NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After tornadoes ripped through parts of Nashville, Tennessee, a strong group of black men is taking steps to rebuild a community.
“Nashville strong,” said Demetrius Short, captain of the Nashville chapter of Black Men Run – a brotherhood inspired through health and wellness that has thousands of members and dozens of chapters across the country.
“Two days a week we come out and put all our stress and anxiety under our feet,” Short said.
This group of African American men is helping their community from ground zero.
“We want you to be to be encouraged about your educational success but also as men of color and men in general we want you to know about your health,” Short said.
Short and other members of BMR go to local elementary schools to help inspire students. It's part of the group’s Black Men Run, Brown Boys Read program.
The most recent lesson was all about helping these children deal with their emotions following the destruction the deadly tornadoes left behind.
“Some people just don’t have anything,” said third grader Tyler Hanserd. “They don’t have electricity a roof over their heads they don’t even have a house.”
Judging from the support, these sessions seem to be working well.
“I love what black me run do with our boys their excited,” said Myra Taylor, the executive principal at Buena Vista Elementary School in north Nashville.
Taylor says BMR gives her students strong black men to look up to.
“It helps our kids release some of the anxiety,” she said. “A lot of them lost homes, they lost items, they lost clothes, but they come back and we’re all here and that matters to our kids.”
That includes kids like Hanserd, whose family lost power for a week following the tornado.
“People lost their lives and people don’t have shelter, they don’t have food and they don’t have water,” he said. “So, that’s not cool.”
BMR leaders say mentoring youth is directly connected to fostering community awareness.
“Our motto here is, ‘We don’t run through our community, we run with it,’” short said.
Short added that it’s important to teach children that they don’t have to wait until they’re older to make a difference, but that they can make an impact on their communities today.
“We’re teaching them about perseverance, determination, overcoming obstacles so they don’t quit on mile one they don’t quit on mile two or mile three,” he said. “They come across the finish line.”
For BMR, there’s no quitting physically, emotionally or spiritually.
Members are helping historic black churches by donating supplies and cleaning up the damage.
“This is the devastation of the tornado that hit Nashville,” Bishop Marcus Campbell of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist church said while pointing out damage and debris.
Campbell added that BMR has helped at a higher level.
“It touched my heart to see there’s still humanity that still cares for one another,” he said. “I know that we are better together and we are going to be better than what we was before the all this had taken place.”
Because BMR is Nashville strong and Tennessee tough, the group is ready to run down that long road of recovery for as long as it takes.