The Wolf River District of the Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America is hoping to grow Scouting in the Frayser area in an effort to bring children together to teach important life skills while curbing gang violence.
James Malone believes he has an answer to the question of how to curb gang violence.
The Wolf River District executive for Boy Scouts of America’s Chickasaw Council believes getting more of the community’s youth involved in Scouting is a natural way to end violence, particularly in Frayser.
The Wolf River District has programs at schools in Frayser, including Whitney Elementary, Memphis Business Academy and Libertas School of Memphis. There have been programs at other schools off and on. Consistency in more schools and even churches could go a long way in bringing children together from various neighborhoods in Frayser, reducing the likelihood of “turf” battles.
Malone is appreciative of the schools that host Scouts. One problem, he said, is that if Scouts is held after the school day at one building there isn’t enough time for children from another school to make their way to participate.
That, in some ways, is part of the idea of territories centered around the schools, something that fuels gangs.
“If these two schools can’t participate in Scouting together they will continue to feud,” Malone said. “But if there is an organization in the middle of them that has the doors open to Scouting and kids from both schools can come and participate, how can they feud when they’re camping together and learning duty and honor to country? Scouting washes away the crime.”
The Wolf River District consists of Bartlett, Frayser, Raleigh and Millington. Less than 200 children are involved in Frayser, a small percentage of the 1,000 involved in the district.
The Chickasaw Council sends someone into the schools to run the program. That works fine, but for Scouts to have the full impact, it must be led by parents, Malone said.
“There is a message we’re trying to teach our kids but if the adults don’t know that message we can’t teach our kids,” he said. “Scouting spins backwards a bit and reaches the adults.”
And while Boy Scouts has been in Memphis and Shelby County for 100 years, it’s had a generational gap in Frayser. Today’s children aren’t likely to have fathers in the house who were Scouts, and sometimes not even grandparents.
Malone understands the situation. Growing up, he was the eighth of 10 children. He recalls when he was 7 and the family counted pennies around the house to have enough money for Thanksgiving dinner. They found $18.
“I know what it’s like to not have money,” he said. “I missed the opportunity to be involved in Scouting and I get it now. I want all these kids who look like me to enjoy Scouting. I want it for the parents, too.”
Ah, the parents. In some ways Scouting is like the chicken-egg question. What comes first, parent or children involvement? The boys might be the Scouts, but it’s the parents who get a great benefit, too.
Increasing participation in Scouts in the Frayser community is the goal. The first step to achieve it is awareness. But there also needs to be a growth in locations for the programs. And there needs to be opportunities for older boys as they move on from elementary school.
“When these boys graduate out of school they have nowhere to go as their Scouting career is just getting going,” Malone said. “That boy graduates fifth grade and has nowhere to go except travel to Bartlett, Millington or Raleigh where we have a unit. And without anywhere to go he falls off.”
Malone said the hope is to work with several of the Frayser community’s churches to begin hosting groups, as well as the Arkwings facility in the community.
Malone said Scouting instills many values, but one important thing he believes participants take away is the ability to communicate with parents.
“The foundation to help them have an open line of communication so then they can tell their parents that Timmy down the street was playing with his dad’s gun,” Malone said. “Kids don’t have that open line right now.”