All Sites Peer-to-Peer Exchange

William Gay and Keith Whitted

On Wednesday, June 25th in Memphis, TN as just one session of the All Sites Peer-to-Peer Exchange, a three-day convening of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Defending Childhood Initiative, we were thrilled to welcome William Gay, star cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Keith Whitted, Jr., an 11-year-old boy who wrote “Keith’s Heart” a book sharing the true and tragic story of the shooting death of his dad. The two engaged in a moderated discussion around their personal experiences (William’s mother was murdered by her partner when he was just 7 years old), and the healing that can come from speaking – and writing – publicly about them.

FUTURES worked closely with the Department of Justice, the Shelby County Defending Childhood team and all of our partners and allies in Shelby County and Memphis, to bring together over 125 people to the All Sites Peer-to-Peer Exchange. At the three-day convening. Hosted by Defending Childhood, included representatives from, all three of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s violence prevention initiatives, including the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and Community-Based Violence Prevention. The convening was designed to engage all three initiatives in peer-to-peer learning and recognize the importance of collective impact when multiple disciplines work in concert with one another. The meeting concluded with neighborhood tours and site visits to Memphis- based Defending Childhood sites where participants were able to learn from local community services.

The meeting also included a keynote presentation, “No Kid is Born Bad” by Xavier McElrath-Bey, a youth justice advocate with the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, where he explores the important need for at-risk youth to “cross paths” with positive people and processes. Other inspiring speakers and partners included Lawrence Laurenzi, U.S. States Attorney, Western District of TN; Mark H. Luttrell, Jr., Mayor of Shelby County; Dir. Toney Armstrong, Chief of Memphis Police; and AC Wharton, Jr., Mayor of the City of Memphis.