By ADRIAN SAINZ
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) – Friends and associates of slain rapper Young Dolph handed out Thanksgiving turkeys at a neighborhood church on Friday in Memphis, Tennessee, two days after he was shot in broad daylight in his favorite bakery.
Known for his acts of charity in his hometown, the hip-hop artist and label owner had helped organize the event at St. James Baptist Missionary Church and was going to participate before he was shot on Wednesday.
Steadfast, members of her music label, Paper Route Empire, along with church volunteers and community activists, handed out dozens of turkeys, stuffing mix and cranberry sauce – and said “happy. Thanksgiving â- to people walking past the church.
It was the type of event that Young Dolph, who grew up in the Castalia neighborhood where the church is located, has been hosting for years, often without the reporters and cameras in attendance on Friday. Before the event, the volunteers spoke in low voices to each other or sat in solemn reflection as his music played outside the church on a sunny afternoon.
Label employee Bee Bee Jones, 38, helped distribute the food, in honor of his 30-year-old friend.
âWhen I hear his music, I collapse,â said Jones, who spoke to a reporter as he sat on the rear bumper of a U-Haul truck loaded with 300 turkeys. âThe truth in all of this, and where it came from, is what really touches me sometimes. That’s what he wants us to do here, keep giving. It came from nothing, but he wanted to make sure everyone got it.
Police continued to search for suspects in the murder, which rocked Memphis and shocked the entertainment world on Friday. Police released photos from surveillance footage that showed two men exiting a white Mercedes and shooting Young Dolph before fleeing.
The murder of Young Dolph, 36, real name Adolph Thornton Jr., has escalated cries against violence in the Memphis area, which has seen high-profile shootings at a K-8 school, post office and a grocery store in the past two months.
This year, 255 murders were committed in the city of Memphis, already surpassing the 244 murders of last year, the Memphis Police Department reported. This is in addition to the thousands of gun-related incidents reported last September.
In a statement on Young Dolph’s murder, Shelby County Health Department Director Dr Michelle Taylor called gun violence in Memphis an epidemic.
âThe key to dealing with the endless cycle of shootings and retaliatory shootings in our community is to heal the generational trauma that makes violence seem like the only solution to conflict,â Taylor said.
Some community leaders expressed frustration that so many attempts to tackle gun crime – community meetings, efforts to add police officers, increased funding for crime prevention, days of remembrance for murder victims, working with former gang members to intervene in disputes – did not work.
Van Turner, president of the local branch of the NAACP and a father of two, said he spoke with his boys about the shooting. Turner plans to hold a forum next week to discuss strategies to reduce gun violence.
âI’m kind of torn, because people say we’re always doing these things and nothing is happening,â Turner said. “But then, if we don’t do anything, what happens?” Nothing. But that doesn’t mean we’re stopping. If we do nothing, we will have given up.
Reverend Jason Lawrence Turner, senior pastor of the historic Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, has worked to fight gun crime and mentor Memphis youth. He said it was time for a “course correction“.
“It will take a collaboration of government agencies, certainly churches and citizens, to do our part to deflect these cases of violence,” said the pastor. “And also, to instill greater responsibility in the community so that when there are cases like this it is not the responsibility of the community members to take justice into their own hands.
Her church, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has set up mentoring programs for girls and boys in middle and high school. The church has also adopted three schools for children to talk about their problems and deal with bullying and other threats.
âIt’s not all about law enforcement,â Turner said. âThe police show up after a crime has been committed. We have a responsibility to prevent these crimes from being committed.
Like Jones – the label’s associate – and other longtime friends, Sheena Crawford referred to Young Dolph by her childhood nickname, Mane Mane.
She fondly remembers playing with him and his sisters in the neighborhood where their grandparents lived, near St. James Church. He loved to play basketball and was a relatively calm kid, Crawford said.
As she cries, Crawford also remains frustrated with the lack of progress in tackling gun violence.
âMy anxiety is just skyrocketing,â she said. âWhen I leave my house, I’m afraid that something will happen to me or that something will happen to my children. It does not mean anything.