When talking about impact, it’s a must that we mention empowerment. In a world that focuses on how much it can take, there are still individuals who focus on how much they can give. The Briarwoods Arts Center is just that, a place of giving. Located in North Jackson, Mississippi, the center founded by, Stephen Brown, a Public Relations professional, mentor, and independent music artist, has grown into a safe haven for youth and adults alike throughout the metro area.
This community focused group is a special program that focuses on the development and growth of young adolescent males. “The Firm Foundations” consist of Brown and a team of friends who took the initiative to fight back against a plague of violence that threatens their community. The volunteers consist of respected professional businessmen who are in a wide variety of fields. They are Christian Vance, a Captain for the Jackson Police Department, Bradford Wilson, an IT Specialist, D’Marius Jones, a current Alcorn Mass Communication major and Brown, a college Admission Coach.
They encourage males who are ages 6-16 to meet every Wednesday from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm to participate in activities and discussions that aid in the child’s character and personal development. These discussions and activities are prepared by the mentors.
Conversational topics aim to demonstrate values, morals and principles that are needed in order to keep the kids out of trouble and productive. Critical thinking exercises are also incorporated so that they are well knowledgeable to avoid situations that could lead to their detriment.
Through this program they help more than the kids themselves. Although the kids are the first priority, they realize that the parents (primarily mothers) benefit greatly from a sense of mediation time, being that the kids are in a controlled environment surrounded by men who care. D’Marius Jones stated, “I know how it feels to feel alone, lost and expecting that you would have to be the one to raise yourself. This is a struggle a lot of young men go through, especially within the black community. I’m just grateful we’re able to extend that offer of guidance to them so that they don’t have to go looking for it in the wrong places.”
This effort is breaking boundaries yet there is still so much to be done. Brown said, “Our center’s goal is to be the blueprint or catalyst that leads to other organizations being formed throughout the city.” The group is hoping to broaden their reach so that more parents, especially single mothers can take advantage of the resources that are being offered. The participants are offered a meal at the conclusion of every meet, usually pizza, as a reward for a job well done.