“It’s not a matter of whether you’ll be stopped when you’re driving,” begins Memphis mom Teresa Jenkins, “but that you’ll be stopped multiple times because you are black.”
As an African American woman raising two kids, Jenkins worries about the usual stuff that concerns parents. But since her son James is now 15 and beginning to drive, a whole new layer has been added. Namely, how to help him handle being pulled over by the police. Because she knows it will happen.
It’s a conversation that takes place in many families citywide. But Jenkins wants to make it a public conversation as well. So she has invited a number of academic, church, and law enforcement professionals to speak at an event she hopes will help parents talk about this important topic with their teens.
A Conversation with Our Sons (Boys 13-18)
Sunday, April 12, from 2-4 p.m.
Golden United Methodist Church • 4028 Neely Road, 38109
See details on Facebook.
Jenkins is concerned for her son’s safety as a new driver learning. But also because she knows, that as a young African American male, he’ll be scrutinized much more closely.
Last year, when James walked home from his middle school in Germantown, Jenkins made a point to call the town’s police chief and let him know her son would be coming from school each day. She wanted to ensure his safety. Though her son initially protested, she replied, “It’s my job to protect you.” She says she notified the police because “I feel he’s at risk.” She knows people feel threated by teens, particularly when they’re together in a group, more so if they’re black.
“I felt inadequate as a mother to discuss why society has this image of him, and I’m not sure he knows a lot about the African American journey historically.” She points out the recent incident of University of Oklahoma racial slurs that went viral and how one of the football players responded with an angry, hurt message of his own.
“I want my son to have a voice and acknowledge issues but have pride. Change the perception people have of black men by being who you are,” she says. “We must give our kids the armor they need to protect themselves.”
Jenkins was surprised how quickly people said yes to her idea. After hatching the plan several weeks ago, within 24 hours she had a confirmed slate of speakers. Participants include: UM professor Dr. Gregory Washington, Rhodes professor Dr. Charles McKinney, Golden United Methodist Church Rev. Charles Elliott, Shelby County Trustee Donnell Cobbins, and Jarret Parks, Shelby County Special Ops Unit.
The meeting is free and open to all parents.