"I'm calling for a boycott of all violence and all drugs," said Rev. Will Collier.
The name Rev. Will Collier may bring back memories to residents of Helena-West Helena as a champion of a federal court case filed in 1977 on behalf of area citizens concerning ward voting. He still has his hometown in mind and has returned after a 25-year hiatus to spread goodwill to community youths concerning violence, gang activity and employment.
“I’m back to solve Helena-West Helena’s problems,” said Collier, sporting a red- lined black cape that he wears when addressing the younger generation. Don’t let the dramatics fool you because he’s serious about his mission.
“I’m calling for a boycott of all violence and all drugs. It’s time to take the community back,” he said.
He explained the problem behind the surge in the juvenile crime saying the criminal activity was a product of a bored generation and offered a solution.
“Give them a job. We have good young people that aren’t on drugs who aren’t violent. They make good grades in school. They are intelligent. If someone is ‘sagging’ or wearing their pants down low, give them a job. They’ll pull their pants up,” he said.
“The real threat is the wannabe gang bangers. A true gang member doesn’t hurt anybody or sell drugs. They take care of their family and community. The real trouble in this town is the wannabe gang bangers,” he explained.
Juveniles are believed to be behind a string of theft, vandalism and robbery incidents in Helena-West Helena and Collier responded to the national attention his hometown recently received.
He said healing relationships in the business and political community would open more doors and bring perspective businesses to the area.
“We’ve tried to be a ‘retiree’ town. It just doesn’t work. Your grandkids are hungry and homeless.”
“It’s not a color distinction, it’s a class distinction. There are jobs that want to come here but the city wants to run the show and tell the people bringing the jobs what to do. That doesn’t work,” he said.
“There’s no excuse for the violence. There’s no excuse for the rejection of jobs in this area. Give the youth a chance. The violence is spurred by a bored youth,” he continued.
Collier visited two local churches, First Baptist Church in Humphrey and Galilee M.B. Church with his message, hoping youths will take his boycott seriously. Trying to reach the younger generation, Collier has turned to music and he says in his rap song, “I Don’t Wanna Get Shot,” has a message teenagers may want to hear.
Born and raised in Helena, he says church is vital to survival in a world where gangs are considered family.
“The church can be a great support system and an even better family. Don’t let the hearse be the first to take you to church,” said Collier.
Collier returned to Toledo and the Eastern Star Baptist Church where he continues his mission advocating a boycott of drugs, gangs and violence in communities.