Mahal Burr grew up with a sense of social justice imparted by her mother. She even has photos of herself as a baby at rallies and protests. She carried that sensibility with her through high school at Ridgeway and Lausanne and into the BRIDGES program, where middle and high school students are empowered to reach across racial and socio-economic divides. After graduating from Carleton College, she came back to Memphis and threw her passion into Stand for Children and Teach for America. Eventually, though, BRIDGES called her back, and today she is the community action coordinator. As such, she co-founded Incarcerated Youth Speaking Out for Change, runs the CHANGE program, and puts together community action for the 1,200 students who are part of the COLLABORATE program. "My job is to create opportunities for them to figure out how they want to be part of transforming their community," she says. "It's actually a lot of fun and allows a lot of creative energy." Last year, her sense of fairness led her to Standing Rock to join the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.Working with today's youth on issues such as mentoring and police violence may be more important than ever over the coming four years or so, so I ask if she's up for the challenge. "One-hundred percent."
My name is Evan John Ross Morrison. While I was born in Rockford, IL, I've lived in Memphis since 1995. I graduated from Bartlett High School in 2008, and continued on with college at The University of Memphis where I obtained my Bachelors' in Political Science, International Studies, Mathematics, and Economics, and my Master's in City & Regional Planning. It was while I was pursuing my graduate degree that I became a Housing and Community Development (HCD) Fellow at BRIDGES. My job was to bring my experience to assist a group of young students called CHANGE. Bridge Builders CHANGE is a group of dedicated young people seeking to make lasting social change across Memphis. The year I became a fellow, they chose the school to prison pipe line as an issue to tackle. As a result, I began using my skills as a facilitator to start working with youth that were in the detention center here in Memphis, and later on, with the youth that are incarcerated. My coworker Mahal Burr and I developed workshops to identify and showcase the amazing leadership potential these youth held based on the experiential learning method employed at BRIDGES. After doing these workshops, it became very clear that the youth going through the criminal justice system here in Memphis, are more than just truants, fighters, robbers, murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. It became clear that in almost every last one of them are insightful, powerful, intelligent, and creative young people with the potential to be leaders against violence in their communities. So, with the philosophy of ‘who knows the problem better than those who experienced it,’ we began and continue to assist and promote the youth who are best equipped to tackle youth violence in our city.