Six young men, ranging in ages from 14 to 18, were cruising around; two of them were virtually inseparable.
They were driving south on Watkins toward the point where it becomes Cleveland when they noticed a car following – a gold sedan, police said. The two vehicles were side-by-side when shooters in the gold car open-fired on the other vehicle.
All six were hit. The two “inseparable” 18 year olds died as they often appeared – together. The early May murders shook the Klondike/Smokey City communities.
The deaths of Dejuan Hill and Deandre Rogers is stirring what some would like to see become a movement of young people determined to take a stand against the violence and the repercussions that weigh on segments of North Memphis.
A student-led push to facilitate their own anti-violence event is expected to draw hundreds of Klondike/Smokey City residents to the Dave Wells Community Center, 915 Chelsea Ave., this Saturday, July 28, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“Eight of us were chosen to get involved with the Crime and Safety Committee of our Klondike/Smokey City Community Development Corporation,” said Lexus Carter, one of the eight student organizers. “The young men shot in that car were students of Humes Middle and Manassas High schools. This was a way to give young people a voice in helping to deal with violence in our streets.
“There have been other ‘Stop the Violence’ events, but this one goes beyond the activities taking place on Saturday,” said Carter. “It is a call to action, and we are going to hold ourselves and each other accountable in making sure this does not happen again. We are setting a positive tone as another school year begins.”
Carter says students “want to feel a part of the solution to making the communities they live in better.”
With the 2018-19 school year looming, Natalie McKinney, executive director of Whole Child Strategies, said the nonprofit group is committed “to be involved in uplifting the Klondike/Smokey City communities” and the success of “our young people. …
“Poor performance in school is a result of factors outside of school. Absenteeism, suspensions, expulsions, extreme poverty, high unemployment of both adults and young people –all of these contribute to a pervasive un-preparedness for both careers and college. We have got to fix that.”
Whole Child Strategies is a “data-driven” organization that helps to identity the barriers to success in school and beyond graduation, McKinney said.
Saturday’s event is free and open to the public. Community sponsors are: Family Safety Center, Hope City Church, Klondike Smokey City Community Development Corporation, Oasis of Hope Memphis, and Whole Child Strategies, Inc. – Klondike/Smokey City Neighborhood Council (Chaired by Girls Apprenticeship Program).
School registration will be set up for parents and their children, along with a job fair organized by the Greater Memphis Chamber. Games and other fun activities are also planned for families attending the event.
Free school supplies will also be given away. Memphis LIFT will provide rides for families that have no transportation.
The Klondike/Smokey City Neighborhood Council and its partners meet monthly to discuss sustainable solutions for overcoming barriers to successful, thriving family life in that community. Together, council members develop neighborhood-level tactics embraced to ensure that every child within the community arrives at school every dayengaged, ready to learn and ready to succeed.
A Klondike/Smokey City Girls Apprenticeship Program began in 2016 and provides girls with opportunities to develop their skills as artists and entrepreneurs.
(For more information on the event and available resources, visit the Whole Child Strategies at: www.wcstrategies.org.)