Domestic Violence – Shan Foster

I’m sure many of you watched the Super Bowl this year and are ready for the excitement of the NBA and NHL Playoffs. This is certainly a peak time of year for sports. I recently saw a video of Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots that caught my attention. He remained positive and demonstrated tremendous resilience and perseverance while facing the largest deficit his team had seen all season. No team playing in the Super Bowl had ever come back from a 25-point deficit in the history of the NFL. I was not surprised to see Julian’s positive attitude, but what did amaze me was his choice of words. While still trailing by at least three touchdowns and a field goals to the NFL’s leading offense, Julian told his teammates, “This is going to be one hell of a story.”

Wow! Most people wait until the momentum changes or the score gets a little closer before they outwardly express that kind of belief. But not Julian. This is what he said in what seemed to be defeat.

Watching the game, we all witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports. And if we’re honest, most of us didn’t believe what Julian did. We simply didn’t think they could do it.

Like the Patriots, MEND has quite the lofty goal to make Nashville the safest city in the nation for women and girls. And, just like in the Patriots in the first three quarters of Super Bowl LI (or 51), many don’t think we have a chance. Some feel defeated when they look at the big screen and see the numbers.

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime
  • 1 in 5 women will experience sexual abuse before they are 18 years old
  • 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted or raped in college
  • 3 women are killed each day by a man
  • Metro Nashville Police officers respond to a domestic violence call every 20 minutes
  • Tennessee ranks 9th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women

Like Julian, I’m not oblivious to the numbers, but I also can’t ignore what else I see. When I look around Nashville, I see men who are committed to change. I see men who have stepped up to join women to end this violence. I see men who will hold other men accountable. And I see men who believe. Men who believe that violence is a learned behavior that can be changed. Men who believe that women are to be valued and respected. Men who believe that we can teach young men and boys a new definition of manhood. Men who believe in the power of love.

Therefore, in the end, we win. Not just we as men, but we as people. Men and women, boys and girls, together. It won’t happen overnight, just like it didn’t happen in one quarter for the Patriots. If we remain committed, persistent, and believe, then we will see a day when those numbers change. We will see the day when women and girls are not only safe, but valued and respected. We will see the day when men and boys are free from stereotypes and the “boys will be boys” expectation will mean that boys will be respectful, loving, and kind! On that day, we all win! So, let’s #MENDit2Endit!

About the Author

Shan FosterShan Foster, Sr. Director of External Affairs and MEND, YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee

Shan Foster has served as the MEND Director since spring 2015. Shan graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human and Organizational Development in 2008. During his time at Vanderbilt, Shan was named SEC Men’s Basketball Player of the year and is Vanderbilt University’s all-time leading scorer. Shan was drafted into the NBA in 2008 and was inducted to the Tennessee Hall of Fame in 2009. Recently, Shan was honored as SEC Legend at the 2016 SEC Basketball Tournament. Prior to his work at YWCA, Shan served as Dean of Culture for the Intrepid College Preparatory Charter School, where he now serves on the board of directors.


Kids on the Block and Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee Join Hands

KOB prevents Child Abuse

Kids on the Block joins hands with Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee

Each year, Kids on the Block partners with Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee (PCAT) during  Child Abuse Prevention Month for a community kickoff event to help educate and advocate for child safety. This year, Kids on the Block was honored to host a table of activities alongside several other community organizations advocating child safety.


For those parents and educators who were unable to attend the event, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to remember when teaching your kids about personal safety.

Things to Remember When Teaching Children Personal Safety:

  1. Remind your child they have the power to say “NO!” or “STOP!” if someone is ever doing something to them that creates an uncomfortable feeling. Share examples with your child of how to recognize the “uh-oh” feeling.
  2. Teach your child the difference between “safe secrets” and “unsafe secrets.” Not all secrets are okay to keep. Share examples with your child.  An unsafe secret is not telling your parents when you or someone you know is being hurt or if someone says “Keeps this our little secret or something bad might happen to you” it is important to know that is an unsafe secret. A safe secret would be not telling someone a gift they will be receiving on his or her birthday.
  3. Help your child identify various trusted grown-ups, and encourage them to report any “unsafe secrets” or questions they might have about child abuse. For instance, have them name grown-ups they trust at home, school, and their neighborhood.
  4. Most importantly, tell your children that child abuse is NEVER the fault of the child. Empower them to take ownership of their own bodies, and to openly discuss how to keep themselves safe.

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Smoking is still an issue for our youth.

Smoking is still an issue for our youth.

Smoking: Yes, we’re still talking about it. 

Here’s why, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, “Approximately 4.7 million middle and high school students were current tobacco users in 2015″. That’s just far too many young people in our books.

Although tobacco use by adolescents has declined substantially in the past 40 years, nearly one in 17 high school seniors was a daily smoker in 2015 (  Smoking damages nearly every organ in the body. Research also shows that adolescent smokers are more likely to engage in other unhealthy behaviors, such as physical violence, marijuana use, and binge drinking.

We want to make sure our young adults are starting their adult lives in health both physically and mentally. We believe the best way to help our young adults make the best choices is through education.

Sumner County STARS Student Assistance Program Counselors work with their Peer Leaders to facilitate sessions at TAATU, Teens Against Alcohol and Tobacco Use, for middle school students in Sumner County.  TAATU is a prevention program designed to give 6th-grade students information about the health risks and long-term consequences of alcohol and tobacco use. We hope giving youth all the information and tools they need it will help them make smart and healthy decisions.

Listen how our counselors across Middle Tennessee are helping educate our young people about the negative outcomes of smoking and alcohol use.

Parents: Tell us how you’re educating your kids about the risks associated with smoking.

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Andrew Maraniss on Race

The other day I was scanning Twitter and ran across a provocative thread of posts from an attorney, librarian and writer named April Hathcock.

“Ok, friends,” she wrote, “We’re going to stop talking about “diversity & inclusion” when what we’re really talking about is race, racism, and whiteness … We’re going to stop talking about “diversity & inclusion” when what we’re really talking about is queer hate, trans hate, heteronormativity…We’re going to be intentional about the oppression and violence about which we speak. We’re going to be intersectional but also specific … We’ve been using intersectionality as an excuse to use feel good euphemisms. We’re going to stop doing that.”

I was intrigued by April’s reframing of the subject because not only does it appeal to the activists among us, in its specificity it can be used to disarm the cynic who dismisses diversity and inclusion efforts as unnecessary, liberal, PC mumbo jumbo. Let’s get real, April is saying.

In 2014, I published a book called STRONG INSIDE, a biography of Perry Wallace, the first African-American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. Wallace played at Vanderbilt University in the late 1960s, and as he made history on the basketball courts of the Deep South, Wallace feared for his life. He’d ask himself what’s the worst that could happen, and in his mind, he imagined being shot and killed somewhere like Starkville, Mississippi or Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he was routinely harassed by fans with threats with lynching or castration. Back on his own campus in Nashville, Wallace was kicked out of a white church, his best friend was addressed by the N-word on his first day of English class.

A few months ago, I converted STRONG INSIDE into a young readers’ edition, aimed at kids 10 and older. With concern over the sensitivities of some readers (or more accurately, their parents), I debated how much of the derogatory language to keep in this condensed version of the book. In the end, I opted to keep all of it. The truly offensive thing, I decided, would be to whitewash history and let the racists off the hook by sanitizing their words, and in so doing minimizing the hostility and discrimination Wallace encountered and so courageously overcame.

So, I appreciate that this isn’t international diversity day. It’s the International Day for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination. And this year’s theme isn’t “Celebrate (Insert Diverse Name Here) Culture Day.” Rather, the theme is “Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.”
This is the kind of real language April Hathcock was calling for. And a reminder that sometimes being careful about the language we use means telling it like it is, not cleaning it up.

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss Headshot Andrew Maraniss is the New York Times-bestselling author of STRONG INSIDE. The original, adult version of the book received the Lillian Smith Book Award for civil rights and the RFK Book Awards’ Special Recognition Prize for social justice. The Young Readers edition has been named one of the Top 10 Biographies for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @trublu24, and visit his website at

Strong Inside Cover
Order his book!

SHHHHH Don’t Say It! The Big R (Racism)



The word itself has become synonymous with hate. So, what is Racism? The dictionary defines it as:

“Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race. Characteristics that distinguish individuals as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

Examples outside of race: chauvinism, bigotry, casteism.

Let’s take a moment to pause for 60 seconds, think about the definition and ask ourselves a few questions:
• Do I believe this concept or definition? Do I feel I exhibit some of these behaviors toward others? Do I feel like I believe my own race is superior to others? Do I believe in stereotypes of other races? Examples: African American’s are involved in higher rates of crime. Latinos are illegal immigrants. Asian Americans bring sex-trafficking to the U.S.
• Does racism still exist? Short answer, yes.
• Do we need to think about racism today? Short answer, yes.
• What can we do?

What can I do?

Let’s talk about what you can do on an individual level to combat racism. First of all, we need to have those tough, at times awkward, conversations about race and culture. Second, we need to learn how to identify our own racial bias and stereotypes that we may subscribe to. One of the first steps is to learn how to be comfortable in the discomfort. We might not be happy to find out that we have some implicit biases (that’s the “discomfort” part) but know we can do something about it! At first, it’s going to be uncomfortable to acknowledge we might have some “kinks” to work out. But, once we do, we’re that much closer to combating racism!

Racism is a learned behavior. Good news is: anything that can be taught can be unlearned by doing some self-work. But we must also recognize it is learned. To help end the cycle of racism we need to talk about it. However, the hardest part is being open to pinpointing some internal bias we might have and teaching others to do the same.

I challenge everyone who is reading this post to push yourself a little outside of your own comfort zone by striking up a conversation with someone of a different cultural background or identity than your own. Buy them a cup of coffee, hold a door open for them, greet them with a smile, or offer a kind word. Take small, baby steps to get outside of your box. Start finding ways to unlearn some of the stereotypes you’ve learned and to unlearn your own implicit bias. The most important step is to start.

How is STARS helping to eliminate racial discrimination?

We believe it starts with our youth.
To kick off International Day to End Racial Discrimination, Maplewood High and Jackson County high schools teamed up on March 14th to participate in Diversity Day.

What is Diversity Day? We gather 40 students from diverse backgrounds to talk with one another. The purpose is to not only create empathy getting to know people who are different from you but to help create cultural shifts in thinking and how to interact in cultural encounters. We talk about some uncomfortable, and sometimes awkward, topics such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. The youth have an opportunity to learn and discuss what it means to have an implicit bias and what cultural competency looks like, as well as the stereotypes and perceptions that exist today. After learning about these topics, the youth have the opportunity to explore and dissect their own bias toward cultural stereotypes. We challenge each individual to get outside of their “box” that might be setting the foundation to continue the cycle of racism.

The students get a chance to experience what it might be like to walk in the footsteps of another person who is different from them. We hope by participating the youth will realize that it’s easy to put people in boxes; however, doing so limits their abilities and how they perceive the people around them.

Once we are able to remove the box, we are able to see that coming together is where we will all find true power.

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