With WDIA radio personality Bev Johnson serving as moderator, Rep. G.A. Hardaway of Memphis shares thoughts at the town hall meeting held by the Tennessee Black Caucus. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Whitehaven residents recently gave state legislators an earful about “out-of-control gun violence and illegal trash dumping in their community.

“We have so much gun violence ripping through Whitehaven every day,” community activist and “mayor of Whitehaven” Hazel Moore told legislators June 16. “People are scared to come outdoors in certain areas. And we realize it’s not just in Whitehaven, but all over the city — all around the country.

“I want to talk about what plan can we put in place to bring about some working solutions.” 

Hazel Moore, a fixture in the Whitehaven community, shares her concerns with members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Moore’s concerns came during a town hall meeting held by members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) at the National Civil Rights Museum, which sparked compelling discussions about issues on the minds of Memphians. 

The town hall is part of a TBCSL tour of the state to hear what constituents are saying.

“Gun violence, mass shootings, and high gas prices have been at the forefront of everybody’s thinking,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), TBCSL chairman. “These are serious concerns for everyone, no matter where you go in Tennessee.”

Rep. Antonio Parkinson, chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, fields a question during the caucus’ town hall stop in Memphis. (Photos: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

The town hall tours have been a huge success, according to Black Caucus members.

Prior to Memphis, a town hall in Knoxville garnered similar discussions from high gas prices to quality education. 

“People all over the state are thinking about public safety,” said state Rep. G. A. Hardaway, also a Memphis Democrat. “Of course, the quality of public education and the economy are also huge concerns. 

“Across racial lines, healthcare and livable wages always come up in public discussions because people want to be able to take care of their families.”

Whitehaven’s Moore said Whitehaven residents also are disturbed about the trash problem, especially since Memphis used to be ranked among the cleanest cities in America. Trash and illegal dumping have changed that, she said.

“So much trash is being dumped throughout our neighborhoods,” said Moore. “I just want to know what measures we can take to address this problem. We want Whitehaven to remain one of the city’s most beautiful communities.”

(A Memphis City Council committee Tuesday, June 21, approved the formation of a task force to deal with illegal dumping. The task force will include members from 17 members from different city divisions.)

State Rep. Barbara Cooper. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

State Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) addressed the issue of gun violence, particularly among young people.

“I have introduced a bill that has presently stalled in the Senate,” said Cooper. “My co-sponsor, G.A. Hardaway, and I are pushing for the passage of a conflict resolution curriculum in our schools. It would be age- and grade-appropriate for our children. 

“So, instead of them fighting and shooting each other, they would be given the tools they need to de-escalate and resolve conflict.”

Hardaway said, along with Cooper’s measure for curriculum conflict resolution, another closely related issue must also be addressed to increase the bill’s effectiveness.

“Along with a de-escalation curriculum, mental health must be effectively addressed. That means all of us taking responsibility for identifying those in our communities who may need help.

“Those who require mental and emotional assistance should be identified before someone gets shot or attacked,” Hardaway said.

Because of the public’s great response to the town halls, more stops across the state will be added to the tour in July, Parkinson said.

He added, “Being able to hear directly from the people is the best way to understand what our constituents need. Legislative ideas have been taken away from these meetings, and they are being worked on as we speak.”

The event was touted as a gateway to the Juneteenth weekend celebration. WDIA on-air personality Bev Johnson, was town hall moderator.

Nashville is TBCSL’s next site.