MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On August 4, a Memphis Police Department spokesperson told FOX13 twenty-three children have died violently this year in the Bluff City. Eighteen of those were murders.
Last year, police said 16 children died of violence.
Police Director Mike Rallings begged more than 120 pastors to get out of the pulpit and go into the communities to help combat the city’s crime problem.
FOX13′s Siobhan Riley started digging into this issue last December. In a special report, “Turning Boys Into Men,” FOX13 found out how one program offers hope to kids growing up around gun violence.
Most of the children attending The Husband Institute know someone who was murdered. In some cases, it was their own parents.
The founder told FOX13 back in December when we started working on this story that 95 percent of the young men attending the program don’t have positive male role models in their homes.
Nearly 74 percent of Frayser children live in poverty, according to the online database Neighborhood Scout.
Among the abandoned homes, blighted property, and crime, there’s The Husband Institute; a mentoring program turning boys as young as five years old into men. The day starts off with devotion and quoting the program’s mission and vision.
This is a safety net where young men have real conversations at Pursuit of God Church about the crime impacting children across Memphis.
“Fat Daddy’s mother got shot last night, and she didn’t make it,” said Pastor Ricky Floyd when talking about a little boy who attends the program.
FOX13 recorded the story on the same day A young boy in the program lost his mother to gun violence.
“A son without his mother, a mother without her daughter and a community with someone that many people loved,” said Floyd.
Floyd asked how many boys know somebody who was affected by guns.
Among those young men impacted was 12-year-old Bryon Allen. who got the worst news at 11 years old.
“My grandad came home, and they shared that the man who my dad knew was allowed into the house, but they didn’t know that he was armed. He shot my dad in the head and my stepmom four times in the stomach, and then after that, he put lighter fluid inside the house and set it on fire," Allen told FOX13.
Allen said The Husband Institute, where he speaks openly about his feelings, helps him cope with the loss of his parents.
“That’s why I like the Husband Institute because the Husband Institute shows you that even though you lost somebody or you don’t have this person in your life no more that you will have father figures, brother figures,” he said.
“It’s amazing how the boys want the discipline, how we discipline them with pushups when they are late. Our voices are firm when it needs to be firm. It’s affirming when it needs to be affirming,” Floyd said.
The program also teaches financial literacy, mechanics, and dance.
Students like Allen say every lesson is worth it; especially the mission and vision students are required to learn.
“Every time they think about doing something wrong they can think, oh this the mission or vision from the Husband Institute, and this tells me not to do this and not to do that,” Allen explained.
Floyd says Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich is partnering with the program to open a thrift store across the street from the church.
They will put boys to work, as well as older women, serving as motherly mentors.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Husband Institute.