Searching For Violence Solutions In Nashville's Neighborhoods

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The search for solutions to youth violence in Nashville has been something that extends deep into the city's neighborhoods.

While some ideas have already been taking off, others said the solutions that city leaders have been proposing just don't go far enough.

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The Fallbrook Apartments in Nashville has been one of the locations where Terry Key runs the Edgehill Bike Club, a program providing neighborhood kids with bikes. For many, it's a new way for them to get around.

Key said the freedom helps provide access to the kids' dreams, many of which he said are limited if the kids are unable to travel outside their neighborhood.

"I want to be a doctor when I grow up. That's why I try so hard in school to get A's," said Treshaun Glenn, a child who lives in Nashville.

But almost every day, Treshaun has seen the struggle that has claimed the dreams of so many other children: shootings and violence.

"There's too much killing and too much gangsters," Treshaun said. "I don't like that stuff."

"They don't even get a chance to get through school. They don't even get a chance, and it's not even their fault that they got killed," Key said.

In addition to loaning out bikes, Key's program has been teaching kids how to repair bikes.

Key grew up in the Fallbrook Apartments. He said curbing gun violence starts with youngsters seeing more nearby role models.

"It's gonna take real people that grew up in these neighborhoods to come back out in their neighborhood and tell their life story, how they changed around," Key said. "They've got to be the inspiration to other kids."

Key said starting young -- before kids are exposed to the potential influence of gangs and drugs -- they need to see examples of how other people's dreams came true.

"They need grown-ups to come out here, not only have an event once a year, but spend time in these neighborhoods, get to know people in these neighborhoods, and that's when they'll feel comfortable telling you the truth on what's really going on and how we can help them," Key said.

That sentiment has been shared by Yvette Boyd, a mother of a 12- and 8-year-old, who said politicians stopping by for an annual visit isn't enough.

Without more contact with the neighbors affected by youth violence, she said, the trust isn't there.

"Just get involved more, so we can feel we can trust and feel comfortable with them," Boyd said. "So we can open up, to have a better environment."

Boyd went as far as to say the feeling in these neighborhoods most affected by the violence is that the city's elected leaders don't care about them.

"No. Excuse my language, but I don't think that they give a sh--, you know. I think they don't because their job and their position they have to do is focused on the position they have to play in a part in their life," Boyd said.

It's a view that was highlighted in March 2016 following a series of meetings, when a group of city leaders put together the Nashville Youth Violence Summit report for the Mayor's Office.

One of the factors the report concluded led to violent behavior: feeling left out. A feeling that Michelle Compton and her nine-year-old son, Rashaad, acutely feel now more than ever, following the closure of their neighborhood grocery store.

"We just felt left out and just pushed away," Compton said.

"Guess what?" asked Rashaad. "Now we have nothing. We have absolutely nothing."

The Edgehill Grocery store closed a few weeks back. It was the only walkable grocery store in their neighborhood. Many in the Edgehill community don't have cars or bus fare to take them to the nearest supermarket more than two miles away.

"We deserve to have a place we can come to to purchase the things we need to provide to our families," Compton said.

This was just one example of how she said while the rest of the city seems to move forward, her neighborhood feels left out of the progress sprouting up all around her: new homes and shops continue to be built just feet from the Edgehill homes.

Compton has been looking for a solution from city leaders, something she thinks they won't take the time to find.

"When they say, 'Let's build a new bridge,' they have all the time in the world.  When they say, 'Let's build half-a-million dollar homes in the Edgehill community,' they have a lot of time," Compton said.  "But let's say, elected officials, 'Let's do something about the Edgehill community store,' and that's when everybody just lays back."

Compton said the loss of the store in the neighborhood leads to the loss of more than just groceries.

"When you don't have the necessary means and resources it takes for a community, it plays a huge part in your mind, it makes you feel like you're not providing for your home," Compton said.

She said it leads to a sense of despair that for some can lead to much more.

"For some people, it leads to selling drugs, robbing, stealing," Compton said.

While each person has been facing different experiences, Compton, Key, and Boyd all agreed on one thing: in communities where violence can cut short the dreams of children, they said paying closer attention to those dreams is the place to start in an effort to reduce the city's gun violence.

Read More:
Homicide Rate Rises; Many Victims Are Teens
Police Build Relationships To Curb Violence
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