Youth at symposium urged to avoid violence

Youth at symposium urged to avoid violence

June 15th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Terrell Johnson, an ex-fellon, drug pusher turned preacher, shows photos of gang related murders while speaking to children during the Chattanooga Youth Symposium Tuesday evening at Tennessee Temple University's Chauncey-Goode Auditorium.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.


Terrell Johnson, a member of the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus Criminal Justice Panel, will speak at the World Restoration Center located at 4004 Dorris St. at 6:30 p.m. today.

When 15-year-old Kenneth Blassingame said he didn't have 15-year-old Anthony Anderson's money, Anthony pretended to shoot Kenneth, who fell to the ground.

"We know this was staged and he's going to get back up, but let me show you what happened to some folk who didn't get back up," said Terrell Johnson, pastor of Greater Fellowship Full Gospel Church in Bolivar, Tenn.

Then he showed more than a dozen slides of 14-year-old boys with gunshot wounds to the head with their heads still lying in the blood. He also showed the body of a 14-year-old girl found in trash and covered with maggots and a picture of a girl whose body had been burned beyond recognition.

"This is what I deal with every day," said Johnson, a member of the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus Criminal Justice Panel.

The ex-convict and drug pusher turned preacher was the speaker for the Chattanooga Youth Symposium at Tennessee Temple University on Tuesday night.

"I didn't come here to play. There is an attack on the city of Chattanooga," he said to more than 100 youths in the audience. "Chattanooga has been chosen amongst the gangs to set up shop right here. There are gangsters coming to take over this city if we don't implement a strategy."

Several youths in the audience raised their hand to say they knew of gang members. One person said he was affiliated with the Vice Lords gang.

"It was good how [Johnson] reached everybody and encouraged people to be better," said 15-year-old Anthony Anderson.

Dr. Rozario Slack, founder of the Legacy Campaign, Stop the Madness and Reach One, brought Johnson to speak to the city's youths in hopes of deterring violence and gang activity.

"We believe that with positive interaction from healthy adults, children who have made bad decisions can turn it around," said Slack.

Dr. Ternae Jordan, pastor of Mount Cannan Baptist Church, said he has buried 103 youths in the past decade.

Johnson spoke two weeks after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Darrius Townsend who was shot in the back of the head in the 900 block of Taylor Street in Chattanooga.

Johnson called on parents attending the event to take back their homes from unruly children. And he cautioned children that disobedience leads to death after showing another picture of a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the head.

The girl was a gang member killed by her boyfriend who thought she was going to turn state's evidence on him. Her grandmother told her to not be in gangs and to stay away from her boyfriend. But she told her grandmother that he loved her, said Johnson.

"There is a price to pay for disobedience," he told the youth.