Mitchell Heights very own TD, Derrick Brown talks the Heights Coalition, the Academy, and Cards for Community.
The Former Treadwell Football Standout has big plans for a Heights Comeback.
For those who don’t know, who are you? What is your relationship with the Heights? And what have you been up to?
My name is Derrick Brown. I grew up in the area. Mitchell Heights is my Home. I am a Treadwell High School Graduate. When I was there I played football, baseball, and track. After that I worked at the Boys and Girls Club over on Isabelle for a while before I went to the University of Memphis for my undergraduate degree in Education. Then I went on to Christian Brothers University and received my masters in special education and graduated third in my class. Now I am in my first year as a special education teacher with I-Zone.I am also attending University of Memphis working on my doctorate (PHD) in hopes of one day becoming the superintendent of Shelby County Schools.
Since you have been involved with the Heights Coalition, what have you noticed about the community?
Actually I have seen the change. I see the neighborhood starting to look better. There is more teamwork. Its starting to see change from the people who just needed a little nudge to get involved.
That is good. That is what we need. But there are two different Mitchell Heights. One is the commercial side, the side you see during the day. Then there is the nitty gritty, night time side. This is where I am from. I think I can reach THEM. That is part of my involvement with the Coalition. It takes someone who is from that part. A lot of THESE guys, I know them already because I helped with them when they were growing up. Sometimes when I drive through, I will see one of them out on the corner,and it gets me to thinking what if I hadn’t left. I had them around me so tough, I had such an influence on them, but I went away to college and they strayed.I want to come back and get my hands dirty and do the part that other people can’t.
What are your hopes for the Cards for Community Program? How can the Card Program help bring the neighborhood together?
I want the card program to help people start to become aware of the problems in the community. Because you know, you can be around a smell so long that it becomes part of your senses–you just don’t smell it any more. I want it to help people start to recognize how some of the things around them, that they see everyday, that they don’t recognize as a problem…I want them to start seeing them for what they are. I want it to start catching on with the cards, so people see the problems. Maybe, it will turn into something big if we keep putting it in their hands, and we can change a bunch of things at once.
What are your hopes for the Heights?
When I was growing up, there were drugs and crime but it wasn’t the way it is now. My hopes for the Heights over the next few years are for all the boarded up houses to have occupants. For the crime rate to go down.I know its not going to be perfect, but I want for there to be a camaraderie; for it to feel more like a family. From the time I moved in as a little kid so much has changed and I kind of want it to go back to the way it used to be…but better.
Whats the Next Step for you, and the Heights?
Even though I am under contract with I-Zone to work at Riverside, its the same thing there. They are from the same place I am…the hood, so I can relate to them.I talk to them and tell them how things were when I was growing up: how the lights when out; eating Ramen all the time; and stuff like that. So I started a mentoring program. I take them out to different places to expose them to different futures they could have. So I took the boys from the 7th Grade of my school for my fraternity’s conference, and their faces…They had never been to a college campus…Its made me want to implement a program here in the Heights at Treadwell.
That’s why, right now, I am putting together my own organization, called the Academy. I have already started the application process for the 501(c)3 [for a non-profit]. There are going to be several parts to it. One is going to be a job skills and higher learning aspect. We will take trips like we do in the mentoring program to show them the different things they can do and what grades they need to achieve those positions.We will also work on things like how to write a resume and interview preparation. There is going to be a music program where we work on giving kids studio time for good grades.There will be a sport aspect too.
While I was at the University of Memphis I pledged Omega Phi Psi fraternity, which helped instill in me the values of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift, and they have always pushed me to go further and work harder. Thats what I want to bring to the community with the Academy. I am not supposed to get this good job that I have now and never come back. I am supposed to come back and see about my people and help. But I’m going back, I am working with the revitalization. I am working with the Heights Coalition. At the end of the day Mitchell Heights is my home.