Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: MAN UP - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: MAN UP

By Joe Birch - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - There's a new voice rising in Memphis, trying to reach at-risk teens and young adults.  It's happening in the form of the MAN UP foundation. 

"That's our whole theme: teaching the children other alternatives other than violence," MAN UP's Jameel Childress.

MAN UP is an acronym that stands for: Minimizing-All-Negativity Utilizing-Peace.  But somebody didn't get the MAN UP message on Kerr Avenue in South Memphis. An April 26th shooting killed Lonnie Williams, who would have turned 27-years-old this week. Lonnie was the kid brother of Childress, who founded MAN UP.

A decade ago, Childress said, he might have gotten a gun and sought revenge:

"I'm past that," he said. "I've manned up."

Childress' rapper/stage name is 'Mel Zulu.' Using rap, spoken word and dance, MAN UP says young people are hungry for a constructive message.

"We speak to them about anti-gang, being anti-gang, anti-violent...education is a must," Childress said.

While watching the news on a particularly violent week in Memphis nearly three years ago, Childress wrote Man Up's rap anthem, 'Stop the Violence.'

Childress said his brother's death has driven home the serious nature of the crime crisis among Memphis' teens and young adults.

"He will not die in vain, that's most definitely," Childress said.

Lonnie spoke at MAN UP's last peace rally at the Civil Rights Museum on March 1st. Now, more rallies are being planned by MAN UP, which is made up of young men who have been in trouble and have made a turn around.

Childress himself was busted for robberies and drug possession at age 18, and served over seven years in prison.  Now, he's 30-years-old, off probation, and working as a hotel maintenance man, he's on fire to spread the MAN UP message.  

"The violence: it must stop. It must stop," he said.

Memphis police say they have the name of a person of interest in Lonnie Williams' murder, but have yet to make an arrest.

If you'd like to help his family pay funeral expenses you can do so at any First Tennessee Bank. Just ask for the Lonnie Williams Benefit Fund.

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