(Just as a neighborhood should not be judged by the actions of a few bad apples, neither should law enforcement agencies. The New Tri-State Defender's “Good Blue & You” column spotlights law enforcement officers who do it right. This week’s focus is on Patrolman Lakisha Cleveland and Patrolman Mary Bibbs.)
A group of young ladies were the main course on the evening of July 31st after participating in The Memphis Police Department Tillman Station Girls Summer Camp and graduating at The Word Church on Park Avenue. With several officers in the mix, a heaping of love along with side dishes of wisdom and care was plenty to go around.
Embraced by Patrolman Lakisha Cleveland and Patrolman Mary Bibbs, the young ladies closed out the summer camp with a take-away of fond memories, encouragement, knowledge of themselves and community, and rebuilding of their self-esteem and self-image.
The course began with a few young ladies that Cleveland, Bibbs and other MPD officers worked with to ensure that they’re always prepared to act, dress and speak properly during their primary years and beyond. With support from their superiors, both Cleveland and Bibbs share their commitment to helping one girl at a time.
Participants included Geeta’Juanita Nandlal, Tiara Morrow, Rose Brittman, India Brown, Joscelyn Rollins and Marica Bess.
Kelvin Cowans: What was the inspiration behind the girls summer camp?
Patrolman Bibbs: Working in the areas that we work in – which are some less privileged areas – we saw the need for these young women to have positive influences in their lives. We thought it would be a good idea to bring them together and expose them to things they wouldn’t normally be exposed to. It was an opportunity for us to plant seeds into their lives, encourage them, and build up their self-esteem and self-image. With the support of the command staff telling us to go ahead and do it, then here we are.
K.C.: Has there been any great challenges when it comes to dealing with girls of this age group in these areas?
Patrolman Bibbs: Well, we did this camp for the month of July and we knew there would be challenges and needs – and they were greater than we anticipated. However, a lot of officers and businesses in this community stood with us. They helped us meet the needs that were there financially and otherwise.
K.C.: Patrolman Cleveland, what does the community need to know about these young ladies?
Patrolman Cleveland: “They grew on each other. He had a few hiccups, but we grew with them. They are so smart and so beautiful inside and out and I’m not just saying that. Young girls need to be told that they are beautiful and that you love them as much as you can tell them. We’re attached to them now. They have blossomed. They have grown to understand that there is a way that a young lady is supposed to act, dress and speak. It has been amazing to watch how they are now as opposed to day one. Some of them came in not wanting to speak to the other girls, but they soon realized that this is my sister, not my opponent. It was just beautiful. This may be the end of the camp, but it is not the end of our involvement with them. We want to hear about boys and their report cards, everything. We’re going to go to their schools and to their homes and continue to be a presence.”
K.C.: Tell us something that fathers and mothers don’t know about our little girls.
Patrolman Cleveland: They have a lot to offer. They are intelligent beyond what we know. They teach us things when they open up. They are a valuable part of their community and they have a lot to say. They can be anything they want to be. Life can’t stop them. They are always seeking attention and affection, and their fathers are very important figures who need to be there to be able to say that to them.
K.C.: What were some of the things you did during the camp and can we expect it again next summer?
Patrolman Bibbs: Of course we plan on doing this every summer. This was our first year, and by all means it was a success. We did a college campus tour of Christian Brothers and pottery at “Seize the Clay” on Poplar Avenue. They got so serious they were really into it. Then we went to Pinot’s Palatte and did paintings. They are gorgeous. There are other organizations like ours, but at the same time ours was free, thanks to our wonderful sponsors and generous pricing, or free stuff from the business community. This was simply beautiful.