Taking Back Our Neighborhoods
How do we take back our neighborhoods? What steps need to be taken when the youth feel that they are in control and the adults are afraid to stand up? How do you instill a sense of community pride and ownership in a neighborhood that is comprised of renters, that don’t own property and move to new addresses at random?
I received a call from a man that I consider to be a friend yesterday afternoon. It was Sunday and I had attended three services already. I arrived home and I was changing into my relaxing attire when my phone rang. It was Bobby White, the principal at Westside Middle School. It was the first time he had called me and it was on a Sunday afternoon.
Principal White explained to me that his school and the elementary school next door had been “tagged” (sprayed with graffiti with gang signs to mark territory) by a local gang. He was heartbroken and furious, at the same time. He told me that the schools had been tagged on the front doors, in the parking lot and on the sidewalk. He asked me if I had any ideas on how to fix this problem. My only response was, “I’ll see you at 7 in the morning.”
I met with him and I was shocked to see that he did not have on his usual attire. He was not dressed in a suit, he had on black slacks and a black tee shirt. He wanted to send a message. We walked the properties and he showed me the graffiti. Then he surprised me. He asked if I would address his boys in the cafeteria. And he asked for a word of prayer. We were walking with Mrs. Adams, the principal of the elementary school. She asked if I could address her boys as well.
Principal White spoke to his boys as though they were his boys. He let them know that gangs would not be tolerated in his school. I was truly moved by his love for his students. He asked me to address them and I assured them that they did not have to fight. We, the adults, are charged with that. I, also, assured them that we, LifeLine, and the Frayser community cared for them and would do anything to assist them in obtaining a quality education.
I returned to Westside with my “team” from LifeLine. We visited the middle school and then we went into the elementary school and spoke to the boys. We encouraged and put them on notice that gangs would not be tolerated and we shared with them our pasts.
Today was a great day. I say the community step up in a time of crisis. We showed our children that we do care about them. We offered them a sense of security. We even walked the neighborhood to show the gang members that that was not their territory. I told the kids to spread the word that we would not tolerate gangs and we handle them, if necessary.
I am excited about the direction and future of Frayser. God bless us!