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'It's personal': Metro Public Health Department holds town hall addressing violence as public health crisis
'It's personal': Metro Public Health Department holds town hall addressing violence as public health crisis
'It's personal': Metro Public Health Department holds town hall addressing violence as public health crisis

Published on: 09/19/2023


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - Dozens of people die in Nashville each year due to gun violence. It's why the Metro Public Health Department treats the issue as a public health crisis.

On Monday, the department held a town hall meeting to hear from community members directly affected, proving the problem is more complicated than it may seem.

The town hall was held inside the Lee Chapel AME Church, where State Representative Harold Love Jr. (D-Nashville) pastors.

The church is often a place where many come and listen, and Monday was no different.

"For me, to be in the midst of two mass shootings within eight months, it's heartbreaking. For us to be in this city and see 2 and 3-year-old babies getting shot, it's heartbreaking. A 13-year-old was just shot a week ago," said Talia Monget, the founder of The Antwand Covington Jr. Foundation.

It's the personal stories that were told during the town hall, where those who attended heard the common goal for change.

"June 9, 2012," Monget remembered. "My son came in and he said, 'Mama, Antwand's been shot.'"

Her son, Antwand Covington Jr., was shot while leaving a birthday party in Antioch. Monget and her now ex-husband went from the crime scene to the hospital where they were told Antwand was. Once there, "my ex-husband said, 'Do whatever you can to help him,' so the nurse said...'he's gone,'"

"I tell this story because it's personal; I share my story because I am this community; I got into this fight because of what happened to my son, but this fight started a long time ago because I started seeing a change in Nashville," Monget said.

Over the last 20 years, MPHD has been treating violence throughout the city like an infectious disease.

"We know that violence has long been in our community, and it is inextricably linked to how people experience health and other systems. This underscores the critical need for us to view violence through the lens of public health, to understand its far-reaching implications and to colaboratory forge solutions that will lead us to a safer, healthier, Nashville," said Dr. Gill Wright, the director of health.

It was the tough questions that brought hard-to-swallow answers.

"First question, what does violence cost?" asked Love to the guest panel.

"For our community, our small community at The Covenant School, it cost (six) lives and the innocence of over 230 children. I think it cost us all just the essence of our humanity," said David Teague, a Covenant School parent.

Monday's focus was on North Nashville, an area the Metro Nashville Police Department said is slowly changing for the better.

"North Nashville is currently showing a 5% decrease in crime compared to the same time last year, specifically domestic violence. Aggravated assaults are showing a commendable 13.9% decrease," said Assistant Chief of Police Dwayne Greene.

During the town hall, those who attended had the opportunity to ask questions, many of them focused on whether or not violence can truly end in the city. Clemmie Greenlee, founder of Mothers over Murder, sat on the panel and explained the answer depends on those who have not been directly affected by gun violence to join in the fight against it.

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