‘Frayser Is Not Bad’: Memphis Neighborhood Pushes Back Against Portrayal After Fatal Shooting

Jun 17, 2019
Originally published on June 17, 2019 8:54 am

The Frayser community in Memphis is dealing with the aftermath of Brandon Webber’s fatal shooting.

The 20-year-old black man was killed by U.S. marshals who were attempting to arrest him on outstanding felony warrants. But it was the violent protest that followed that put the community in the national spotlight.

Now Frayser residents are pushing back against how they’ve been portrayed.

If you ask people in Frayser a characteristic of their neighborhood, they’ll tell you the community sticks together. And that could seen at  Webber’s vigil Friday night.

Hundreds of people listened to music. Many held Father’s Day balloons in memory of the dad of three.

Khisha Bates said this is the real Frayser.

"We love each other. Despite our bull stuff that happen, it’s a good community," Bates said. "Frayser is not bad, not bad."

When Webber was shot and killed by U.S. marshals last week, the community was indignant. Many took to the streets and clashed with police officers.

According to Memphis Police Department,  36 officers were injured.

Michalyn Easter-Thomas, a Memphis activist who grew up in Frayser, said the neighborhood is typically calm. 

"What happened Wednesday was something — totally caught everyone off-guard," Easter-Thomas said.

But Frayser does have some challenges.

According to the Census Bureau, the median household income is $27,000. Nearly half of residents live below the poverty level.

So, Easter-Thomas said the shooting brought up deeper feelings of being mistreated.

"Whether be from law enforcement or city leaders or whomever, they want to be heard and they want to have their feelings out," Easter-Thomas said.

And then the national media — and local reporters who typically don’t cover Frayser— rushed toward the community and portrayed it as violent.

But local leaders say they work with Memphis police to improve the relationship with them. And many of these officers are also part of the neighborhoods.

Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said that that makes the situation more complex for everyone.

"You are probably one degree of separation away from knowing Brandon Webber," Parkinson said. "But we are also one degree of separation away from knowing the police officers."

This complexity will linger, even after reporters leave Frayser. The residents will have to deal with the trauma of losing one of their own, and the police will have to work on building trust with the community, something that was already fragile.

Meanwhile, the shooting is being investigated. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is taking the lead on the case. 

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