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Change will require the ’collective us,’ Mayor Young says

Jevonte Porter, Memphis Allies’ community relations director, was pushing a stroller at the Ninth Annual Walk Against Gun Violence in Orange Mound. Porter’s passengers in that stroller were precious to him: 2-year-old Jevonte Jr., and 3-year-old daughter Madison.

“They’re the future,” he said with a grin, just hours before Father’s Day.

Like any parent, Porter would love tomorrow’s Memphis to be home to less gun violence; to be a safer place for all children–whether they are growing up in Orange Mound, Frayser, Hickory Hill, South Memphis or Whitehaven.

All those communities—and others—are places where Memphis Allies and partner organizations are either already offering programming to reduce gun violence or soon will be.

“What today reminds us is that people truly care about community and humanity is not dead,” Porter said, wiping sweat from his brow as he pushed that stroller with precious cargo along Deadrick Avenue. “When you see people rally around a common cause, particularly around reducing gun violence in these undeserved communities, that’s cause to rejoice.”

What today reminds us is that people truly care about community and humanity is not dead.

– Jevonte Porter


Bill Gibbons, president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, said Orange Mound was selected as the site for the walk prior to the April mass shooting incident at a neighborhood park.

In drawing public and media attention to the June 15 event, Gibbons shared this sobering statistic: of the approximate 400 homicides in Memphis last year, 92% involved the use of a firearm.

“It’s time for us to be on an aligned mission,” Memphis Mayor Paul Young said moments before he addressed the assembled crowd. “The collective us: Midtown. Orange Mound. East Memphis. Everyone needs to play a part.”

Later, the mayor expounded on that theme, telling the 300-400 gathered for the walk, that, “This is not Black, White, Hispanic, Asian… it doesn’t have any race. It doesn’t have any political affiliation – Republican, Democrat, Independent.”

What it does have is unrelenting shared concern.

Or as Memphis Police Department Interim Chief C.J. Davis said: “Enough is enough, right?”

Memphis Allies Community Relations Director, Jevonte Porter
A step

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and State Representative John Gillespie sounded similar notes when addressing the crowd. So, too, did University of Memphis football player Marcus Lee Jr., who was there representing the 901 Fund.

Lee, who graduated from Collierville High School, was recently touched by gun violence when a close friend found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“He got shot in his leg while going into a gas station… Somebody tried to rob him,” Lee said, adding that he felt he had to be present for the Walk Against Gun Violence. “I wanted to be out here today and see some happy smiles.”

Despite a hot and humid morning, there were many smiles and much banter as participants made the approximate 1.8-mile walk around the neighborhood by Melrose High School.

The walkers, which included staff members from co-sponsor Memphis Allies and organization leaders such as Executive Director Susan Deason and Operations Director Carl Davis, passed by Whitten Brothers Hardware and RedZone Ministries. They strolled by well-maintained homes with well-tended lawns, and they passed a corner store promising the “coldest beer and best prices.”

It was, as Porter said, a day to remember that the community does care and does want to see change.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said of the effort to raise awareness.

One and all

Memphis Police served as chaperones for the event, blocking off streets and providing high visibility. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Voices for a Safer Tennessee were among the other represented organizations, and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy shed his suit and tie for T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes.

After thanking those who had made the effort to be there, Young asked for a little help with, well, the next steps.

“Let’s make sure we’re checking our kids’ backpacks and what they’re doing when they’re walking out of the house,” the mayor said. “If you know your little cousin is out there doing all the wrong things, let’s make sure we’re pulling up to the side.

“After we finish the walk, we have to take this home. We have to take it to our churches, take it to our families.

“Everybody needs to feel that responsibility.”

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