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'Not My Son' campaign aims to help Midtown parents keep kids safe

Tanyga Johnson encourages motorists to react to her signs as she canvasses the Childs Park neighborhood. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
Tanyga Johnson encourages motorists to react to her signs as she canvasses the Childs Park neighborhood. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Jul. 11, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG - Tanyga Johnson walked door-to-door through the Childs Park neighborhood on a mission.

She stopped to preach to two men sitting on a porch.

"This is about getting those weapons out of children's hands and putting books in their hands," she said.

They offered "yes, ma'ams" before they high-fived her and agreed to let her place a yard sign.

"Now, we are rolling!" she yelled.

Johnson, from The Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist Church, was championing a campaign called "Not My Son."

The goal is to make African-American males between the ages of 12-24 aware of ways to fight crime. Families also pledge to keep their children crime-free.

The effort is part of a broader push launched by former President Barack Obama in 2014. St. Petersburg is one of around 250 communities across the country that accepted the challenge, branding it Not My Brother's and Sister's Keeper.

Not My Son started in 2015 after seven young African-American men were killed over a two-month period.

The summer campaign directs parents and children to programs like Cohort of Champions and Arts Conservatory for Teens.

The Rev. Kenny Irby, community intervention director with the St. Petersburg Police Department, said city leaders wanted to stop the violence. The appeal to parents, he said, is simply, "How can we help you?"

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman said parents sometimes don't know where to turn.

That's where volunteers like Johnson come in.

In Childs Park, she held up the yard signs to passing motorists and encouraged them to honk.

She was planting seeds, she said, and now, "we will watch them grow."

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