Citizens fight to keep centers open - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Citizens fight to keep centers open

Mayor Willie Herenton recently announced pending shutdowns of several libraries and community centers to save the city of Memphis money by offsetting a property tax hike.

Now, residents are taking on city hall and fighting the controversial closings.

One location on the chopping block is the Simon Boyd-Magnolia Community Center.  The center's announced closure left nearby residents wondering about what will happen to their community.

"I'm up here pleading with Mayor Herenton and telling him that if they close the gym, they think that there's crime now?  Our kids will have no where to go," southeast Memphis resident Yvette Gates said.

Three generations of her family have depended on the center," Gates said.

"I'm a number one supporter. I'm a number one mom.  I do cookouts up here and everything.  I volunteer my time," she said.

Resident Barbara Lane said there's already violence all around the center's southeast Memphis neighborhood.

"Right over on the next street...that's where they killed Mr. Piggy - the elderly man," Lane said.

Resident Derrick Todd said the center diffuses community tension.

"We're trying to get them off the streets and into more community centers," Todd said.

The center has been a safe haven for the southeast Memphis community for almost 30 years.  According to neighbors, if the center closes, it will be a loss for all of Memphis.

"The younger kids, they don't have many options.  The swimming pools are closing down in our neighborhoods, now they're going to the gyms, certain schools have closed down.  Where are they sending all our kids?  What's the message?" Todd asked.

If it comes down to it, residents said, they will form a human chain around the center to keep it from demolition.

Click here to e-mail Kontji Anthony.

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