Youth leaders try to keep kids on the right track as gun violence surges across Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Youth leaders across the city are trying to do whatever they can to steer young teens on the right track, as gun violence continues to surge across Memphis.

Over the Labor Day weekend, there have been at least 5 people killed and half a dozen wounded due to gun violence, so far. Local youth leaders say they are battling two pandemics at the same time: the coronavirus and inner-city violence.

To make matters worse, the coronavirus pandemic caused schools across the area to go virtual which means mentors like Delvin Lane cannot easily access young teens because schools and other places are physically closed.

Lane, who is a violence prevention supervisor, said he is doing his best to keep young people on the right track despite the adversity the coronavirus pandemic is posing.

“You want to help keep people alive, but with this pandemic, you have to keep yourself alive,” Lane said. “When I saw the Whitehaven football player get killed, it’s just devastating. So, I talked to the boys about life decisions.”

Demetrius Robinson was a standout football player at Whitehaven High School. He was shot and killed last week, which is still shocking to many across the city.

Memphis Police records show that 25 children have violently died so far this year, with 20 of them being murdered.

Lane said it is very important for the communities to come together and find something for young people to do, that is safe, to keep them out of the streets.

“You know the old saying, ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,'” Lane said. “With these kids having nowhere to go and nothing really to do, violence kicks in.”

LaDell Beamon, of the Heal the Hood Foundation, agreed with Lane. Beamon said he is very concerned about the violence. Of the 25 children who’ve died this year, three of them Beamon said they interacted with.

As gun violence is on the rise, Beamon said it is very important to let the children know despite the ongoing pandemic, they are here to help.

“If kids cannot access you, they will find something to fill that void,” Beamon said. “And so, for us, it’s extremely important for us to keep our doors open.”

Beamon said a lot of these children are crying out for help and just need someone to be there for them.

“We have to create something that’s going to feed the need of these kids,” Beamon said.” If it’s their hunger, if it’s their affirmation, if it’s building their self-esteem, if it’s building a safe place, we’ve got to be able to engage these kids and meet them right where they are at all costs.”

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