MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A jaw d ropping amount of graffiti covered the walls of a Memphis high school as students arrived for classes one day in 2016. Word spread that members of a Hispanic gang, the Playboy Sorrentos, spray painted the school to send a clear message to one member of a rival gang.
The Latino gangsters wanted to settle a score with one member of the Crips, an African American gang. The threat of violence was in the air.
"The gang members stood in a position where they could lose their lives," said LaDell Beamon, Founder and CEO of the Heal the Hood Foundation of Memphis.
Instead of another senseless shooting, Beamon managed to meet with members of the Latino and African American gangs separately. Beamon convinced the young men to work out a truce. Beamon suggested the rivals keep the peace and work on a project together.
"We wanted to make a cultural piece with Latinos and African Americans together," said Beamon.
So last fall, 20 students, African Americans and Hispanics, began making a movie entitled, "Stupid Decision on the Wrong Day." It's the story of a promising high school senior who wins a full ride college scholarship through stellar academic achievement but keeps hanging around shady friends. The people your mother told you to avoid end up causing the star student's downfall.
Beamon directed the film, his latest attempt to use the arts for conflict resolution. Closing scenes were shot Sunday, February 19 on a sunny Sunday outside Lester Community Center in Binghamton. The film is now being edited and scored and will premiere on March 15th at the Malco Majestic Theatre in Hickory Hill. Heal the Hood Foundation timed the premiere intentionally to coincide with Spring Break for Shelby County Schools.
"We chose to have the red carpet premiere during Spring Break, because there's always some type of incident," said Beamon, who wants to avert trouble between students all the time but especially when youngsters are out of classes for an extended period.
"One bad decision not only affects everyone in the gangs. It affects everybody in the community," Beamon said. This is the latest in a series of Heal the Hood movies and video productions that have been cheered by young audiences. "Every premiere night has been sold out," Beamon said.
Heal the Hood Foundation has created a compelling package of programs and presentations at its new "Hero Empowerment Center" in the Hickory Ridge Mall. This story scratches only the surface of the far reaching programming HTH Foundation has created. Beamon knows precisely what will captivate young minds: music and film production classes, drama lessons, sessions in graphic design, dance, martial arts, guitar and piano lessons and a deep dive into what's clearly one of Beamon's passions: comic book creation. The Comic Studio inside the foundation's Hickory Ridge Mall space offers art classes for aspiring comic storytellers.
In fact, Beamon and his collaborators have created a series of original comic books with the intention of inspiring young minds to creative endeavors.
Have a look at the latest comic book here:
Check out the Hero Empowerment Center's Mission Statement:
The center promotes peace and nonviolence among youth and community members, uplifts the community, and encourages working in unity and offers a safe place for kids to hang out while developing leadership and life skills. Shelby County Schools is sold and welcomes Heal the Hood to a number of its campuses, reaching 7,000 students through one of its mentoring programs.
The Shelby County Crime Commission recently signed on as Heal the Hood partner. Since social media has become a prime focus your young eyes
and minds these days, Heal the Hood has created a #BeResponsible campaign so that the young eyes it reaches will be responsible with it.
Memphis is shopping for solutions to its crime challenges. Some of the answers appear to be available now at Hickory Ridge Mall at the Heal the Hood's Hero Empowerment Center.