Jerry Wilson wears many hats in his mission to better Frayser, from work in the education sector to serving as a church pastor and as president of the Frayser Neighborhood Council. In all his roles, his heart is on giving a voice to the community and helping it move forward.
Jerry Wilson wears many hats in his mission to better Frayser. Wilson serves as Director of Educational Support at Memphis Business Academy
, Executive Director of The Standard Youth Ministry
, Pastor of Faith United Methodist Church
and President of the Frayser Neighborhood Council
What is Frayser Neighborhood Council?
The Frayser Neighborhood Council was established as a part of President Obama’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative with the support of local Memphis government in order to engage Frayser residents and ensure that their voices are heard. Every stakeholder – residents, business owners and churchgoers – are considered a member of the Frayser Neighborhood Council. The Executive Board is elected by Frayser stakeholders and tasked with representing the community.
How does it serve the community?
The Frayser Neighborhood Council functions best when it can serve as a unifying force for the people of Frayser. A place where everyone's voice can be heard, where movements can be mobilized, and where all the different voices within Frayser can be amplified until there's no way they can be ignored. Additionally, we try to listen to what the community needs and connect them with other nonprofits working in the community that can fill that need.
What are the challenges that face Frayser?
Frayser faces a lot of the same challenges as other communities around this country. We have a high poverty rate, which contributes to issues maintaining public safety. Our schools are struggling to make a difference in the lives of our children and local government is either unwilling or unable to provide a solution.
How do you see the community overcoming those challenges?
The challenges we face are daunting. I think traditionally we look to our government because we expect them to have the vision, the knowledge and the resources that we might lack. Individually it's too big of a job, but when we start working together, finding partnerships in our own communities and with groups who are looking to make a difference we can build the kinds of resources we need to tackle the bigger problems. We just need the momentum. Once you start changing the narrative the community starts taking on a different identity and more people become engaged in the process. The change starts feeding itself until it becomes inevitable.
What makes Frayser special to you?
The people, hands down. It's easy to have a certain perception about a neighborhood because of maybe the blight or what we see on the news. These are people, people who care about their community; people who are passionate about their neighborhoods and only want what's best for their children. There's a lot of pride here and love.
What do you wish Memphians understood about Frayser?
That the people here want the same things they want for their communities and for their children. And, more than that – that they deserve it.
What can smart neighborhoods learn from Frayser?
I think there's a lot that smart neighborhoods can learn from Frayser – how important it is to stand together, to not look to others outside your community to solve your problems for you, and to invest in creating a plan like Frayser did with the 20/20 plan. However, I think the most important thing is not to give up. We have had a lot of roadblocks and detours. If you want to improve your neighborhood you have to expect to lose some fights, and to gain some scars. Some of which might come in your own back, but you can't give up. One day you'll have to look the future in the eye and tell them that either you fought to your last breath or you sat back and let them inherit your mistakes.