NASHVILLE, Tenn. Gentlemen And Not Gangsters (G.A.N.G.), a juvenile mentoring program, is transforming the lives of youth in North Nashville. Aimed at young men ages 12 to 17 who were previously gang-related offenders, the program strives to help get their lives back on a positive track. To date, the 12-week program has graduated more than 70 teens.
On August 7, with assistance from the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA), G.A.N.G. was approved by Nashville Mayor, David Briley, to receive $40,000 from the Juvenile Court of Metropolitan Nashville & Davidson County to continue its mission.
A voice of experience
“Gang activity leads to drug activity, robbery, theft, you name it,” Bishop Marcus Campbell, the program’s founder, explained. “It all leads to a bad road of destruction, and what we try to show these young men is that there is more out there to life than living that lifestyle of criminal activity.”
Marcus’ voice is one of experience.
Violence, anger and trauma were a significant part of his youth. As a child, he saw his mother suffer violent abuse at the hands of his father. Those unfortunate beginnings started his path to a life of crime and, ultimately, prison.
With G.A.N.G., he hopes to keep today’s young men from making the same mistakes.
Juvenile Court partnership
In 2015, G.A.N.G. partnered with the Juvenile Court, which is led by Judge Sheila Calloway. It now takes referrals from the court.
"What they are used to is being on the street and being creative in the street,” Judge Calloway said of the program’s participants. “What this program helps them to do is be creative in the right way and use their potential in a positive manner."
Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency
Campbell’s community efforts extend beyond his work with G.A.N.G. On July 2, 2019, he was unanimously voted onto the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) Board of Commissioners.
MHDA is a public housing agency that, for more than eight decades, has assisted in in all phases of land assembly, design and development. It was formed in 1938 to address the housing crisis in Nashville that left 75 percent of low-income residents living in substandard homes.
Today, Bishop Campbell and his team of mentors, or Journeymen, look forward to having grant funding to enhance GANG, which previously functioned solely on volunteerism and donations. In September, the GANG program will orient another cohort of youth into the program, with one priority, “If We Can Change Your Mind, We Can Change Your Grind.”
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.