A Rotary forum: Can we help in East Knoxville?

Tom KingFarragut, Our Town Teens

Can a Rotary club in West Knoxville do anything to help the East Knoxville and Austin-East Magnet High School gun violence issue?  Five teenagers have been shot to death in the last four months. Their ages were between 15 and 17.

Yesterday, the Rotary Club of Farragut, meeting at Fox Den Country Club, asked itself these questions – Can we help? What can we do? Do they want help from a club of 85 white people with an African-American president, Ed Jones, who is a member of Mt. Olive Baptist Church?

Jones and a former club member, Brandon Ross, led the lively and productive discussion. How to help and what to do specifically were not answered. Having the will to be a part of a community solution was.

“This is not a political discussion, but a humanitarian discussion,” Jones said. “I told someone working on this issue that these kids need role models. I was quickly corrected. They have role models – but the wrong kinds of role models.”

Ross, a member of the Overcoming Believers Church, is working with a number of groups trying to develop solutions. “We’re trying to figure it out. It’s a big cloud right now. These groups are working in what I call silos, and we have to get them sitting across from one another at the same table talking and understanding each other,” he said.

He added: “….When a kid dies it feels like one of mine has died. There are people in place to fix this. They need the resources to help do it. Counselors. Therapy. How do we get to these kids early, when they’re 5 and 7 years old? We have 10- and 11-year-old kids selling drugs. Their uncles give them guns.”

Jones talked about gangs. Ross said he’s been told some of these gang members are not even from the community, coming in from out of state to sell drugs. “When you talk about the families, we’ve got kids raising kids. Many of the families have fallen apart,” Jones added.

Some of the questions to be addressed:

  • How and where are these young people getting their guns?
  • What is motivating the shooting? Drugs? Power? Boredom? Survival lifestyles?
  • Does the word and concept of “consequences” ever enter into their minds?
  • Is it poverty?
  • Is the problem in their homes?
  • How many of these shooters have a father in the home?
  • Are gangs driving most of this? In many cases, the gang is the family.

May the conversation continue that leads to solutions. The conversation will continue at Farragut Rotary.

To explore membership in the Rotary Club of Farragut, email Tom King here or call 865-659-3562. Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers.

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