Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton is 76 years old and some might think age has mellowed the former Mayor and Memphis City Schools Superintendent.
Willie Herenton wasn’t trying to win friends and influence people at the New Years Prayer Breakfast.
He was talking about crime, black on black crime as he called it. “We talk about black on black crime,” he said, “… and I’m going to be very critical of the Crime Commission, of the Juvenile Court Judge. I’m going to be very critical of the Sheriff. You know why? Because they’re floundering.”
“Mass incarceration has never worked,” he said. “When are we going to try education, rehabilitation, and for those of us who believe in a God, we believe in redemption.”
Herenton wants 10,000 African American men to volunteer to help young folks who are heading in the wrong direction. Current Mayor Jim Strickland liked what he heard. “We cannot afford to lose a generation of young people.”
Mayor Strickland is also urging people to volunteer to make Memphis a better place.
He wants volunteers to teach children to read, to be mentors, even to volunteer to help clean up the city block by block. “If we really get a lot of people to help out on this city,” he says, “…I often say some of our challenges are too big for city government to handle themselves.”
“No one can help us,” Herenton says, “… if we don’t help ourselves. It’s up to us to protect us, from us.”