Tuesday, July 10, 2018

UT rolls out its nationally accredited Mobile Stroke Unit

Dr. Andrei Alexandrov, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at
UTHSC, and the medical director of the Mobile Stroke Unit team, shows the members
of the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) the unit's advanced
technology. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
If you are having stroke symptoms, you should rush to the hospital as soon as possible. Every minute that you delay will cause the death of 1.9 million brain cells, a leading international nursing expert in acute stroke management warns.
“People should not wait when having stroke symptoms,” said Dr. Anne Alexandrov, a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing and chief nurse practitioner of the UT Mobile Stroke Unit.
On June 26, Dr. Alexandrov and a team of clinical experts and administrators touted the virtues of the UT Mobile Stroke Unit, which was on display in front of the UTHSC Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS) at 26 South Dunlap.
Weighing in at 14 tons, the comprehensive stroke center on wheels is equipped with a hospital-quality CT scanner with advanced capabilities for brain imaging as well as imaging of the blood vessels in the brain.
Launched in 2016, the $1.1 million stroke center is capable of responding and treating stroke emergencies on average 72 minutes faster than the traditional hospital response time and can improve the odds of recovery, the experts say.
Unlike other mobile stroke units, the team of experts on the UT Mobile Stroke Unit quickly preps the stroke patient before the trip to the catheterization laboratory, Neuro Intensive Care Unit or Hospital Stroke Unit, thus bypassing the emergency room altogether.
“If we get called by 911, we can go to the person’s house,” Dr. Alexandrov said. “We can do a CT scan, clinically examine the patient, and diagnose a stroke much faster…which is 72 minutes faster than going through an emergency department.”
The rollout of the Mobile Stroke Unit was also ripe for the announcement of the first-of-its-kind national accreditation from the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) for patient safety, radiation safety, dedication, continuous improvement, and commitment to quality care.
The IAC is a nonprofit organization that evaluates and accredits facilities (including UT’s Mobile Stroke Unit) that provide diagnostic imaging and procedure-based modalities. The mission is to improve health care through accreditation.
The CT mobile unit is the first of its kind to receive accreditation in the country. It is a distinction that sets the technologically advanced mobile stroke unit a world apart from others.
Dr. Ken Brown, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer for UTHSC, said this is a proud moment in UT’s history. He said the mobile stroke unit’s national accreditation “is a noteworthy accomplishment.”
 “The prestigious, three-year accreditation is in the areas of Neurological CT/Acute Stroke (computed tomography) and Vascular CTA (computed tomography angiography), both diagnostic imaging tools used on the unit to determine stroke treatment.”
“It’s [accreditation] a rigorous process,” said Mary Lally, IAC’s chief executive officer, referring to accreditation standards. “They have to have quality safety and safety for the patient.”
What UT is doing is innovative, she said, adding: “I understand the importance of this innovation and technology that will benefit patients. This technology will save lives. The team has paved the way for all others in stroke management.”
Dr. Andrei Alexandrov, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at UTHSC, is the medical director of the Mobile Stroke Unit team. (He is married to Dr. Anne Alexandrov.) Since its rollout, the mobile CT unit has responded to emergency calls at least four to five times a day.
He said it takes the team approximately seven minutes to arrive at a diagnosis after the mobile stroke unit pulls up to the scene, which, he added for example, is three minutes longer for paramedics to assess patients with chest pain.
Stroke statistics are rather grim in the United States. It is the leading cause of death and the No. 1 cause of permanent disability in adults. Dr. Alexandrov and the stroke unit team are striving to reduce the treatment time to improve the odds of recovery after a stroke occurs.
Every minute counts.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friends, relatives and business leaders pay tribute to Jesse H. Turner Jr.

Jesse H. Turner Jr., accompanied by his wife Joyce Hays Turner, chats with a supporter
who celebrated his retirement on June 20 after serving as president of Tri-State
Bank of Memphis. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
Friends, relatives and business leaders gathered June 20 underneath a tent on the parking lot of the Tri-State Bank of Memphis in the Whitehaven community to pay tribute to the bank’s president for his decades of service.
There was an intermittent drizzle and then a quick shower of rain at the most inopportune moment. But the inclement weather on that evening didn’t stop the retirement celebration for Jesse H. Turner Jr.
“This is about legacy,” Dr. Lucy Shaw Henderson, the bank’s board chair, explained to the 100-plus attendees. “We are what’s called a legacy bank. The Turner family is a significant part of that legacy.”
The legacy began in 1946, the year A. Maceo Walker and his father, Dr. Joseph Edison Walker (founder of the Universal Life Insurance Co.), founded the bank to serve the financial needs of the African-American community.
In 1949, Jesse H. Turner Sr., an ex-U.S. Army officer and CPA, was hired to balance the bank’s books. He would work his way through the ranks to become the bank’s president.
During the 1950s and ’60s, when the civil rights movement was reaching a boiling point, bank officials reportedly kept the vault open one night to provide bail money for protesters.
There were other incidents as well where the bank’s resources were doled out to support a cause or loaned to churches, organizations and black colleges. Community service was key to the bank’s legacy.
After the death of the elder Turner in 1989, his son replaced him as president in 1990. He had been a board member since 1983, served as chairman from 1994 to 2011, and CEO from 1989 to 2016. He’s stepping down from the helm, but will remain on the board.
“It was under Jesse’s leadership that this bank grew and prospered,” boasted William H. “Bill” Bufford, noting that Turner worked countless hours to steer the bank in the right direction.
The daylight hours often spilled over into the night, Bufford and the others at the podium attested. It was customary, they said, to get a call from Turner with something on his mind that he needed to discuss.
But that has been Turner’s modus operandi, each speaker noted. He is gentle, soft-spoken – as he is known – and to the point. So when Turner called after hours, the receiver would listen intently. 
Meanwhile, Turner continued to keep abreast of the latest trends in banking and sought to keep Tri-State Bank solvent. Unfortunately, time brings about a change and banking institutions often look for innovative ways to increase deposits.
In January 2016, Tri-State Bank announced the sale of its headquarters, a 23,000-square-foot building at 180 South Main St., to Beltz Investco GP for $3 million. The deal included Beltz becoming a depositor and stockholder.
The infusion of funds and the repositioning of the bank’s operations, including the $1 million renovation of its Whitehaven location, helped to extend the life of the black-owned bank.
Alden McDonald, president, CEO and founder of Liberty Bank & Trust in New Orleans, La., knows a lot about the banking industry and particularly the trials of black-owned banks.
McDonald has spent the last 50-plus years of his life in banking and laments the struggles that black bankers endure to stay competitive. “There was once 100 African-American banks [in the U.S.],” he said. “Today, it’s less than 20.”
McDonald and Turner are friends. He, too, has survived periods of financial instability. “We’ve gone through some serious times – all of us,” he said, and urged the assembly to pass down the message that institutions like Tri-State Bank are important.
Darrell K. Thomas, owner of Thomas Consultants, echoed McDonald’s sentiments. “Everyone has challenges, but this has been a great bank,” said Thomas, noting that he may be one of the bank’s largest depositors.
He added, “We need Tri-State Bank to succeed.”
Turner expects the next generation of bankers to grab hold of the legacy and steer the bank toward greater prosperity. “The final task of any generation is to hand the bank over to the next generation,” he said.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sickle Cell Awareness Concert benefits St. Jude

Christen Dukes (third from left on trombone) and his friends play Minglewood Hall
to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where he received treatment
for sickle cell anemia. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
Christen Dukes has struggled with sickle cell anemia since birth 22 years ago. He weighed a mere 2 lbs. and hasn’t forgotten the doctors and the hospital that kept him alive.
On Friday, June 8, Dukes, a stellar musician, hosted his 5th Annual Sickle Cell Awareness Benefit Concert at Minglewood Hall. Proceeds from the ticketed event benefited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
It takes $2.2 million a day to operate St. Jude, which has one of the largest sickle cell treatment programs in the country. Approximately 75 percent of the funds necessary to sustain and grow St. Jude come from public contributions.
Dukes started contributing to the hospital’s bottom line to say thanks and to create awareness of the ravaging blood disease. Albeit minuscule to some, the money is a token of his appreciation.
He set this year’s goal at $10,000 and entreats friends and supporters to contribute.
“This has grown tremendously than when I first started,” said Dukes, a senior at Visible Music College in Memphis majoring in music engineering and production/performance. He’s also studying the business of music.
“I can see it [benefit concert] going places than when I first envisioned it,” he added.
Dukes plays a mean trombone. This was evident when he and his band of musician friends – Ebony Angel, Christopher Patrick Bounds, The PRVLG, Cameron Bethany, Tia Henderson, Chordz, Deonna Pruitt, and others – played a two-hour jam session.
Some of the musicians and singers – equally adept at delivery and performance – are Dukes’ college-mates; some of them are from Stax Music Academy, where he graduated high school and is now a member of the Stax Music Alumni Band.
“Since he first started this project, his friends have been so supportive and have done everything to help him,” said Katherine Williams, Dukes’ mother. “When he calls on them, they are there.”
Williams is Dukes’ staunchest supporter. She’s his rock too. “She’s amazing,” said Dukes, underscoring the point that she’s been by his side since birth. “Some parents will support their kids, but her support is beyond normal.”
She’s not shy or reticent to return kudos either. “I think he’s doing a great work for a great cause. It’s something that’s greatly needed,” said Williams, adding, “It’s an awesome thing to give back and make a difference.”
Dukes is encouraging people to get tested and screened for sickle cell. “He’s helping those within his circle,” Williams said. “Now his friends know more about sickle cell. They know that it’s inherited from birth.”
“It makes me feel good that I’m able to give back and help others through this event and any other thing that I’m doing,” he said. “It makes me feel good that I’m doing something meaningful.”
Sometimes disappointment flares up like the pain that Dukes feels on a bad day. Still, he forges ahead, dismissing disappointment and encouraging himself to carry on come what may.
When Dukes launched his first benefit concert, the crowd was relatively small. Perhaps they were trying to get a feel for what Dukes was trying to accomplish. “I told him not to be discouraged,” Williams said then. “It’s a good cause.”
The benefit concert continues to grow – from a church venue to a more relaxed, intimate setting at Minglewood, where supporters were able to mingle and lounge at draped tables and partake of hors d’oeuvres.
While Dukes and his friends were belting out instrumentals and solo-led adaptations of familiar songs, their overall performance could have rivaled any seasoned performer. Preserving the moment, Terry Dukes focused his camera lens and fired the shutter.
In addition to music, Dukes is learning photography from his father. He hopes to be just as gifted as a photographer as he is a trombonist. “He’s showing me the ropes,” Dukes said.
It’s another opportunity that Dukes doesn’t take lightly. His father, who is proud of his son’s advocacy and philanthropy, has been front and center at each benefit concert with his camera ready to frame the moment.
“I look up to him for wisdom,” Dukes said. “I can depend on my dad.”
Dukes and his mother are already thinking about next year’s benefit concert for St. Jude. “I don’t plan on stopping,” he said.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Youth will take center stage at Juneteenth

Ivi Wicks performing at the Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival.
(Photo by Leslie Thompson)
Ivi Wicks was 11 years old when she first learned that African Americans began celebrating Juneteenth two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a historic document abolishing slavery throughout the Confederate South.
Maggie Townes was seven when she was first introduced to Juneteenth. Now she’s 10 and still kicking up her heels, so to speak, as one of Juneteenth’s dainty little models that will perform on one of several stages.
“I enjoy Juneteenth,” said Maggie, passing to the fifth grade next year at Sea Isle Elementary. “I was a princess one year, a queen another year, and I won an award last year.”
The celebration continues June 15-17 at historic Robert R. Church Park on “World-Famous” Beale Street in Downtown Memphis, where music will reverberate throughout the park.
Wicks and Maggie will be present and showcasing their talents.
Although music has been the epicenter of Juneteenth, there will be an outpouring of entertainment, food vendors, games, a car show, play rides and inflatables for the children, a jobs fair, a veterans’ 5K Walk/Run, and two awards shows taking center stage.
More than 40,000 visitors near and far are expected to attend the three-day celebration. And just as many visitors – including a number of children – will learn for the first time about that sordid era comprising America’s history.
“African Americans were being separated because of racism,” said Maggie, summoning her knowledge of the tumultuous slave trade. “This [Juneteenth] was a time when slaves were freed.”
 “We recognize that our children need to learn about the history of Juneteenth and why we celebrate our freedom from slavery,” said Telisa Franklin, president/CEO of the Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival, one of the longest running cultural festivals in Memphis for African Americans.
“We also recognize that we have to acquaint children with the knowledge of our ancestors who died and fought valiantly to break the yoke of servitude in order that generations henceforth would take pride in their history and the future that they are shaping,” Franklin added.
Although education is one of Wicks’ strong suits, “they don’t teach Juneteenth at my school,” she said.
Wicks will be a senior at First Assembly Christian School, a private, college preparatory Christian school in Cordova. She is just one of many young people getting an education about Juneteenth outside a school setting.
Singing is Wicks’ forte, including performing and choreographing an African dance number at this year’s youth talent showcase and awards. “Wakanda,” the homeland in Marvel Comic’s Black Panther, is the central theme.
Wicks said her mother, Dr. Sharli Kay Adair, Juneteenth’s director of Operations, insisted that she learn the significance of Juneteenth and what it means for African Americans to be free.
“That inspired me to go for my dreams and aspirations,” she said. “Mostly, it inspired me to be who I am and to be my own person. As long as you know who you are, you will thrive.”
Wicks is ambitious and has kept her eyes on a set of goals. She plans to become an entertainment attorney and then return to college to study medicine.
Even at such a young age, Maggie knows she is special and knows what she wants to do in her adult years – thanks in part to her parents’ tutelage and their embrace of Juneteenth.
“I enjoy learning new things about Juneteenth,” she said.
Maggie could take what she’s learned and apply it in a classroom setting some day once she’s certified to teach, which is her career goal. For now, she’s gung-ho about modeling.
“We are revving up the festival this year with something for everybody,” said Franklin.
On tap will be the show-stopping Juneteenth Evening of the Stars (a youth talent showcase and awards), the Memphis Juneteenth Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Ultimate Dance Showdown, a mobile outdoor educational museum, a Memphis Juneteenth Jobs & Career Fair, and Praise Fest at Memphis Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is the mother lode of music and entertainment, she said.

For more information about the Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival, contact Telisa Franklin at 901-281-6337 or log on to www.memphisjuneteenth.com.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

New menu-reading, web-based app a game-changer for the blind and visually impaired

     
Stephanie Jones, who lost her sight 12 years ago, tests a menu-reading,
web-based app using her iPhone that was developed by Helen Fernety of
ShopABLED, LLC to help the blind and visually impaired order from a
restaurant menu without assistance. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     Reading the menu at a restaurant wouldn’t take much effort for most sighted diners. But for the blind and visually impaired, trying to figure out what to order and what the meal would cost could be a daunting experience.
     Just ask Stephanie Jones, who had to rely on her children and friends to read the menu so she could order what she really wanted. “Whoever was with me would read the menu,” said Jones, the mother of five children. “I used braille menus in the past, but they’re not always updated. But you learn to work through it.”
     Jones is one of many diners who can’t make heads or tails on a menu without assistance. But a recent call from Helen Fernety could be a game-changer for Jones and other diners if restaurants subscribe to a menu-reading, web-based app that Fernety has developed.
“Helen called the Clovernook Center (for the Blind & Visually Impaired in Memphis) to explain the product, and I happened to be the one who talked to her,” said Jones, who teaches braille and the iPhone accessibility feature at Clovernook.
Eager to test the app, about 13 of Jones’ students gathered at Soul Fish CafĂ© to order from an online menu of authentic southern-style soul food. “As soon as I logged in, it was perfect,” said Jones. “It gave me headings, pricing, descriptions…everything was perfect.”
Her students – pretty much hyped over their experience – agreed: “It was perfect.” Fernety couldn’t have been any happier that her product passed muster. She knew she was on to something big – something special that would make dining much easier for the blind and visually impaired.
Fernety, who struggled early on with her own disabilities, is the CEO of ShopABLED, LLC, a collaborative group in Little Rock, Ark. “focused on improving ‘life skills’ for people with different abilities through technology with a focus on user centric product development.”
The first product from ShopABLED’s drawing board is of course Menus4ALL, the low vision/no vision mobile restaurant menus app that is being developed in multiple languages for the blind and visually impaired. Work on the app began two years ago.
“We have a very innovative product,” said Fernety, an accessibility expert who moved to Memphis from Little Rock one year ago. “The app is based on my friends’ needs. They don’t have a lot of choices (at restaurants) – because they can’t read menus.”
The app works using the accessibility features in a smart phone and computer. For Android users, the blind and visually impaired can access the pre-installed TalkBack screen reader. The iPhone and iPad – both Apple products – use VoiceOver, a gesture-based screen reader.
“We’re building the app for both platforms,” said Fernety, who had overseen 21 prototypes with the help of freelance app developer Shawn Hartman of Little Rock. For $300 a year, restaurants can subscribe to the service.
“It would be wonderful to get 50 restaurants to be accessible to people who are visually impaired,” said Fernety, noting that the website version is ready for the market. “We’re not a mobile app yet. That’s the next level.”
It’s called the Native App, which will roll out soon. Also, for those who use Lyft, a smart cab link is located at the bottom of the menu. If a customer needs a ride to and from the restaurant, the app will detect the link.
“This is huge for me. I can do this by myself,” said Jones, who lost her sight 12 years ago. She has spent six of those years teaching at Clovernook.
Jones is not the only visually impaired person in the dark, so to speak. According to the National Eye Institute, 4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older are visually impaired. Of that number, 3 million have low vision. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, the number of visually impaired Americans is projected to increase to 7.2 million, with around 5 million of those having low vision.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disabilities, Fernety is making it easier for the blind and visually impaired to access Menus4ALL and enjoy their dining experience.
For more information about Menus4ALL, contact Helen Fernety at 501-590-6723 or email her at helen@Menus4ALL.com.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Dream of NBA stardom morphs into a thriving t-shirt business for Binghampton resident

Inspired by NBA greats like Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Xavier Winston
squashed his dream to play in the NBA to launch his own t-shirt business.
(Photos by Wiley Henry)
Can anything good come out of Binghampton, a community marred by blight, crime and poverty? Xavier Delanne Winston, the 31-year-old founder of Kencade Apparel, thinks so.
With roots deeply planted in the community, he is not bothered about the perception that skeptics may have about Binghampton – except when he tried to invite a female acquaintance to his home a few years ago and she declined.
“I told her where I stayed and she said, ‘I’m not coming to Binghampton,’” he recalls, adding, “Binghampton was notorious for the bad stuff. [Now] I’m trying to shed a positive light on the community.”
Winston saw the light at East High School, where he began designing sneakers and clothes. He graduated in 2005 and went on to study architecture at Southwest Tennessee Community College, and then on to MCC-Penn Valley in Kansas City, Mo.
After launching Kencade Apparel in Binghampton in 2013,
Xavier Winston plans to stay in the community to inspire
the youth.
“I switched my major over to graphic design, and I actually fell in love with it,” he said, but didn’t graduate from either college.
Rather than follow the wrong crowd down the path that converges at the intersection of drugs, crime or gang-life, he set out to do something starkly different: follow the path to entrepreneurial success.
“For me, I stayed on the straight and narrow,” said Winston, whose dream of NBA stardom once superseded his innate talent for artistic expression. “I just wanted to go to the NBA. I didn’t want anything to interfere with my dream.”
Does he regret surrendering his hoop dreams to a desk and computer? “No,” he said with assurance that he’d made the right decision. Succeeding as an entrepreneur – not a hoop star – has since been his primary motivation.
“If it wasn’t for basketball, I don’t know where I would have been today,” said Winston, describing himself as a leader, not a follower. But then, he added, “It’s tough growing up in a neighborhood when everybody is doing everything else.”
Dreaming of NBA stardom may have kept Winston out of trouble, but it was his creative energy and desire to become self-sufficient that led him to found Kencade Apparel, a home-based business.
Another impetus that spurred Winston to seek his own fate was growing up in a single-parent household with five siblings. A brother, Milton Winston, played a part, too, at the onset of Kencade Apparel.
“I wanted to work for Rocaware, because (Shawn) Jay-Z (Carter, a co-founder) is my role model; and Reebok, because of Allen Iverson (a former NBA standout for the Philadelphia 76ers),” said Winston.
Milton Winston suggested they start a company and name it “Fly Boy,” said Winston, who pondered his brother’s idea of creating movies, plays, and music. “But he never puts any action behind it.”
A couple years later, the Winston brothers talked about launching a clothing line. They needed a name for the company. “Coming up with a name was like the hardest part,” said Winston.
He thought about the name a former co-worker suggested he use: “Delanne,” his middle name. When he tried to copyright it, it was taken. So the brothers went back to brainstorming.
 It then occurred to Winston that his brother’s middle name would be perfect: “Kencade.” “I instantly fell in love with it,” he said. “Everybody knows Ralph Lauren. Everybody wears Polo, no matter what your occupation is... That’s the status I’m trying to get to.”
Winston started selling t-shirts in 2013 for $10 to $20 each, all sizes. Sales vary – about 300 so far since his official launch – he said, adding, “It’s been up and down, but, for the most part, I do pretty good.”
To supplement sales, he works part-time at Target.
Though Kencade Apparel is fairing relatively well, Winston wants to give back, perhaps to defy those who still think that nothing good can come out of Binghampton.
His cousin, the late Desmond Scott Merriweather, for example, won three state basketball championships with his friend at Lester Middle School – local NBA legend Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.
He also coached boys’ basketball one year at East High School. The residents in Binghampton can’t – or won’t – forget his exploits.
Merriweather grew up in Binghampton, now a community on the precipice of change. The Broad Avenue Arts District is proof that a beleaguered community can come back from the brink of decay.
Winston wants to leave a legacy, too. Just like Hardaway, whom he admires, and his cousin, he hopes to grow Kencade Apparel beyond the boundaries of Binghampton without leaving his roots.
(Some of Xavier Delanne Winston’s t-shirt designs can be viewed on his website at www.kencadeapparel.com.)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Shannon Street Documentary: A Memphis Tragedy

Memphis police killed seven people in this home at 2239 Shannon St. in 1983,
including the homeowner, Lindberg Sanders, after hostage Robert S. Hester was
beaten to death. (Courtesy photo)
If you witnessed the 30-hour siege unfold on Shannon Street on January 11, 1983, or watched the tragedy in real time on TV, it would be difficult to forget the aftermath.
That fateful day a tactical squad from the Memphis Police Department stormed the home of Lindberg Sanders and killed seven black men, including Sanders, after their hostage, officer Robert S. Hester, was beaten and heard pleading for his life.
Hester and his partner, officer Ray O. Schwill, were dispatched to the home at 2239 Shannon St. to investigate an alleged purse snatching. Schwill was shot but escaped being collared.
Author James R. Howell, a former police officer, traced the siege from its beginning to the horrific outcome in the book “Echoes of Shannon Street.”
Inspired by Howell’s work, which was based on the case file, Marie Pizano, an author, producer and director, felt compelled to produce a 90-minute documentary aptly titled “Shannon Street: Echoes Under a Blood Red Moon, a Memphis Tragedy.”
Marie Pizano
“It was my gut feeling that told me I had to do this,” said Pizano, CEO/founder of MVP3 Entertainment Group, LLC, which produced the documentary. A Chicago native, she moved to Memphis in 1999.
Accompanied by cinematographer and editor Keith Cadwallader, Pizano spent two years researching and interviewing police, stakeholders in the community, and the Sanders family.
No one from Hester’s family was available for an interview, said Pizano, adding that Schwill did not want to be a part of the documentary. She said he was blamed for losing his partner.
“I had to let them all have a voice,” said Pizano, trying to strike a balance in the story. But then, she added, “Everybody was afraid to talk about it. Police were afraid to talk to me.”
Pizano was afraid at first to reach out to Sanders’ wife, Dorothy Sanders. She didn’t know how to approach her; she was devastated. Her children, too, were angry at one time, she said.
“When I called her and told her who I was, what I wanted to do, she was welcoming. She was a godly woman. [And] that fascinated me more,” said Pizano, who would break bread with the family.
She’d come to realize the Sanders family had built up resentment for the police and expressed by a daughter of Dorothy Sanders. “She was mad for a long time. [But] she was honest.”
After completing the research and interviews, Pizano crafted a narrative that looked at the tragedy from two perspectives: how it impacted the families of both the suspects and the police.
“It’s important for the documentary to share the truth from the voices of those involved,” she said.
The truth of the matter is Lindberg Sanders suffered from mental illness, said Pizano, arriving at this conclusion after speaking with the family and combing through police reports.
“The family will tell you that he did take medication,” she said. “But they will come back and tell you that he didn’t have a mental illness.”
Pizano believes it was a foregone conclusion within the MPD that mental illness sparked the chain of events, which would come to be called the “Shannon Street Massacre.”
The MPD now has a specially trained Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in place that handles individuals with mental illness. Manned by volunteer officers, the MPD responds to serious crises.
The massacre, however, still echoes today and conjures up ill feelings – particularly if there is a police-involved shooting and the victim is African American. Such incidents are frequently captured by cell phones and posted on social media platforms.
“We don’t know what started the fight on Shannon Street,” said Pizano. “[However], nobody wants to see this happen again.”
The filmmaker is hoping the documentary will heal festering wounds and bridge the oft-perceived rift between the police and the African-American community.
A movie version of “Shannon Street” is also being developed. “The take away is, yes, you’re going to be mad, and you’re going to be sad,” she said.
Proceeds will benefit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in memory of Officer Robert S. Hester and the National Alliance of Mental Illness.