Tackling Adverse Childhood Experiences
The person who identifies a problem is the person sent to solve the problem. By adopting this philosophy, Pastor Charlie Caswell found his purpose and has taken on the task of educating communities of color on the effects of Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
Caswell serves as the Executive Director of Legacy of Legends non-profit in the Frayser community and bringing awareness to Memphis, Shelby County, and the state of Tennessee. Its mission is to mitigate adverse childhood experiences and create vision-based communities.
Caswell knows all too well how deep- rooted issues can cause intergenerational traumas that block the progression of a person, family, and community. The Caswell family lived in the Dixie Home projects in North Memphis. Mr. Caswell lived in those projects with ten out of his seventeen siblings.
Those years in Dixie home exposed him to the same ACEs as the young people and families he served. Before the crack epidemic, young Charlie Caswell played marbles, hopscotch and built houses out of cardboard boxes. One day while playing hide-and-seek with friends, he was snatched up by a police officer and accused of having drugs on his person because he was running through the apartments.
Ten-year-old Charlie pleaded with the officer and told the officer he was only playing with friends, but it did not matter. Charlie knew then that the fun was over. Three years later, at thirteen a Caswell brother began selling drugs and some of Charlie’s young friends worked for him. Unfortunately, one of his friends was arguing with someone over a drug deal and was killed right in front of him.
The next year another of Charlie’s friends was shot in the head on the steps. These experiences embedded trauma into Pastor Caswell’s life but he knew that God kept him alive for a purpose.
Adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic experiences that occur from birth to seventeen years of age.
These issues range from deep-rooted poverty to a parent being incarcerated, drug and alcohol abuse in the homes, or events that occur outside of the home. These experiences can be prevented, according to Caswell.
The work that Legacy of Legends focuses on is helping children and the parent understand what happened to them and how to overcome the traumas associated with what happened.
“Without proper knowledge of the impact of a lack of love, emotional contact, and physical contact, parents are unable to help the children in their lives,” says Pastor Caswell.
The vision is to help bring awareness that it is not what is wrong with a person, but it is about what has happened to that person.
At Legacy of Legends, Caswell has designed specific programming for the young people he mentors. These young persons have a wide range of ACEs, but more commonly they all share one experience – a lack of fathers in the home. When these persons are introduced to the program,
Caswell sits them down and lets them know that he is not their father. He points out that the aggression towards strong positive male influences should not be met with the aggression and anger they feel for their father. Therefore, he clearly understands the balancing act that must be intentionally woven into his act of care and show of love towards these individuals.
Now the Legacy of Legends teams are trying to speak love into the lives of these young persons, a love that they have never known. That is a true ongoing task.