Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TAP Recognizes Community Heroes




TAP's (Tennessee Alliance for Progress) annual Long Haul Awards Celebration on Saturday May 9th was a major success with a record-breaking number of people in attendance. Irish Diva Maura O'Connell was soulful and everyone was deeply inspired by keynote speaker, Rev. Ed Sanders. Delicious food, wine by Le Vine Cellars and toe tapping music by Shelby Bottom String Band rounded out the inspirational night.

My favorite unsung hero, Brandon Hill of the Oasis Center, received TAP’s 2009 Young Leader award. I have previously written about Brandon’s work at the Oasis Center and our community at large. It was nice to see many community leaders who have fought for justice from the Civil Rights era receiving awards along with young community leaders who have the same heart and determination and who currently represent the youth of today and tomorrow. The evening’s events reminded me of talented musicians who can sing beautifully alone but when you put them together with others, you have a glorious choir that can be heard for miles and miles.

Brandon Hill works with the Youth Engagement & Action program at Oasis Center. His work connects youth with community and city leaders to effectively address social problems within the city of Nashville. Brandon was born and raised in Nashville. He spent a good deal of his childhood in the infamous James A. Cayce Homes. Living in one of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods and attending some of the city’s lowest-performing schools prepared him to work with young people who face these challenges today. After graduating from high school, Brandon returned to the James A. Cayce Homes, still a teen himself, to work with youth in his old neighborhood. After college at the age of 21, he was given the task of leading the Teen Outreach program at the Martha O’ Bryan Center.

Brandon says: “Young people have always been, and will continue to be, one of our community’s greatest resources. Unfortunately, they are also one of our most over-looked, under-appreciated, and under-valued resources. Much of this is due to a distorted perception of youth. Many times youth are seen as destructive, violent, and void of any desire to improve their lives or the lives of others. Because of these views, adults are convinced that they must create ways to “fix” youth, which leads to a never-ending cycle of negativity and cynicism. My ultimate goal is to end this cycle. My work is about creating better connections between young people and the communities in which they live in. I hope to inspire young people and adults to find better ways to communicate and work together to offer solutions to the problems we face as a community.”

Brandon was in good company with honorees who received the 2009 TAP Lifetime Achievement Long Haul; Rev. Bill Barnes, Elizabeth Barger, Guy and Candy Carawan, George Grider, Dora Rucker, Margaret G. Scrivens, and my dear friend Jim Zralek. Other young folks were honored as well for their activism; Jacob Flowers, Conrad Honiker, and Jennifer Tlumak.

TAP is a think/act tank with a mission to create healthy families and communities in Tennessee. TAP believes in true political and economic democracy, that people should participate in decisions that affect their lives. For more information about the group, go to www.tennesseeallianceforprogress.org.

Thanks to the honorees for all the work they do every day for their communities and a big special thank you for all you do for our youth, Brandon Hill. You are a hero to so many!

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