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Thu May 21, 2020, 10:32 AM

Emotional drive-by graduation celebration in North Nashville goes viral


(Video at link)

..."The video was taken at Pearl Cohn High School's drive-thru graduation celebration, where Dontrail Spencer received his diploma. The new graduate got emotional and called out to several to his teachers from his car.

"It was just an emotional day for me, to see myself graduate, I never thought I'd see myself in a cap and gown with a big diploma in my hand," Spencer told NewsChannel 5. "It was emotional. I didn't know what to say. I was speechless. All I could do was shed tears of joy, that was all I did."

"I was in the back seat sobbing, shouting and yelling," Spencer's mom, Tamika Hawkins said.

In a Facebook post, Rasheedat Fetuga wrote: "My babies graduated!!! When our children graduate it means so much. They have fought through a system set against them. And won. We did this together— Dontrail, his mother, teachers, and Gideon's Army. Please follow Gideon’s Army to support our mission to save our children."

Fetuga is president of Gideon's Army, an organization that works to keep kids off of the streets. Fetuga worked with Spencer throughout his high school career, and Spencer credited the organization with helping him get to graduation.

"I could've been like any other kid on the streets," Spencer said.

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Reply Emotional drive-by graduation celebration in North Nashville goes viral (Original post)
Tanuki Thursday OP
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Response to Tanuki (Original post)

Thu May 21, 2020, 10:45 AM

1. More about the organization, Gideon's Army, mentioned in the article:


..."The group, which describes itself as a “grassroots army for children,” was founded several years ago by Rasheedat Fetuga, a former Metro schoolteacher turned indefatigable community activist. Since then, Fetuga and Gideon’s Army have employed a number of strategies to break the cycles that lead to death or incarceration for too many black youth, particularly in North Nashville, a community with one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. Sometimes that work is relatively quiet, like the restorative justice program Fetuga runs at Pearl-Cohn High School to divert students from suspension and expulsion and disrupt what’s known as the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Other times the group’s efforts have redirected the attention of citizens and elected officials across the city. In 2016, Gideon’s Army spearheaded the “Driving While Black” report, which showed that black drivers were disproportionately stopped and searched by Nashville police in all areas of the city. It provided statistical backing for the anecdotal evidence black Nashvillians had been discussing for years, and it fundamentally changed the conversation about policing in the city.

The newest prong in the Gideon’s Army offensive is a crew of community members called Violence Interrupters. Based on the model used by a Chicago-based organization called Cure Violence, which frames violence as an infectious disease, the mission of the Violence Interrupters is as high-stakes as it gets, but relatively straightforward. The Violence Interrupters are in the streets of North Nashville most days, looking to establish an omnipresence in the community that enables them to de-escalate potentially violent situations and offer support to victims in a way that diminishes the likelihood of retaliatory shootings. Sometimes they find themselves standing between two people ready to do each other harm; other times they act as a first-response unit to offer families some stability in the wake of unfathomable trauma.

With Gideon’s Army, Fetuga had always envisioned the mission playing out in four areas: the schools, the courts, policing and the community. At Pearl-Cohn she has brought the philosophy of restorative justice — which aims to repair the harm caused by crimes or misbehavior, and address the root causes, more than solely punishing the offender — to a classroom setting. The organization has also worked on restorative justice initiatives through Metro Arts and Judge Sheila Calloway’s court. And they’ve been a constant source of pressure when it comes to policing reform. 


In a community where there is a pervasive lack of trust in the police, groups like Gideon’s Army and the Violence Interrupters — groups seeking to protect and serve the community from within — can accomplish things that armed officers likely never could. But owing to its grounding in restorative justice practices, the violence-interruption model also offers an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system, which is often a large hammer that can make everything look like a nail. 

“Once you call 911 it’s pretty much out of your hands, even if it was something you felt was minor and you might just call 911 out of habit,” says Jamel Campbell-Gooch, a Gideon’s Army staffer who also serves as vice chairman of Metro’s new Community Oversight Board. “So what the violence interruption team allows to happen is shared power. You call somebody that you know and you have a conversation with them, and you don’t have to worry about someone losing their life on the back end, because honestly, whenever you call the police that’s a possibility.”....(more)

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