Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Business leader Gayle S. Rose carries son’s legacy into the inner city at Lester Community Center

Memphis civic and business leader Gayle S. Rose is on a mission to fulfill her son's legacy of community service. She was at Lester Community Center on Monday to talk to the summer campers about "Team Max," a "vigilante philanthropy she helped to start after the death of her son, William "Max" Rose, in 2009. (Top and bottom photo by Wiley Henry)
               The Lester Community Center summer camp is teeming with the spirit and sprightliness of children. On Monday (June 20), nearly 100 of them sat quietly around the gym floor wearing white T-shirts with the picture of a 19-year-old young man who lost his life in a tragic automobile accident on Jan. 3, 2009. Above his head are the words “Team Max,” and below is his name, Max Rose, followed by R.I.P., the acronym for “rest in peace.”
Max, whose birth name was William Rose, was the son of Memphis civic and business leaders Michael and Gayle S. Rose, president and CEO of Electronic Vaulting Services Corp. After his death, Max’s family and friends were compelled to form Team Max, a “vigilante philanthropy” with a mission to feed the homeless, help disaster victims, work with hospitalized children, and clean up the city.
“We are united by an understanding that helping our neighbors and our communities is not someone else’s job – it’s our responsibility,” said Rose, a Harvard-educated businesswoman who was part of the pursuit team to bring the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis.
William "Max" Rose
Max had committed his life to serving the community, she said, particularly the inner-city youth at Street Ministries on Vance Ave., and in Hickory Hill, where he’d tutored children. The children at Lester waited to hear from Rose, who spoke to them about community service and teaming up with Team Max.
Max had left behind poems and poignant words that clearly expressed his unwavering commitment to community service: “I want to give everything. I want to give it all. I want to find someplace where I can serve... I want to serve.” Rose asked a teenage girl to recite it to her fellow campers.
The children got to know who Max was and Rose’s commitment to fulfill his legacy. They also met Max’s girlfriend, Theresa Dougherty, and played a game of basketball with University of Memphis head basketball coach Josh Pastner -- but not before he encouraged them to stay in school, resist the lure of drugs and crime, and take pride in their neighborhood.   
The neighborhood around Lester Community Center, which comprises the Binghamton community, was once inundated with drugs and crime, even though the Memphis Police Department’s Tillman Station Precinct is located down the street from the community center. Low-income homes still dot the landscape where poverty is in full bloom.
During the game, however, Pastner ran up and down the floor with some of the campers. Then he, Rose and Dougherty joined them and the others outside for a few minutes to de-litter the grounds of the center. They wore gloves while tossing bits of paper and other debris in garbage bags.
Though Team Max was formed to honor Max Rose and his commitment to community service, it also seeks to enhance youth leadership, social skills, and give back to the community, Rose said.
“Team Max is a movement that Mrs. Rose started to give back to the community. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, rich or poor,” added Patricia A. Rogers, who handled public relations for the group.
More than 1,200 people have joined Team Max on Facebook.
University of Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner plays a game with the campers.

Picturing Max Rose…

The day was hot and humid, but the staff at Lester Community Center wanted nothing more than for the children to be happy campers. In the cool comfort of the gym, however, they listened intently to Rose and Pastner and seemed to understand the message that was being conveyed.
            The message was clear: Max Rose wanted to serve people. It was his calling.
            The picture of him on the T-shirt is indicative of Max’s zest for life. He’s pictured smiling and flashing a thumbs-up sign, an indication that everything was all right. On the back of the shirt are the aforementioned words expressing his desire to serve his community and a Japanese symbol for the word “God.”  
Rose knew him best when she described him as a “gentle giant” and “the sweetest angel on earth” in a newspaper story about his death. He was a student at the University of Denver.
            Max’s picture, however, does not – and cannot – show his 6-7 frame. His height could be measured, but the passion he felt for people and service to the community was immeasurable, Rose conveyed to the children.
            He loved music too, she said. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Privatizing trash pickup dishonors sanitation workers

    Honor had been 43 years past due, but President Barack Obama made it a point on April 29 to show eight surviving members of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike what they meant to the nation and to him personally.
    After their White House visit and induction into the U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Fame, the University of Memphis followed Washington's lead and hosted a local induction ceremony on June 4 in the Michael D. Rose Theatre for the city's original 1,300 sanitation workers, both living and deceased.
    Three days earlier, Memphis City Council member Kemp Conrad, a Republican representing Super District 9, Position 1, took the sanitation workers back to 1968 when he introduced a lame proposal in council chambers to privatize the city's trash pickup.
     Conrad said he is trying to save the city $20 million to help close a budget gap of $60 million. But the idea didn't bode well for sanitation workers, nor members of AFSCME, Local 1733, the union that fought "tooth and nail" for better wages and better working conditions for sanitation workers.
    The bitter struggle, they recalled, brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, where he'd seen "the Promised Land." His death ushered an end to the strike and forced the city to meet the sanitation workers' demands.
    Now the city is looking for savings to balance the budget. New revenue sources should be sought to pare down the deficit, but Conrad's proposal would, in large part, dishonor the sanitation workers and ignite a powder keg similar to the 1968 strike.
Kemp Conrad's proposal...

    While Conrad seeks to prop up a limping government on one end of the spectrum, his plan, while laborious in research, could cause the other end of the spectrum to fall in terms of collateral damage: jobs would be loss.
    A private contractor would make 950 stops a day versus 450 for Memphis, the councilman figured. There are approximately 500 permanent employees in solid waste, but if a private contractor gets the job to dispose of the city's waste, 300 sanitation workers would be tossed aside and laden with economic instability.
   The councilman's plan also includes a $7-8 million fund to buy-out 107 employees with 35 or more years of service. Nine have been with the department since the 1968 strike. Those employees would be paid to retire if they choose not to work for the new contractor.
    Conrad hopes to implement his plan in an effort to curtail spending. Revenue streams may be drying up in some cases, but the councilman's bold initiative, though clearly thought out, is thoughtless to those who could be whacked by the budget ax.
   "We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem," Conrad wrote in a June 2 email addressed to a "fellow Memphian." Bold leadership and a durable plan is needed, he wrote, "not one more year of kick the can."
    While I agree with Conrad that bold leadership is needed and that a durable plan should be implemented, I cringe at the thought that the employees who would be affected by the councilman's plan would be essentially kicked to the curb after forcing the city to meet their demands in 1968.