June 4, 2021

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Bishop Marcus Campbell runs the Church at Mt. Carmel, located on Monroe Street in North Nashville. Over the years, he and his wife, Stacy Marie Campbell, have helped countless young people by giving them a safe place to grow and learn. Most notable among these efforts is his organization Gentlemen and not Gangsters (GANG).

When Campbell founded GANG in 2008, he knew that combating youth violence wasn’t going to be easy.

Violence, anger and trauma were a significant part of his youth. He cites this early trauma as part of what led him down a dark path as a young man to criminal activity and later, time served in prison.

Campbell is determined to keep today’s young men from making the same mistakes. In collaboration with the Nashville Juvenile Court, GANG is a 12-week diversion program, which helps at-risk youths and former gang members break free from a life of crime.

While Campbell and his wife still primarily run, and often finance, GANG, the program struggled in its early years to achieve the same impact it has today.

In 2014, an acquaintance asked Campbell to speak at a ceremony for the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) Faith-Based Health Equity Awards. “I talked about our program, and what we were doing,” said Campbell. “It blew their minds to hear about the work we were doing, and the number of kids we work with, all without any funding.”

Campbell would return the next year, this time as an award recipient. As a result, GANG received a $1,000 grant, which Campbell put toward the modest goal of buying food and suits for some of the boys in his program. The MVA also assisted with GANG’s administrative needs, tracking student success and producing training manuals for volunteers.

“The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance changed the whole thing” Campbell said. “We were just a grassroots program, which was doing good work, but what put us on the same playing field as everyone else was being able to do the documentation.”

Over the next few years, GANG continued to make great strides in helping teens leave their gang-affiliations behind, and would eventually partner with the Juvenile Court of Metropolitan Nashville & Davidson County.

“We have been so successful working with the juvenile court that about three years ago they created a program called Gang Resistance Intervention and Prevention (GRIP),” Campbell said. “ the boys that come through that court—those are the boys that got to come through our program.” 

Campbell, and GANG, help to facilitate GRIP by providing mentoring and encouraging compliance with school attendance, among other services.

“We’ve had a lot of kids that got in trouble for truancy,” Campbell explained. “Since they’ve been in the program they’re back in school and their grades have improved. We’ve had some graduate from the program and go on to college, others have joined the military.”

More recently, Campbell has converted his church into a makeshift schoolhouse, providing a safe place for the children of essential workers so that they can attend online classes.

In addition to his work with GANG, Campbell serves as the Tennessee State Bishop and National Bishop of Evangelism and Outreach for Leaders For Change Christian Fellowship. In 2019 Campbell was unanimously voted onto the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) Board of Commissioners