Memphis org supports having hard conversations in violent times

Editor’s note: The following July 8 statement was provided by Bridge Builders, a Memphis-based organization helping diverse young people become committed to community transformation. See more information at This statement was lightly edited to change present-tense verbs to past tense as some events have passed since the original statement was written.

We at Bridges have been struggling to find words that even begin to express the anger, frustration and sadness evoked by the recent unbelievable violence in our country.

Our hearts have broken anew each day as the headlines keep coming: Four young children stabbed to death right here in Shelby County; Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shot to death by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively; at least five police officers murdered while on duty at a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas; a former Illinois congressman and a Nashville police officer posting messages of hate on social media in the aftermath. Even now, the headlines keep coming.

In the face of this maelstrom, we are all struggling to conceive of any way to provide guidance, solace, or direction. Words continue to fail us. Yet we cannot be silent on this pivotal shift we are seeing in our society.

And so, as we process the senseless violence, the despair, and the challenges we face as a nation that today feel so overwhelming, we will remain focused on these truths:

We are one. We will not let the pain lead to silence or isolation. At the heart of the Bridge Builders program is the concept of unity: the most diverse individuals imaginable coming together as a community to speak and to listen, to teach and to learn, to lead and to follow. We will not withdraw from one another. Not now, and not ever.

We have a sacred job to do. Earlier this month, the 11th-grade Bridge Builder conferences began at the University of Memphis. These included a particularly challenging and powerful community action series wherein youth and police came together in an effort to build relationships and respect. Our staff worked tirelessly to create a process that brings out the best in our students and our law enforcement officers, and it will surely be tested.

We will continue to pursue these difficult dialogues. Because we know that they are the only paths that lead to hope.

We need strong leaders now more than ever. We need our community’s youth to be courageously committed to unity. We need them to respect, value and support those who are unlike them in every way. We need them to be armed with and adept at using every tool in the arsenal of nonviolence. Because we know that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Those of us who stand for justice and love vastly outnumber those who stand for hate. We will never allow ourselves to be permanently paralyzed by the sadness and fear violence causes. Instead, we will do what we do … which is the antidote to violence.

In peace and hope,

  • Cynthia Ham, President and CEO
  • Peggy Carroll, VP of Human Resources and Building Administration
  • Anne Dixon, CFO and VP of Finance
  • Melissa Whitby, VP of Development
  • Dana Wilson, VP of Bridge Builders