Stop Whining and Change your Meal

Youth violence is summed up in one statement: “We’re hungry and all that you have given us is an appetizer to appease our appetite to stop the rumbling. You have not given us the full meal to make us full and this is why we keep coming back.”8988

As long as the kids do not have any activities, they do not have a mentor and they do not have the community engaging into their lives then they will continue to “just have fun”. Yes, it was said and they have the right to say it. Why? Because they have asked, they have begged and the only response we can provide is to take away after school activities. What will that resolve? It will only enlarge their territory to do more damage. Then who will we blame again, the kids.

We are not listening to their cry. No, we cannot save all kids but we can save more than what we have now. It was a time when you had drama class, ROTC, youth activities, more sports activities that did not cost parents their arms, legs and a kidney to get their child involved. It’s understandable that the economic status has changed and income is much needed but when you charge so much, you are denying the students who are in low poverty level to be involved. Those are the kids you need to touch.

We make excuses all the time about what students are doing wrong but how many are out on the front line without charging as much if any, to make a change and help? Taking away after school activities and not letting programs in the school is not the answer. During a forum with 6 teens, they stated if they had a mentor or if they had more sustainable and consistent community leaders who cared about their success, they would be less likely out on the streets. They want adults to be held accountable for their child’s actions, they want adults to install common sense and make them conscious of their activities and behavior and most importantly they actually know there are repercussion but they also know they will not be held accountable for it; therefore, they will continue to do so.

Kids are yearning for that responsible role model, that person that will hold them accountable for their actions, that leader that will be there to show the right path and that parent that actually cares. Now what will you do to make a change? Will you continue to give them a nugget happy meal or will you start giving a Filet Mignon? Stop whining and do something!

“Point ’em out..knock ’em out!” is what they said

We talk about bridging a social gap between our teens and society. But according to the 2013 Report Card where there was an 88% graduation rate, it seems we are not bridging a gap, we are parting further apart. (http://tn.gov/education/data/report_card/2013.shtml) The incident that happened Saturday, Sept 6 around 9:15pm on the Kroger parking lot of Highland and Poplar is not the first time this incident has happened in that parking lot. I have shopped in that shopping plaza many times and there is always at least 2 patrol cars driving the lot. Where were they when these incidents happen? Better yet, why didn’t anyone call the police when the first man was being attacked? Instead of calling the police they were taking a video to go viral. What if this was your child, what would you have wanted done..video or police?!
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It was told a 25-year-old man said he was attacked by the mob of teenagers as he was walking to his car in the store’s parking lot. Two teenage Kroger employees – aged 17 and 18 – hurried to help the man being attacked, but both of them were said to have been repeatedly hit in the head and face. The employees said the mob threw pumpkins that weighed more than 20 pounds at their hands after the two had fallen to the ground. Those actions are verified in the video that was taken. Both of the employees who were trying to help the man lost consciousness due to the physical attack they encountered. (examiner.com) This was not black on white crime, it was a gang of kids who some call themselves the “Fam Mob” who played a game called “point them out, knock them out”.

Now how ridiculous this sounds, it’s the same effect of the irrational challenge games – cinnamon challenge, pass out challenge, fire challenge, the Vaseline challenge and so many more “challenges”. What happen to the challenge of staying in school? When will adults be challenged to become a mentor? We argue that there are more black males in the street, in gangs, pants hanging down, not in school, etc. But when are we going to stop complaining about it and start helping the problem? Yes we know the old saying it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a mentor to help just one. Don’t complain about what they are doing unless you are making an impact to change the behavior. They are reaching out asking for help yet so few are stepping up to the plate and giving it. Don’t be about it, do something about it! What’s YOUR civic duty in the community?

Justice, Injustice, the truth

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their color of their skin but by the content of their character.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

If he was alive how do you think he would be reacting to these shooting of young men?  Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and reaching home to my family Steven Askew who was shot last year in his car at the Windsor Apartment while he was waiting on his girlfriend.  To us these young men were innocent and was “minding their own business”.

There are conflicting stories on all three victims but do WE know the real truth.  They say it’s 3 sides to the story: your side, their side and the truth.  What was the truth here in these stories?  They were all young, African American and had no prior records on them.  So why shoot the victim verses another alternative?  Did the victims provoke them and the officer used unnecessary actions to maintain the situation? Parents want to know why! Police Shooting Missouri

According to Steven Askew case, it’s reported by Action News Channel 3 that “Memphis police were dispatched to the apartment complex at Knight Arnold and Mendenhall around 9:50 p.m. Thursday on a loud music disturbance call. When officers arrived, they said they saw a man slumped over the wheel in his car and they went to check on the man. According to Memphis police Sgt. Alyssa Macon-Moore, the man then pulled out a gun. Officers immediately opened fire, killing him.” The gun was registered and he was in a location that definitely needed protection.  Did the police officer over-react? Would you have done the same?  My belief is he could have just stated loudly, “Put down your gun!”  There could have been some alternatives that could have been done for all 3 victims but they weren’t taken.  Read the article yourself. http://wreg.com/2013/01/18/man-shot-killed-by-memphis-police/

There is a lesson in all situation.  Although African Americans are judged quicker, let’s not give them a reason to.  If you are asked to stop, then STOP.  Don’t start confrontation with the officer and don’t bring attention to gather a large crowd. Be submissive to the officer and remember the officers name and badge number if possible; but don’t get smart and say I have your badge and name and will make sure that you get it.  Officers are human and they get pissed just like you and sometimes going by the book is not on their mind.  We understand officers are here to protect us and keep us safe, but how far do you think they should go to make a person stop or get their point across?  How much necessary force is needed?  This is dedicated to my aunt who will forever mourn the lost of her son. These families are hurting and they want answers now!

Life after suicide

Imaged after you get a call saying your brother was found dead on the side of the road with a gun inflected wound to the head.  He had just committed suicide and he left you this note:

“I wanted to start by saying this is not anyone’s fault but mine.  This is my decision and I did not base this on anything anyone did, said, acted, or anything else.  I have had this on my mind for the past few years, probably since high school.  I made this decision because I am tired of being hurt and depressed.  I have been in pain of some sort everyday of my life.  The most hurtful is knowing and leading a good life and realizing that what I do does not matter.  I want to be remembered as a servant leader, thoughtful, generous, fun and intelligent  person.  About 2 years ago, I was diagnosed as a “high functioning” manic depressive (once known as bipolar). I tried my entire life to fill the glass of others with no regard to myself.  Despite what light you saw me in, that was the goal of my entire life- to empower others. Unfortunately, I chose not to continue this life and thus probably hurt a lot of people.  No one else should do the same selfish act that I have committed. I apologize.”

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When I read the news about comedian Robin Williams had committed suicide, I automatically thought of this letter MY brother left for ME.  My response was how dare he leave me, how dare he commit such a selfish act.  Then I turned and said where did I go wrong, what did I miss?  At age 27 he took his life and I couldn’t ask questions why.  But his letter said it all.  He was tired of being hurt and depressed.  He was tired of being everyone’s else motivation but he wasn’t getting the empowering and motivation he needed.  He made people smile, laugh and feel good about themselves.  People saw him as an individual who had no worries because he always smiled.  Is that how Robin Williams felt?  He made us laugh, he made us cry and most importantly he had a family that depended on him.  But where was his help, his laughter, his outlet?

We look at people and see their smile and think that everything is ok.  But the signs are visible, we just ignore them because we believe it’s part of society.  You know the drinking heavily, smoking more than usual, selling their belongings or buying guns more often than normal.  Perhaps sleeping more or taking pills to fall asleep because they are depressed.  They may just say they are just tired and we believe it. It’s time to really look at the signs and acknowledge it.  One statement my brother, Norman Paul Nolen II, left me personally was make sure I said thank you, don’t say I love you unless you mean it and SHOW others that you care and don’t just tell them.  That bothered me because I wasn’t for sure if he said it in generalization or perhaps I did him like that.  Was that one of his trigger points?

In the bible it talks about growing through discouragement.  Paul thought about taking his own life. He “despaired even of life” (2 Co 1:8).  Yes we all have our ups and downs but do we have someone we can really talk to without being judge? Discouragement to me is only a temporary set back that we can overcome, IF we have faith, talk to someone and really look at the heart of the issue.  I know for my brother his trigger point was love and support from others who he had supported.  Yes family was fine but he wanted that outside love returned back to him.  When he was discouraged in his relationship, that was his last trigger point.  He had set his heart on it and when it fell apart, to him that was his last straw.

So what do you think Robin Williams trigger point was?  What made him make that decision that he couldn’t take it anymore?  We will never know?  All we do know is he left us with amazing memories that will last forever.  Since my brother’s death, I have made some major life changes and choices to help me cope with this tragedy. It’s been hard, extremely hard but I read his letter for that one sentence he left me, “Shun, you are the strongest most given and selfless person I have even known.  Be strong.  I know that it will be hard, but you are stronger that I will ever be.”  If you lost a love one over depression, what have you done to help you get through it?

It’s your fault young adults don’t vote

As of August 6, 74,757 (13.9% of the 537,223 total registered voters) have voted early in the Shelby County Election of 2014. 2.1% of those voters’ age range from 18-24. The older generations is concerned about these results. Why is the youth not participating in the election? Being an 18 year old who grew up in Memphis, I can answer that question for you. I will bust the myth that my generation does not vote because they cannot stay out the club or any other negative statement. The problem is that we do not know much about this process, ignorant on who to vote for, and some are too embarrassed to ask questions.
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Personally, I did not know much the voting process. I really did not pay it any attention until I attended Memphis Challenge’s annual summer soirée at the National Civil Rights Museum this year. Cassandra Webster, the executive director, stressed the significance of voting to my fellow MC alum. She said that we cannot complain about the community if we do not vote. Her words abided in my head as I toured the museum.

She later introduced me to a candidate in this year’s election, and both of them asked me if I was registered to vote. I was ignorant about the voting process at the time, so I said that I had just turned 18, so I guessed automatically that I am registered. Ms. Webster corrected me, and told me that I will have to wait until November if I do register. I was disappointed, and I began to wonder how many of my peers have voted or even know about the election.
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That night, I tweeted “RT if you already voted” to my 904 followers. I know that is not a lot of followers, but I just wanted to find out. Only two of my followers re-tweeted it, and one girl asked me what election was I tweeting about?

I also asked one of my friends if she has voted yet. She replied with a no, and said that she is only registered because someone from her government class in high school mentioned the voting process to her. She also stated she hasn’t vote yet because she knows nothing about the candidates.
Young adults are ignorant to voting. They don’t know who the candidates are or what they represent. Although Bridge Builders help young adults understand but that’s not enough. One teen said he said he didn’t want to give the power to someone who didn’t deserve it and that’s why he didn’t want to vote. During a recent survey of 8 ranging ages 18-40, 6 said no they had not voted and did not plan on voting. One lady stated she did not vote because her parents did not vote and she didn’t understand the elections so she wasn’t going to vote.

Overall before we start saying young adults want to be in the club, party and have no future, start to think have we or the delegates done their due diligence and educated the young adults on why they should vote, how it effects them and their future and who and what they represent. To get more of them to vote, talk to them more because they are our future leaders.
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Written by Keturah Harris and Leshundra Robinson

Do you know the zone you are in? Let’s Talk!

UCAN extended an open call to participants ages 12-20 to take part in its quarterly teen talk session on June 28 entitled, “The Social.” During this session, topics will include peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem, say no to drugs and other critical issue topics facing teens. The free event was held at the House of Mtenzi from 2 to 5 p.m., 1298 Madison.

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Each quarter “Let’s Rap” Teen Talk session gives teens an outlet to be empowered, discuss hot pressing topics, socialize with other teens and be creative. Each session carries a different focus with varying topics. Young people are interviewed to get their take on current news issues, while a host of motivational speakers are enlisted to enlighten and encourage throughout the year.
This quarter “Let’s Rap” was entitled “The Social”. This quarter we discuss sensitive topics such as peer pressure, drugs, sex and more that teens may not feel so comfortable to discuss with parents. Brandy Flynn of Brady J. Flynn Counseling and Consulting Services, Elder Jessie Jennings, author of On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! and UCAN President Leshundra Robinson was this quarter, “The Social”, guest panelists.

The teens were engaged to the questions asked by host James Wesby. The panelist answered the questions with honesty. They shared their own experience as a teenager and how they handled some of the issues dealing with peer pressure in college, dating and identifying your own identity. Here are some of the takeaways from “The Social”:

1. Identify your “Self-Identity” early, if possible
2. Say ‘no’ to any substances that may cause addiction
3. Don’t make “this is just my environment” an excuse – select the right environment (good soil) to plant your seed (you).
4. Be purposeful – (i.e. selecting college)
5. Based on your career aspirations or who you are, what type of music tell about yourself? What’s your personal ‘soundtrack’
6. Utilize music to provoke positivity in your life
7. Know who you are internally before adding or take away from your body, externally (hair, tattoos, losing weight, etc.). This can be the determining factor towards your decision.
8. Don’t get caught up how someone thinks about you, but make sure you’re confident in yourself
9. Relationships – Love yourself, but prepare for that season……..prepare during the “pre-season” before the actual game
10. Get a mentor……today!


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The next teen talk sessions are Sept. 27, which will have a focus on networking and the 30-second elevator speech and Dec. 27, which will focus on a student’s hidden talents, emphasizing self-expression through song, dance and poetry.

UCAN’s mission is to impact young adolescents through mentoring, personal development and education with a goal to foster positive growth in the community. The organization, co-founded by Leshundra Robinson in 2005 as a community giveback to her former neighborhood, primarily mentors young female teens in the North Memphis area. For more info on the rap sessions or UCAN’s other community and educational programs, visit ucanofmemphis.org or call 262-8642.

How are you making a difference today?

Rising Student M.A.D. gives the community, teachers, parents and their peers the opportunity to nominate a student who has made a difference in the community, at school, or even at home helping their family to strive to change. Students are often embraced as juvenile delinquency only because they don’t have the right guidance. With Rising Student M.A.D. you will see these students are the opposite and have been willing to change their environment by making a difference.

wpid-20140620_143028.jpgMeet Christopher Wilson, 13 years old and a student at Colonial Middle School with a 4.5 GPA! Yes, over the barometer with a 4.5 GPA and striving to do better. We met up with Christopher at the Benjamin Hooks Library to talk about his nomination and winner of Rising Student M.A.D. (Making A Difference) in the community. Christopher was in his sharp light blue suit prepared for an interview. We asked Christopher what he thought made him different from other 13 year old students. His response was he had 2 different ears that made him hear further and what he felt made him understand his lessons better.

With a 4.5 GPA, a joy for reading books such as The 39 Clues Series and books by Andrew Clements and a peer reader for the non-profit organization, Successful Single Moms Memphis and Smart Start Family Literacy Program, you wouldn’t think he would have time to have fun with his friends but he does! He takes time out to be a typical student by playing games, going skating and just texting each other. He is known to his friends as the “problem solver”. They go to Christopher for advice which is amazing to me as he is only 13 years old. Beautiful! His most noted quote to his peers is “Don’t give up but strive for the success.” His mother, Irene Ford, has really been a great motivator and role model for him to follow. He sees her always working to help others, reading and making a difference so he directs his path to emulate her.

One question we asked Christopher is what do you think teens need to do to improve the community? His response…volunteer and help the elders. He helps his 90 year old grandmother with chores around the house.


Each month we will spotlight the winner of Rising Student M.A.D. on our website http://www.ucanofmemphis.org, media and other social sites. The student will also volunteer with the organization representing Rising Student M.A.D. At the end of the year, we will have all Rising Student M.A.D. attend our Christmas Gala December 20, 2014 at Wingate by Wyndham. Only one of the Rising Student M.A.D. will be honored a small scholarship for a college of their choice! Deadline to nominate a Rising Student M.A.D is the 27th of each month. The winner will be announced and featured on ucnanfmemphis.org at the end of each month. Send your nomination to ucan@ucanofmemphis.org