This will be a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together, listen, learn and most important, heal from some of the emotions felt by recent gun violence and the lives we have lost in our community.
A plan of community action is the sentiment shared among all of the panelists involved and that is why this forum will be more of an exchange of ideals and community interaction.
Pastor Tommy Vajellos: Pastor Tommy, as he is known to everyone throughtout the community, is an ex-gang member and now an associate pastor at Faith Outreach Church in Clarksville. His personal life experience in working with local officials in the form of presentations and reenactments of gang activity has given all who have attend his workshops a better understanding of what to look for in your kids, their friends and throughout the community in a preventive effort to try and halt the recruitment of kids into gangs.
TN State Representative Joe Pitts: A native Clarksvillian who has had to watch his community go through the recent growing pains that metro growth brings, Representative Pitts is determined to bring the knowledge and solutions the Tennessee State House has on its agenda in the form of legislative bills that may address the gang issue that reaches across all ethnic backgrounds and destroys families. Mr. Pitts is committed to providing the citizens of Clarksville-Montgomery County with a better quality of life and at the top of his list are improvements in crime reduction and safety.
Jimmie Garland, Sr.: Current President of the Clarksville NAACP, Mr. Garland has a vision of a multi-cultural NAACP branch and community togetherness. As the NAACP moves toward its 100 year anniversary, its mission statement has been amended to include more personal responsibility and a commitment in encouraging citizens to work together to take their communities back from the criminals. The proper raising and discipline of our kids is the entire responsibility of their parents and the community.
Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper: This is his second term as Mayor of Clarksville and whether we would like to admit it or not he is looked upon as the security blanket of this community. By having him at this forum, the community may be able to get direct answers as to our local government’s preventive methods in place regarding gang activity. These answers are always better when coming from the horse’s mouth so to speak. The highest ranking elected official in the city must be able to make his constituents feel that safety is on their side and is that criminals are not just running amuck.
Interim Clarksville Police Chief Al Ansley: There are questions and answers that can only be addressed by the Chief of Police and citizens feel more confortable when they are given honest and common sense answers to questions ranging from gangs and safety to where the community fits into the Police Department’s plan in securing safety for them and their family. Communities are now looking to their local police department and asking how can I get involved. How can I help? What can I do?
Rev. Marvin Barner, Director the Ripple Foundation: A local Pastor and gang awareness advocate currently working with our local school system in recognizing gang activities. Rev Barner states that “Quick fix” programs do not work. Programs must be offered over months, not weeks, and of sufficient intensity to change entrenched behaviors and attitudes. Follow-up “booster” sessions contribute to program effectiveness. We will promote genuine male and female values with no exceptions. Community involvement is a must!
Kenneth Albritton: A former felon who turned his life around and now works to help others get on the right path. Kenneth witnesses first hand, the pressure a young man or woman faces everyday in school and in certain neighborhoods to join gangs or indulge in illegal activities. Because of his past, he understands the need to have more programs and family training as proactive measures in an effort to control these negative impulses and behaviors many youth face. Getting his right to vote back has made him feel like a part of the community again and he stresses that many kids do feel left out of their community and are frustrated so they may join gangs looking for a sense of belonging.
Gabe Segovia, three term City Council member: One of the most popular and hardworking City Councilmen in Clarksville’s history. His commitment to one on one communication among the citizens of his ward and throughout Clarksville makes him a natural to explain the missing link between the citizens and elected officials on this issue of gangs. His vast experience in government can provide us with answers to questions like what is already in place and available to deal with this issue that either the city has forgotten about or may not know. Each year monies are set aside or grants are given to help communities deal with safety issues and improve a variety of areas that affect the quality of life for its citizens. I believe gang activities certainly fall under this category.