Scarred by violence, Mississippi residents rally to rescue today’s youth from gun, gang culture

Published 3:20 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

By Rachel James-Terry

Do not call Brittany Gray, Kenderick Cox and Marcellus Gray activists. The Greenwood natives prefer to be called who they are — members of the community. They also shy away from spotlighting their efforts to curb gun violence and gang culture in the city that they love.

However, their voices are vital in conversations that look to resolve the tribulations impacting the Mississippi Delta, which some believe is being consumed by an epidemic costing young lives. Who could be better at offering perspective than the people who live there?

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“In the last several months, we’ve had about five gang-related shootings,” said Brittany Gray, 33, seated in her living room. One of the victims from Greenwood was a former student in a summer development program held at Mississippi Valley State University, where she served as an instructor.

“Brilliant student. Very talented. He didn’t make it through the program because of some gang activity, and he was incarcerated. He was 18 and had just applied back to the program this summer. He was looking for redemption, that second chance,” she said.

Registering people for the college admissions test and finding resources for individuals who want to relocate for various reasons are just small examples of her work.

Gray is all too familiar with gang culture. Fourteen of her cousins on her father’s side are current or former gang members. Although the names of the gangs are localized throughout the Delta, Marcellus Gray, Brittany’s cousin, agreed that they all fall under the hub of Vice Lords or Gangster Disciples in some form.

Marcellus, 42, grew up in the Bishop community of Greenwood, which he said was known for drug and gang activity.

“That’s how I was introduced to it. I was 13 years old,” said Marcellus of how he came to join the Gangster Disciples. “They were the family you didn’t have. The people who would be there for you when no one else would. I was being misled and didn’t know it.”