I started delegating my tasks [snaps fingers] like clockwork. Starting to see improvement like clockwork. I see people trying to help me as much as I’m trying to help them. It’s not just a one-way street. It’s a two-way street with me. You scratch my back I’m going to scratch yours. Delegating tasks and budgeting.
I feel you on the whole when you create something and it’s your baby—it is a little difficult to delegate tasks, but you do have to be like, you know what this ain’t going to get done I’m just going to be working my mind. So, it’s good that you’re trusting people and that you have people that you can trust to delegate these tasks to and know that they’ll come through. What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my family. Them going through hardships with me—my accident took a toll on them. My other side of the family—my grandmother on my father’s side was killed by gun violence—by her boyfriend and was around Thanksgiving in 2004, so fast forward to Christmas time 2005 then I got shot. I like to say I’m most thankful for them just being strong, seeing the smile on their face, watching them grow. I think that’s what I’m most proud of and then the curriculum that I’m putting in the school system that’s going to affect a whole lot of students. I’m trying to do it in the cities with the most crime rate. I plan to teach that and build around that to middle school and high school kids and the kids that really need it. My family and this curriculum is what I’m proud of.
Solid! I think that’s a good segue into the closing. I do want to close with this phrase, “everything happens for a reason.” It’s definitely one that I often refer back to because it’s really simple, but it’s so powerful, too though. Do you think that you’d be where you are today had you not been shot?
No. Actually, I want to thank the person that shot me. I want to thank him because without him shooting me I think, like I said it’s a blessing and a curse. It was a curse because I couldn’t see past—I’m wearing a helmet in the car because I didn’t have a plate on my skull for six months so I’m just walking around without a plate. I’m homeschooled. I can’t go anywhere with my friends. Just little stuff. I’m going to walk around with a big scar on my head for the rest of my life. It’s just—I couldn’t see past that so when I decided to see past it then it became a blessing because them I’m like, okay Christian you can affect so many more people. People who might’ve gone through it, some of them might have PTSD, trauma, things like that so I’m just really building my platform to express—giving people a way to cope with what they’re going through. Everything happens for a reason and I tell people that all the time. I’m like, hey if I touch one person then I’ve done my job and I truly believe that because it only takes one to pass the word. When it goes through word of mouth it’s endless at that point.
That’s really beautiful because if you had been stuck in the why me phase then you wouldn’t have been able to see the beauty and the opportunity and you wouldn’t be reaping the benefits of what you’ve created. So it’s like you have to surrender to whatever God, or the Universe, or whatever you believe in is trying to teach you or tell you. That’s what I find really compelling about your story. How can we stay connected with you?
You can follow my business page on Instagram. Purchase from my store and see what I have going on. Also, you can follow my personal page. I’m out here for different things. I’m trying to build my community! I’m really trying to build an army of youth leaders inspired and living in their truth. I got a whole lot of things coming up.