Tyree Daniels, Managing Director, Duncan-Williams Inc:

As I am leaving the Memphis River Park Partnership after an exciting meeting reviewing the upcoming design of Tom Lee Park, I was accosted by two seemingly innocuous men that looked to be regular guys asking for directions to the library downtown. 

I am always amazed that people pick me to ask those questions regardless of my attire.  After I responded and pointed in the direction of the library, the next question they asked has confounded and inspired me for the past several months.  “Who’s feeding today?” Wow. 

Initially, I was aghast and could not formulate a response due to my lack of understanding of the question.  Yet as I attempted to muster a response and all that came to mind was “I don’t know man,”. I was vexed with my lack of an adequate response as well as with my effort in trying to help them get an answer.  Perhaps my formulation of background details, biased judgement or situational awareness dulled my sensitivity.  Could the guy be homeless and asking me who was serving food today? Why would he decide to ask that question? Those were just some of thoughts that went through my mind. Then, I really began to internalize the exchange and other possible lessons to be gleaned from the experience.   

Life’s journey is focused around a series of encounters.  We have planned, and spontaneous ones each day and our decision must be “who is feeding today.”  Is it your turn to bring life into someone’s presence or are you meant to receive something unexpectedly from them? We all have the capacity to share and receive both, but we must open ourselves for the opportunity. Your chance encounter could truly change someone’s year: make the most of them.

DeAndre Brown, Executive Director, Lifeline to Success:

As the new year begins, new opportunities emerge. And with those new opportunities comes a chance to imagine- imagine with the future CAN be. This process of imagining isn’t for the sake of wasting time, but it serves as a space to cast vision that has tangible outcomes that can be measured.

My work is consumed with reducing crime by modifying the behavior of those that have committed crimes and have the criminal records to prove it. So, I am intimately familiar with the causes and effects of criminal activity. Our work focuses on dismantling the “criminal culture”. We serve individuals that have non-violent criminal histories, but we focus on and prefer individuals that have perpetrated violent acts. As a convicted felon, I am well aware of the thought processes of individuals that choose that lifestyle. That gives me a unique ability to intervene.

I envision that 2019 will be a year in which the City of Memphis makes decisions and supports efforts that drastically reduce the number of violent crimes that take place. I envision a community that has stood up and made it widely known that criminal behavior is no longer socially acceptable. Finally, I envision that this year will provide space for citizens to understand that this issue affects us all and should be dismantled by all.

The Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal enforcement teams are very effective and have results that show enforcement is necessary. I believe these organizations have capable leadership and have staffs that deserve our respect. While these truths exist, those efforts, alone, will never make the impact that is needed to drastically reduce violent crime. Drastic reductions will take a drastic shifting of our thinking and efforts. Intentional relationships with the community are VITAL! (Some exist now, but not nearly enough.)

The time has come for the citizens to reclaim our territory! No longer can we remain apathetic and continuously allow individuals that have chosen lives of crime to dictate how we live, move and enjoy life. The time has come for us to become vocal. The time has come for us to report what we see. The time has come for us to allow our courage to overcome our fear. This is our community. That has not changed. We need to act like it.

Crime has no boundaries. Railroad tracks and 4 lane highways will not protect any of us from becoming victims of crime. Criminals are becoming more bold and desperate. We must, in turn, engage- all of us. Zip codes, gates and cameras are no match for an individual whose mind tells him criminal behavior is normal. The morality void must be filled. WE must engage children through mentoring programs. WE must develop relationships with those that may have differing view or social status from us to develop real community that will serve a deterrent to violators of the law. The low hanging fruit: grab your nieces, nephews, cousins and YOUR children that you know need love and direction.

While these efforts and results are aspirational, I believe we all can do our share to actively make Memphis as safer place. Together, we can build community. In 2019, together the public can dictate public safety.