What’s Up Unc?!?! Personalizing My Passion For Youth…

Lonnell Matthews, Jr. – Your candidate for Juvenile Court Clerk

We are one day away from election day for the May 1st Primary and I would like to share a personal story with you that I have shared with very few people. This story begins with a moment that proceeds a series of events that changed my life forever.

On an early December day in 2015 I received a phone call from my younger brother, Firi. I was 25 years old and he was 21. Anyone that knew my brother, knows that he was usually upbeat and loved life to the fullest. Well during this particular phone call he was no different, upbeat and talking about his plans to improve his future. This wasn’t the first time that my brother and I would discuss our dreams for the future, but I would soon find out that he had good reason for bring up the future during this phone call.

One thing was kind of weird about this phone call. Firi kept ending every other sentence by saying, “What’s Up Unc?!?!” Unc was an abbreviated form of the word “Uncle”. Right around the time of this phone conversation, the rapper Snoop Dogg had made the phrase “What’s Up Unc?!” and “What’s Up Nephew?!” household phrases. These phrases were used as greetings in urban communities on the west coast. A way of acknowledging a relationship with someone as deep as family. So, without asking my brother why he kept repeating the phrase, I just assumed that he had caught on to the latest wave of hip-hop slang.

A couple of weeks later, I had traded cars with my brother and discovered an ultrasound photo on his sun visor. My brother had just found out that he was going to be a father, my parents were going to be grandparents for the first time and I was going to be an uncle. This was the reason that my brother all of a sudden started sounding like Snoop Dogg during our phone calls, continuously using the phrase, “What’s Up Unc?!” My brother, in his own way, was indirectly trying to reveal to me that I was going to be an uncle. After finding the ultrasound, my brother let our family know that we would be growing soon and that our parents would have a granddaughter.

It was an eyeopening experience to watch him prepare to become a father for the first time. He spoke about going to HVAC school so he could support his new family, and contemplated where his daughter might go to school. It was obvious that his perspective of the world was then seen through the eyes of his unborn child. On March 11, 2006 my niece, Kailey Lanel Matthews, was born and this was the happiest I ever saw my brother in his entire life. His whole world revolved around this little girl, and the lives of my entire family were forever changed.

Unfortunately for my family, another life changing event would occur just three weeks following the birth of my niece. Firi, my brother and Kailey’s father, would have his life cut short due to gun violence at the age of 22. His life was taken by a 17 year old boy that should have never had access to a gun in the first place. And Kailey would forever have the void of a father.

Ever since this tragedy struck my family, I have been trying to fill the void that Kailey would experience. Although I know that I will never replace her father, I have done everything I can to make sure that Kailey gets every opportunity that she deserves. Now she is 12 years old, attending middle school, and as long as I have breathe in my body, she will never want for anything.

Life has dealt my family, and particularly my niece Kailey, a very difficult hand, and there are many of our youth that are part of families facing very similar circumstances. This is where my passion lies, and why I have and will continue to be an advocate for our youth everyday. This is why I believe that we have to help support our young people by focusing on strengthening the family structure. We have to create more opportunities for hope for our youth. And we have to address the trauma that our youth and families experience, that has become far too common.

As a son, uncle and father I understand and have personally experienced adverse childhood experiences from different perspectives. As a youth development executive director I have built programs that support the 40 developmental assets youth need. As a public servant, I have passed legislation and written reports that have created support systems and opportunities for youth, like Nashville After Zone Alliance and Opportunity NOW. And as Nashville’s next Juvenile Court Clerk I will work daily to restore the harm and address the trauma that bring our city’s most vulnerable youth in contact with Juvenile Court.

On May 1st, I hope that you will vote for me, Kailey’s Unc, for Juvenile Court Clerk and help me #RebuildTheVillage for our youth!

Lonnell Matthews, Jr. – Your candidate for Juvenile Court Clerk

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