• Another Boys to Men Retreat is being scheduled at Second Missionary Baptist Church on March 31. For more information, cakll the church at 624-9097.
• For more information on events at the Kingdom Harvest Church, call Temple Gwyn at 394-4222.
Chattanooga Police Capt. Edwin McPherson stepped to the podium at Second Missionary Baptist Church with members of his special investigations unit. He had a prepared presentation, but put it aside and said he wanted to speak from his heart.
"We want to reach out to these kids," he said. "I'm not just a police officer, I'm also a father and I care as a father."
McPherson spoke to more than 200 boys and young men attending the Boys to Men Retreat at the church Saturday.
Across town at Carpenter's Cowboy Church on Rossville Boulevard, Bishop William Simpson, pastor of Kingdom Harvest Church, hosted a separate panel discussion on youth and gang violence.
"We need to come with a kingdom strategy. We can't expect the government to do everything," Simpson said. "We've got to do our part."
One woman said she could make brownies for youths to let them know they are loved. Another minister, Trana Jones, suggested starting a business to help the community develop.
At Second Missionary Baptist, boys and men sat silently as McPherson warned them that joining gangs has more consequences than benefits.
Choose to be in a gang, sell drugs and or commit violence and jail or a grave are the likely ends, he said.
Former gang member Brandon Scott Ragland told how his sister was shot and killed at age 3 and he was sexually molested and became a gang member. He shared how his grandmother and Christianity were positive influences that helped him overcome his circumstances.
Fire Capt. David Brooks, City Councilman Russell Gilbert and gang task force members Boyd Patterson and Fred Houser were among more than two dozen men who stood against the walls or sat at tables with the youths. Other adult males prepared breakfast and lunch in the kitchen.
"We're trying to save lives," said Frank Jones, a retired Brainerd High School principal and Second Missionary minister who facilitated the event. "We've got too many young men dying and getting shot."
Yusef Hakeem, who was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole in 2006, directed a question to the youths.
"What is it that we as adults should be doing that we're not doing?" he asked.
Be involved, answered Cordarious Holloway, 21, who spoke of the need for positive male role models.
He remembered how police officers used to play cards and basketball with him at the former Maurice Poss Homes housing development site.