Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Neighborhood War Zone

By Ursula Madden - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the good people trapped in an area of North Memphis infested with gangs and gunfire are desperate to Take Back Their Neighborhood.

For the past month, Action News 5 has followed a Memphis mother forced to make tough decisions to protect her children.  Shawana Farmer feels like she is constantly peeking out the blinds of her unit at the Saints Court Apartments in Memphis' Klondike community.

We first met Farmer in January, when a teen was shot while walking down Vollintine.  He ran to a friend's apartment for help.  Since then, Farmer has taken drastic measures to protect her self and her children.

"We've been on lock down," she said.

At times, the shooting is so bad that Farmer's family sleeps in the same bedroom.  Sleeping together helps Farmer take action in case bullets start flying.

"If we're all together when I first start hearing it, I have a better chance of making everybody get in the floor at one time," she said.

Sometimes things are peaceful, but not always.

"It was ongoing for a like a week straight," Farmer said. "In the daytime, in the nighttime, soon as the kids go to school, that's early in the morning, they just was shooting, driving by shooting at somebody running."

Shawana, along with Jesshawntis, 7, and Monterio, 11,  spends nearly all her time in the family apartment.

Her children's play-time is divided up between homework, watching TV, and having friends over to visit.  Monterio isn't fond of times when he has to stay inside, but he understands it.

"I don't think it's safe to be over here," he said, "'cause they do a whole bunch of shooting and don't nobody know where the bullets are going to go or who's going to get hit."

It's a stressful situation that is taking its toll on Shawana and her kids.

"I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, pulling the covers back, making sure everything is okay," she said. "And I stay looking out my windows. I stay in the window.  From the upstairs to the downstairs, I'm peeping out of blinds."

The day after this interview with Shawana and her children, a person was shot near her apartment.  The shooting, which happened near the back of Saints Court, turned into a homicide.

"I'm ready to pack up and move," Farmer said in reaction to the murder. "It makes no sense.  It's constantly going on and on and on."

Farmer got away, temporarily. Neighborhood chatter about the possibility of another shooting, in retaliation for the death of a man known as "Lil Charles" a week earlier, prompted Farmer to take her kids to her mother's house for a visit.

"I can spend a little time with them and do something with them this weekend," she said. "They won't be bored and cooped up in the house. And (they'll) get away from over here."

Without a car, Farmer was forced to wait for a ride to pick up her family.  She has found another place to live, but with no car, Shawana says it's too far away from Jesshawntis' and Monterio's schools.

"I'm trying to see what I can do about getting me a car so I can get them back and forth to school, cause that's a priority for everyone's life in this household right here," she said.

But after a weekend away, the family returned to Saints Court as self imposed prisoners in their own home.

"I don't know what to do, but as far as making me and my two kids safe, I'm doing the best that I can - the best that I know how - and with every stride in my body, I'm going to protect them, 'cause that's all I got," she said.

Thursday on Action News 5 at 10pm, we'll show you resources available to Shawana Farmer and others like her, and we'll hear from Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin about what's being done to take back Farmer's neighborhood.

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