Youth Advocates work to make Memphis safer for children

He had a smile that could warm up a room and a personality that could make you feel as if you were worth a million dollars. His determination and will was strong. He taught himself to play soccer while in high school.

After just two years in the game, he landed a scholarship to Lyon College. Coaches and teammates remember him as the “one goal wonder.”  Not having as much training as other players, his willing attitude and hard work ethic separated him from many.

The first chance he received to play in a college game, he scored on the very first play. That’s just one account that describes his characteristics. His love for soccer is just one of the many ways Barry Burse Jr is remembered by family and friends.

Burse died at 19 years old, murdered by Bandreicus Farmer in the drive way of his ex-girlfriend’s home, in Memphis while he was visiting family and friends in the summer of 2013.

“There are no words to describe the feeling or the senseless situation,” said Burse’s mother Vickie burse.

Since Barry’s murder, the Memphis Police Department investigated 168 murders in Memphis in 2014, 14 of them being children.


A mural of Barry in his sister’s gym.

During the last weekend in August , 17 people were shot including a baby. Memphis is currently ranked number two on Forbes list of America’s Most Dangerous Cities.

“There’s more crime currently being caused by youth than adults,” said Memphis police officer J.J Smith.

Now, a few advocates in Memphis are striving to help reduce crime that involves children and teens. Advocates have dedicated their time and energy into making Memphis a better city.

“With all the crime going on in Memphis, someone has to look after them and give them guidance,” said fourth grade teacher Andrea Dandridge.

According to Smith, there are a number of things that cause children to commit crimes such as lack of parental supervision and guidance and peer pressure from peers in the community.

“Maybe if there were someone to give guidance to the guy that killed my son, it could’ve been prevented,” said Vickie Burse.

There are a number of community centers and organizations that provide help for children,” said Smith.

Memphis Park Services offer camps throughout the summer and on school breaks for children. Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA also offer aftercare and classes for the youth.



Aside from public centers, there are activists and mentors in the Memphis community that dedicate time to helping children stay off the street.

Dandridge is one of them.

This is her first year as a teacher at Riverview Elementary. Before she decided to teach, she was the Human Resource Manager at McKesson. McKesson is a Fortune 500 company. It provides health care information technology and is a Pharmaceutical Distributor.

After years of thought, she decided to leave her profession and go back to school for her education certification in January of 2015.

“Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve felt like you were obligated to help someone, or developed a relationship with someone who needed you?” Dandridge asked.

“That’s how I’ve felt for the past eight years,” she answered.

Dandridge now teaches and watches after many. She even has started a dance team at Riverview for young girls.

“This gives them something to motivate them and keep them from running around the neighborhood until their parents get home,” she said.

Tavis Wade-Jones is also another activist in the Memphis Community. She’s the mentor of the high school organization, Modern Distinctive Ladies (MDL). MDL is a nonprofit organization for young ladies.

They are required to do community service, attend church services, work on scholarships, resumes, host and plan events along with many more things that’ll be beneficial to their growth.

“This is something I started in 1988 when I was in high school. I chose to continue It because I felt this is a program young girls in the community need,” Jones said.

Jones is a Memphis native, however, she now lives in Austin. She travels to Memphis twice a month to oversee activities and spend time with her girls.

“I want to keep these girls from going down the wrong path, and young men if I can help them. This is my calling,” Jones said.

Dandridge and Jones both are thoroughly involved in the Memphis community. They plan to continue what they are doing to help secure better opportunities and lifestyles for youth by making sure there are active within the community and getting more youth to join their organizations.


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About the Author

Erika R. Draper
Erika R. Draper writes for the Black Reflections section of the Memphis Mirror. When the U of M senior isn't working for the Mirror, she enjoys public speaking, being on camera, photography, dancing and writing. She interned during the summer of 2015 at KWTX’s News 10 in Waco, TX. She is currently a Digital Production intern for WMC Action News in Memphis.

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