Reverend aims to give hope to North Nashville amid violence

(Photo: WKRN)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Right in the middle of an area that has seen shooting after shooting the past week, including a deadly one early Sunday, a North Nashville reverend hopes his ministry gives hope to people who want a better life amid the violence.

Reverend Curtis Bryant walked with News 2 around Cockrill Street Monday where he told stories not only of the shootings, drug deals, and prostitution affecting the neighborhood, but also of the ways he and others are trying to make it safer.

“The first day that our ministry moved to this corner, there were 18 drug dealers on this corner,” he told News 2 outside his Greater Heights Missionary Baptist Church at 14th Avenue and Cockrill.

That was nine years ago.

Now, just hours after deadly gunfire near his church, he cites other shootings along a stretch of the North Nashville street. Some of that violence did not make the news.

“There was one on Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday, and I understand Friday, and then Saturday night,” he said pointing up and down the street. “So, a daily shooting.”

Reverend Bryant offers a theory that may be a violent flip side to a booming Nashville.

“Re-gentrification has moved lots of dealers from other areas of the city and they have concentrated between 14th, 15th and 16th and 12th here at Cockrill.” he added “The sun goes down and the sales start. This has become very territorial.”

He told News 2 of his “bike ministry”, which gives away two-wheelers to kids in the area so they might have some curiosity about his church.

“It helps to get to the kids when they are young,” he explained as he pointed to the bikes in front of many houses where abandoned drug bags litter the streets.

“I know most of the children,” he told News 2. “We get to know the kids in the neighborhood, get to know the parents, we know who is on the street and we provide sanctuary for those kids.”

A nonprofit organization associated with his church also owns a house near where one of the recent shootings occurred. The home is a place where veterans who have been down on their luck can go when they have nowhere else to go.

“When you are doing it by my house, you are guilty by association, and we are not like that,” says J. Wiley, who lives in the house after a Naval career where he was communications specialist.

He hopes his presence changes things.

“It should,” said J. “Its not going to help the problem us not being here.”

The home is called Successful Survivors, but being a veteran while transitioning to restaurant work, he’s vigilant about potential danger.

“My service is over and I should not have to worry about just coming in an out of my door.” added Wiley.

He sees himself and others like the reverend as being part of the solution to the violent area.

First of all, we are living here.” he said. “We are not a part of that element and there are steps I am trying to do to personally. i was out here last night sweeping up this glass out here…and picking up trash.”

“One piece of garbage removed. One property protected, and one church doing what it can.

They are not giving in or an inch to the violence.

News 2 is dedicated to tracking crime across Middle Tennessee. Visit wkrn.com/crimetracker for more.

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