Weekly Update: Unity Walk Against Gun Violence

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As a parent, we want nothing but the best for our children. We dream of them growing up happy and leading a long, healthy life. Unfortunately, for far too many Memphians, those dreams have been taken from them due to gun violence.

Violent crime in our community has increased in the last eight months, specifically gun violence, and 29 children have been needlessly taken from us this year. It’s up to us to do something about it to change course.

That’s why earlier this week, 16 non-profit and government agencies involved in health care, social services and criminal justice along with the Shelby County District Attorney General, City of Memphis, and Shelby County Government announced a Unity Walk Against Gun Violence happening this Saturday morning. The walk is scheduled for 10 a.m. and will start and finish in the parking lots of Shelby County Juvenile Court and the Forensic Center at Poplar Avenue and N. Orleans Street.

At the announcement earlier this week, I was so moved by the story of Ms. Erika Kelley and the loss of her son that I asked her if it was alright to share it with you in today’s update. Below are her words:

Unfortunately, the day would come when I would be faced with what has been the greatest test of both my Faith and Strength.

March 16, 2016, I received a call from my son Dontae stating that he and his longtime girlfriend were expecting a child. In brief conversation he shared his excitement for which would have been his first child. She is a beautiful, bubbly, energetic, full of personality four-year old little girl whom my son Dontae Bernard Johnson never had the opportunity to meet.

On March 18, 2016, just one day before laying my beloved father to rest, I received a call saying that my son Dontae Bernard Johnson had been shot and killed in Murfreesboro, TN.

My heart dropped.

Dontae was considered a john doe because he had been robbed and shot 12 times and left in a parking lot where he was pronounced dead.


As a loving son, grandson, brother, and friend, he made a long-lasting impact on everyone who crossed his path. Dontae had a big personality, and without saying a word, his joyful presence alone brought life to any setting. Because of the positive effect he had on those he met, many loved him. Dontae was my heart and since this tragedy it's rhythm has not been the same. No one day is easier than the next for me. And though time has seemingly flown by, the pain of losing my son is just as real and intense today as it was four years ago. I have made commendable strides as I have tried to adapt to his absence. But, even now hidden behind my smile and confident stature, I am a woman who's hurt—a woman who has been deeply wounded. The things which keep me going are my unwavering trust in God, my understanding knowing that there is purpose for my pain. I believe in my heart that God chose me to go through this to help others that have experienced gun violence, because I receive calls on a weekly basis where I am encouraging and helping families who are hurting because of gun violence.

My husband and I are Faith Leaders. He is a licensed Elder in the Church Of God In Christ, and I am a licensed evangelist missionary in the Church Of God In Christ. We are currently making strides to position ourselves to better help build and mend, hurt and broken families as well as bridging the gap in our communities. In my efforts, my goal is to ensure no other family has to experience the pain of the loss of a love one through gun violence.

In closing, although I may cry sometimes, I will never quit the fight against gun violence because it's not about me. It's about the efforts to save the life of another child, and through the life of my own son which was taken from my family due to gun violence.

- Erika Kelley, Moms Demand Action Local Group Lead Volunteer

Losing one life to violence is too many, but to lose a child before they’ve even had a chance at life is unbearable. If you want to help us raise awareness and help put an end to senseless gun violence, come join us tomorrow morning.

COVID-19 Relief: A few weeks ago, our Office of Business Diversity and Compliance compiled a comprehensive list of Shelby County Emergency Financial Assistance Programs. I want to give you a quick update on those programs because many of them still have ample funds available, and we want to get them distributed to those in our community who badly need them.


For more information, contact of the Office of Business Diversity and Compliance at 901.636.9300.

Digital Cities Survey Winner: This week, the Center for Digital Government (CDG) announced the winners of the 2020 Digital Cities Survey. Now in its 20th year, the annual survey recognizes cities using technology to tackle social challenges, enhance services, strengthen cybersecurity, and more.

I’m proud to say that the City of Memphis made the list this year. Congrats to our Division of Information Services, and thanks for all your hard work to make this happen.

Bring on the jobs: It was just announced that Cognate BioServices, Inc. is seeking a 15-year Jobs PILOT from EDGE.

Quick refresher on what that is—in a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) we reduce the property tax we charge for a few years to get projects that would have either gone somewhere else or wouldn't have happened at all. In return, a company commits to create or retain jobs, pay good wages, invest in Memphis, and contract with minority and women-owned firms.

Once this PILOT is approved, it will enable the company to create 561 net new jobs at an average wage of nearly $64,000 with a capital investment of almost $213 million.

The locations proposed for this project currently produce around $524,000 in City of Memphis and Shelby County property taxes each year. The estimated annual property taxes will be nearly $1.18 million during the PILOT term and $4.4 million afterwards.

This is great news during a year when we haven’t had enough of it to share. I’m excited about this project and what those jobs and investment will mean for Memphis.

Have a great weekend!


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