Brown fights mentality of criminal culture in Frayser

Lifeline to Success and DeAndre Brown fights the mentality of a criminal culture in Frayser. Brown will be part of a panel discussion on "What Smart Neighborhoods Can Learn From Frayser."
This is the second in a series of stories featuring panelists at the June 13 “What Smart Neighborhoods Can Learn From Frayser” event held at Pursuit of God Transformation Center at 3171 Signal St. in Frayser.
DeAndre Brown is the founder and Executive Director of Frayser’s LifeLine to Success, a re-entry program for ex-offenders that equips them with the necessary tools to re-enter society.
What is your association to Frayser?
I work, worship, and wake up in Frayser. Everything that I do is within this neighborhood—unless I have to leave to get supplies. I grew up nearby in Raleigh, but today my life is in Frayser.
Why choose Frayser for Lifeline to Success?
The mission of Lifeline to Success is to change the perception of convicted felons. And you can’t do that in a vacuum. So when we started the program we had to find a neighborhood that would allow us to be visible. At the time, Frayser had a lot of blight, so we started cleaning up blight in the neighborhood voluntarily. As we did that we began to be known as a large organization that serves the public, and that helped us with our mission of changing the perception of convicted felons.
How does Lifeline to Success serve Frayser?
You name it, we do it. We started out removing blight, then we started mentoring students at our schools and we partnered with the Achievement School District. We have a food program that feeds children after school, as well as a Junior Blight Patrol funded by a portion of our participants’ wages—just to name a few ways.
What are your biggest concerns for Frayser?
I have a lot of frustration over this mentality surrounding the fact that we have allowed a lot of negative behaviors to become socially acceptable.  I have made it my mission to fight the criminal culture to make those behaviors seen as abnormal.
How do you see the community overcoming those concerns?
By unifying and becoming more vocal and not being afraid to speak out when we see things. The main thing we can do is control what we accept and allow in our neighborhoods. When you see things that shouldn’t happen, be bold enough to speak out. And teach our children that the negative behaviors they have seen are not normal, nor indicative of how we want our neighborhood to be.
What makes Frayser special to you?
All of the opportunities—I don’t see challenges, I see opportunities. We love to take advantage of opportunities to turn lives around. And by turning lives around, we turn the community around.
What do you wish Memphians understood about Frayser?
That it’s not as bad as they think. They’ve seen some news articles and we’ve taken some hits in the past but things have dramatically changed. The neighborhood is now safer and cleaner. Our children our safe, people are out on their porches, and you can walk down the street without fear of being attacked.
What can smart neighborhoods learn about Frayser?
That no matter how bad it seems in the beginning, if you remain committed you can turn things around. You can’t allow other people to control your name. People may say one thing about your neighborhood but it’s up to you to change the actual makeup of the neighborhood. You have to be on the ground, unified, but most importantly you have to speak up and make sure you control the narrative of your neighborhood.

“What Smart Neighborhoods Can Learn From Frayser” will be held Monday, June 13, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Pursuit of God Transformation Center, 3171 Signal St. in Frayser. The free panel discussion will include community leaders discussing important issues for the neighborhood. Refreshments will be provided at 5:30 p.m. Register here.
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Read more articles by Amy Hoyt.

Amy Hoyt is High Ground News' Community Engagement Specialist, which suits her love of Memphis and its inhabitants.