There were 13 murders in June 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. There have already been 3 murders in July. The victim age range was 14 – 32. Some were gang related; some were stray bullets. That’s 16 lost souls too many, says nonprofit group Nashville Peacekeepers.
This July 4th Nashville Peacemakers held their 6th Annual Peace, Love & Unity Community Awareness Day in Nashville’s Hadley Park. Little ones tottered in and out of a bounce house. People lined up for free grilled food. A nonprofit organization handed out condoms and STD education packets. Music of all kinds poured from the speakers of Beatnockin Radio. “We are bringing awareness of youth violence and gang violence to the Nashville community,” explained coordinator Clemmie Greenlee, Nashville Peacemakers Executive Director. “If we don’t stop being in denial our community is going to be another Chicago.” Chicago, Illinois logged 319 gang-related shootings in 2011. “I don’t want to be Chicago.” She looked across the field of Hadley Park at the Community Awareness Day attendees, all races, sizes, and ages. “We have to quit talking about stopping violence, quit worrying about ‘I’, and BE about it. Work as a team. Unite! Work like a community.”
Volunteer DJ Mic Wise agreed. He was playing the music for the event. He watched several young people dancing along to his music, laughing to one another. “I believe this is what our community is missing in Nashville,” Wise said. He shook his head at the violence in the street that has become a staple for young people in Music City. “I’m a father and a grandfather,” and he worries over the education system: the lack of domestic violence education and communication skills children receive. And, “We have to create racial harmony,” Wise said, changing a song. “I believe that will help end problems in inner cities. Help end wars.” Bringing people together in the park is the beginning.
Jerry Buckner agreed. He is no stranger to the streets himself. A former gang member who now volunteers with Nashville Peacekeepers, he explained it is not just certain Nashville neighborhoods affected by gangs. “Never say, ‘not my child,’” he warned. Buckner travels all over the Tennessee area, working to establish understanding between the gangs to prevent murder and violence. “It’s not a black thing, a white thing, an inner city thing, a Christian thing, it’s a people thing,” Buckner emphasized, a beefy fist hitting his palm to convey his conviction. “And it’s all over Nashville, not just ‘in the ‘hood.’”
The African American Cultural Alliance had a booth, but they were not there solely for the African American community. They had information on genealogy, history, and they, too, are concerned over the youth, education, and communication. “Kids don’t read or research anymore,” explained one elegant woman. “Everything is a computer.” They explain how they enjoy teaching the connection between math, science, history, and geography. “Drawing a pyramid,” explained one gentleman, “relates to history and math!”
It is July 4, 2012 in Nashville’s Hadley Park, and the 6th Annual Peace, Love & Unity Community Awareness Day is being held. Children are chasing each other across the lawn, playing, giggling. Young people are talking, flirting, and drinking soft drinks. No guns, drugs, or alcohol, just open smiles and relaxed talk. Adults wander about, giving hugs to neighbors and shaking hands with new friends. Music flows across the park. The smell of a cookout wafts over and around. It looks like a great start to Nashville Peacemakers’ vision.
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Credit: photo of Judith Yates
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