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Greater Metro

Officer April Colbert

april 600(Just as a neighborhood should not be judged by the actions of a few bad apples, neither should law enforcement agencies. In partnership with the new Community Police Relations Project, The New Tri-State Defender's "Good Blue" column spotlights law enforcement officers who do it right. This week's focus is on Officer April Colbert of the Memphis Police Department.)

Officer April Colbert, a member of the Memphis Police Department Airways Station since 2011, is soft-spoken yet fiercely determined to bring people together. Born on Chicago's Southside, she moved to Memphis at age 13 with her mother, brother and sister. Hers is not a story of a youngster who grew up wanting to become a police officer.

An East High School graduate (1998), Colbert said her journey to the police force was inspired by a strange exchange between her and a Memphis police officer who had just given her a $200-plus speeding ticket. I recently caught up with Officer Colbert at a coffee shop off Walnut Grove and Tillman for this "Good Blue" conversation.

NBCSL draws youth seeking lawmaking skills

youthpolitics 600Mathieu White and Tamaira Ballard were among the Memphis high school students who targeted the Youth Congress Day Luncheon as the place to be last week to gain first-hand experience in lawmaking.

The luncheon (Dec. 11), which had students taking on the roles of state senators and representatives, was coordinated by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, which hosted its 37th annual Legislative Conference at The Peabody last week.

The four-day conference, whose theme was "Progress: Moving Our States Forward Through Policy Action," centered on presentations and discussions addressing current legislative issues in our community.

Police ‘misconduct’ challenged

police 600Their numbers were few, but spirits were high as Memphis United Coalition members took to the streets Tuesday (Dec. 17) to protest what Mid-South Peace and Justice Center Organizing Director Brad Watkins called "a disturbing trend of harassment and misconduct among Memphis police officers."

"The homeless and groups of young African Americans are being singled out by law enforcement for arrests, illegal searches for no cause and other forms of misconduct in the community," Watkins said.

A related gathering took root early that afternoon at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Fourth Street downtown. Homeless advocates and a legal representative conducted workshops where attendees were given some direct advice. They were told that citizens have the right to record or photograph any incident involving themselves or others when trying to document civil rights violations or illegal actions by law enforcement.

Fundraisers ease wait for services for people with disabilities on list

fundraiser 600Fundraisers by the Memphis area council of the Tennessee Family Support Program, encompassing Shelby and Fayette counties, are helping ease the wait for five people with disabilities on a 1200-person-deep list for service.

The program helps hundreds of people across the state, but there's not enough state funding to immediately provide services for everyone. Through fundraisers, the local council tries to help meet the need. Five thousand dollars has been raised since February 2013.

Jeri Henry is paralyzed on her left side, and receives dialysis treatments. She also has other major health concerns. She'll now have new avenues for help.

New MEMShop, Co-Motion Studio, launches Friday in Crosstown

memshop 600The Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team MEMShop initiative will launch a sixth business, Co-Motion Studio, in the Crosstown area, at 416 N. Cleveland St., this Friday, (Dec. 13).

A free open house celebration from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. will mark the occasion.

Co-Motion – a creative movement studio and retail space – will offer recreational movement and fitness classes, including: hula hooping; yoga; modern and world dance; and circus and flow arts. The retail space will feature a selection of handcrafted and LED hoops, dance clothing and accessories, and other locally made products.

Outreach gives MAM boys ‘cool cuts’

mamacuts 600"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor."
– Proverbs 9:9

That Bible verse sums up the value of partnerships. And in this story, the two working together are the Barber's Institute and Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM).
The rewards?

That's easy to see. Just look at the group of boys smiling ear to ear, showing off their new haircuts while others wait for their turns in the chair at MAM's St. Andrew youth center, located at 1472 Mississippi Blvd. in South Memphis.

‘DeBerry presence’ evident at legislators’ national conference

winan 600Former Tennessee house Speaker Pro Tempore Lois M. DeBerry lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in late July of this year, but she was "there" Wednesday morning when National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) President Joe Armstrong opened the group's 37th legislative conference at The Peabody.

"Rep. DeBerry helped to shape this year's conference by adding two important elements," said Armstrong, a Knoxville Democrat. "Youth Day and the prayer breakfast were both her doing. She felt very passionately that we should be grooming young leaders to take up the mantle when we have moved off the scene. ...Her presence is strongly felt as we gather in the city she loved so well."

This year's prayer breakfast will be Friday morning. It has been named The Lois DeBerry Prayer Breakfast and Memorial Service.

Is an unseen hand at work in the Juvenile Court Clerk race?

juve 600When former municipal employee Kenneth Moody announced he would challenge Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks for Juvenile Court Clerk in next year's Democratic Primary, some watchers of local politics quickly pointed to the influence of Brooks' commission colleague, Sidney Chism.

Brooks, who was questioning the operation of Juvenile Court long before the U.S. Department of Justice determined there was much seriously amiss, announced her candidacy many months ago. When The New Tri-State Defender asked Chism to comment on whether he had a hand in Moody's planned challenge of Brooks, he chose to remain mum for now.

Candidate Moody said those who see his bid as some type of mini-machine manipulation need to think again.