By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS – The night of June 12, 2019 has left a mark on the community of Frayser.
As the daylight faded away that Wednesday, gunshots, a death, unrest, teargas and moans filled the air. It took a small thunderstorm centrally located over the North Memphis community to wash away the turmoil.
Fast forward to July 25, on a unseasonably cool summer day, members of the Anointed Faith World Outreach Church Ministries located at 4091 Overton Crossing opened their doors to the Millington Family YMCA for a day of unity.
“This is the Y on the Fly,” Anointed and YMCA member Mary Hayes said. “The idea came from the recent tragic incident we had in our neighborhood. This is my neighborhood because this is where I go to church.
“Nearby my church U.S. Marshals shot a young man,” she continued. “In that situation no one wins. We just wanted to have a fun and positive event for the community and surrounding communities. We want to come and have a good day. The YMCA, we’re here to make sure the kids have a good time.”
The children who came to the Y on the Fly van got a chance to visit the water safety station and enjoy other activities. Their little minds were focused on coloring pictures and pedaling a bike to make smoothies.
But the adults there were mindful of the events that inspired the day of unity between Millington and Frayser.
In June the U.S. Marshals fatally shot suspect Brandon Webber. Moments after his death, members of the neighborhood gathered together to display their concerns, frustrations and some demonstrated anger.
An altercation arose with more than 30 Memphis Police officers and two journalist injured. The riot in Frayser made local and national news leaving a black-eye on the community.
“After our board meeting for this month, I spoke with Lizzie and John,” Hayes recalled. “Just sharing in conversation with them about an idea I had. Not to my surprise, they were like we want to come on board and rally around Mary and her church and community to let them know the YMCA is here and we love them. We’re going to have a good day and out of the ashes we rise.”
Millington YMCA’s Lizzie McLean and John Roundtree got with staff, Millington leaders and local businesses in Frayser to organize a day of unity.
Millington Mayor Terry Jones and his family made the trip to Anointed to conduct exercises with visitors. Staff from the YMCA conducted stations and kept the children busy with fun activities.
“We absolutely have to do this,” McLean said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it, and shame on me for not thinking of it because we have to shine a light on this community that had a devastating event happen.
“We need to bring light to the kids,” she continued. “Mary shared that with me that families were actually encouraged to counseling from that event on this community. I can’t even express how much this meant to Memphis as a whole.”
McLean said the Millington YMCA has a presence in Frayser with some members living in the 38217 zip code, but she wants the connection to grow deeper.
“Millington is one name on our Y, but we serve a 240-mile radius,” she noted. “We’re the Y for a lot of communities. We serve Frayser. We serve Raleigh, Tipton County up to Mason. We serve as far up north as Ripley. So Frayser is a part of our service area.”
The Y on the Fly van gave several children from Frayser a chance to get to know the longtime organization for the first time.
“Want more of a connection and bridge the racial and economic gaps,” McLean said. “I hope there is more unity in the community. As community it shouldn’t be segregation. ‘Oh, that’s Frayser.’ It is us as a whole working together. Community is all of us coming together.”
Hayes, who moved to the Memphis area in 2007, said from Frayser to Tipton County is home for her now. She is happy another important part of her life, the YMCA, is trying to make all those communities better.
“I want Frayser as well as Millington to know the YMCA is a safe place to come,” she said. “And the YMCA is for everybody. That’s another goal we’re wanting to reach today. We want people to know the YMCA is for everybody. I want to see all people from different races come together laughing and talking.
“That night it was a bad night,” Hayes concluded. “I was just trying to get to church and I witnessed a lot. It was very real. The people were angry, nervous, scared, distorted. There was some coming together. The (Memphis) Fire Department tried to help intervened some situations what happened before riot. When we go to Heaven, there’s going to be all kinds of spirits there.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.