Bridgette James was slapped with hers last year when her 20-year-old son shot himself in the Quiet Hills apartment complex where they live. But, instead of giving in to her frustrations, she decided to use that experience as inspiration to make a difference in the lives of others.
“I couldn’t reach my son, but maybe I can reach someone else,” said James, founder of the newly formed Black Inspired Gifted (BIG) Like Me program.
Now, every day after school, all of the pre-K and up children in the neighborhood make their way to her house.
“That’s my main focus, reaching the babies,” James said. “My kids are small but already curious about guns because that’s what they see out here. My concept is to take a negative and turn it into a positive. We have to show them a positive way and, hopefully, initiate a change.”
It is also the “pay it forward” concept that James has used to connect with child advocate Shaheer Beyah, founder of Not Another Statistic (NAS), and she is hoping to encourage someone else to come in and work with the children who are interested in the music field.
“We believe that by working together, in harmony, we will make a difference in our journey,” James said. “By giving back to our community, we can promote a positive lifestyle that can rebuild character.”
While James’ focus is on little children, Beyah places his emphasis on children age 8 and above.
“But we don’t turn down anybody,” Beyah said. “If we have some children come in who are a little bit younger or a little bit older and are interested in the program, we take them.”
Since the NAS program’s inception in 2003, Beyah has worked with 200 to 300 young people.
“We work with troubled youth,” he said. “I find out that these children are not bad children. They just need somebody to show them what to do.”
Some have been in trouble with the law and some have not. Beyah estimates that 85 to 95 percent are straddling the fence.
“The biggest challenge I face with the young men is violence,” Beyah said. “Most of these kids are violent, but I know something caused this. Any time a human becomes a monster, there is something that caused it. You have to get to the root of the problem.”
Last week, the two collaborated with The Church at Griffin for a one-day camp for 18 boys, ages 8 to 17, in The Rock. And, part of Beyah’s NAS consists of a 12-step character development program. During the 12 weeks, the young people do a variety of things. The camping trip was one of them. Other activities include trips to the zoo, Atlanta Braves games, the Georgia Aquarium, the African American Library in Atlanta and site tours of colleges and universities. There is also a trip to a state prison to talk with life prisoners.
For more information on both programs, contact James at 770-233-6049 and Beyah at 678-521-3608.