One after another, they poured into the Booker T. Washington High School auditorium last Saturday (Feb. 22nd) led by their team coaches, all Memphis Police Department officers – chiefs, colonels, majors, sergeants and the like.
Sworn to protect and serve, these mighty MPD men and women added an addendum named Teach to that oath. Fully dressed in their uniforms, with weapons, handcuffs and badges in place, they jokingly and warmly readied their teams for intellectual combat.
Tucked in the various corners of the auditorium, the 2014 Black History Knowledge Bowl teams gathered in circles discussing the historical task at hand.
"Where are the news channels of our city to witness us shining the light on our children when they are doing everything right like today," said Police Director Toney Armstrong.
"It saddens me that it seems we only run a camera up to their face only when they are doing everything wrong. ... Thank you (Tri-State Defender) for joining with us to celebrate these kids who have done everything that we have asked them to do."
Noting that there would be no dunking of basketballs or throwing of footballs, Armstrong spoke to the power of exercising the brain.
"I grew up with friends who were great athletes and if you ask them they'd tell you that I wasn't. However those same people will also agree to the fact that I was smart. I will take that any day of the week," said Armstrong.
During the 2014 version of the annual event the Memphis Police Department Crime Prevention Unit served host, time keepers, judges, security and team Coaches. Oh yeah, they came also came up with the questions.
"These kids minds are growing stronger every year, so we have to really search out harder questions because nowadays kids are reading more, which is good, said Major Sandra Green.
Here are some of the questions that were asked:
"Who was the first African-American woman to sing on the radio?"
"Who authored the novel 'Roots?'
"Who was the first African-American woman elected to Congress?
"Who was the youngest person ever to become Memphis Police Department Director?"
Armstrong was a tone-setter throughout, keeping it light when he felt it needed.
"I want you all to know that I have the names of every child participating here today," he said at one point. "If you don't get the question right that we have in there about me, I will be giving your parents a call."
Police, squad cars and large groups of people were all over the place, but there was no crime scene, no yellow tape. From Armstrong's viewpoint, it's the kind of setting he envisioned associated with MPD's Community Outreach Program.
"I wanted to improve how the public views us and how we communicate and are involved with them," said Armstrong. "I don't want it to be that every time people see a bunch of police cars that something negative has happened.
"We are the most visible profession in the world and I want our kids to look at us not only as a resource but also that many of us came from the same environment. I'm so proud of these kids and these officers. They have done an excellent job."
The police stations, officers and high schools represented were Old Allen, Colonel F. Garrett (Trezevant); Tillman, Colonel T. Landrum (East High); Raines, Colonel J. Kirkwood (Whitehaven, Westwood, Mitchell); South Main, Colonel R. Gary (Booker T. Washington); Mt. Moriah, Colonel S. Hampton (Mt. Moriah); Airways, Colonel M. Balee (Hamilton, Melrose); Crump, Colonel R. Houston (Purple Thunder & Lightning); and Ridgeway, Colonel J. Ryall.