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Children, adults change the narrative

Austin Tomlin, 11, focuses on putting the final nails in place. Assisting him is Jesse Evans. — Stephen H. Cowles The Tidewater News

Group seeks to unify community in positive ways

FRANKLIN

On Saturday morning at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Franklin, 11 children were busy putting together the pre-fabricated pieces of birdhouses, courtesy of Lowe’s. Each youth had an adult available to help them complete their construction work with success.

On the surface, the project seems like just a pleasant way to occupy a cold January morning. Girls and boys, men and women, Black and white playing together — harmoniously. But there’s a deeper purpose. Fostering that cooperative spirit and action is the goal of adults that call the group “Changing the Narrative.”

Kashif Carter, one of the organizers, said, “It’s about pulling people together. Asking ourselves what can we do to make a positive impact in the community?”

Dr. Michael Cicero, another member, acknowledged there were heated discussions at first, but both men agreed the members have “grown beyond differences among ourselves.”

Layla Davis taps in the nails as Holly Giles firmly keeps the pieces in place. — Stephen H. Cowles The Tidewater News

Howie Soucek said the group name refers to changing “how we think and talk about what the truth is, as to the challenges that have been preventing us from reaching our potential as a community; and accordingly, what the solutions can be.

“We recognize that, despite our differences, what we share in common is our capacity for love — a love that prevails over our differences and pursues the common good for us all and thus for our entire community and its future.”

He pointed out that the group’s particular interest is in the children of the community that have been neglected for too long in their needs where academics, physical and mental health, values and life skills are concerned.

“And it is we, the adults of our community, who are responsible for this,” said Soucek. “Thus, it is our ardent hope and effort to change the narrative in our community in a way that minimizes our challenges by exciting the love already available in the hearts of those around us — a love that is manifest in the actions we perform — together — to make things better for our community.”

Krystle Tomlin, another member, learned of the group via Facebook. Describing herself as a person “with a big heart,” Tomlin said she was also attracted to the purpose because, much like the others, “I want to make a difference. I want my kids to see diversity.”