CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After Charlotte’s record-tying level of homicides in 2020, leadership against the violence is coming from an unexpected place.
A teenager is leading the charge to try to get young people to engage in the community and stop the violence.
Meoshia Burgess, an energetic teen with lots of ideas, is home-schooled, which she says gives her plenty of time to work on events, charitable efforts, and community advocacy.
On a typical afternoon, Burgess is not hanging out with friends or seeing a movie, she’s at her office planning events for those in need.
In recent weeks she’s held meetings to gather support for book drives, food pantries, and a youth panel against violence.
The youth panel is a particular source of pride.
"We should be able to use our voice to express our feelings and let other youths know that they can do the same thing, and they don’t have to be scared to do something,” Burgess says.
It’s a refrain she comes back to often, young people should not be afraid to speak up and use their voices.
Take it from her. Burgess initially became involved in her community with efforts to help breast cancer patients and the homeless. But, violent events in Charlotte the last two years turned her attention.
"Everybody always calls Charlotte ‘The Queen City.’ That was the time I was like, Charlotte’s not the Queen City if we’re having all these deaths and all these killings. We call it the ‘Death City’ because people were scared to go outside of their house, and people were scared because they never knew if their child was going to make it home safe,” Burgess says in her office space.
And, she works to put her words into practice.
In July of 2020, Burgess held an event to speak out against violence as Charlotte recorded the most homicides in the city’s history since 1993.
"We have to be able to try, even if it’s just one person that comes out and supports you that day. At least you know that you did something and that you are trying to make a difference in the community,” she adds.
Then, near Christmas, she held an event to give awards to other community advocates and a candelight vigil for victims of violent crime.
Despite her age, people are listening and Burgess made an unexpected ally, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden.
"The way that I think we should build trust is simply going to their world and listen to them,” McFadden says with a smile.
The sheriff says he became friends with Burgess about a year and a half ago. Rarely since then, he laughs and says he, nor his wife, have missed one of her events.
"She took on the stance that she understands on all sides. And she’s going to talk about police brutality, and she’s going to talk about the riot we saw in D.C. She’s going to talk about that. But, she’s also going to say, ‘Well, also, let’s look at ourselves and let’s look at our community. We’re creating violence,'” McFadden explains.
McFadden and Burgess say her message, which urges patience, peace, and understanding, is an important one, even if it’s coming from an unlikely source.
Burgess’ organization is called Meo Cares and the next event is likely a kickoff to Spring Festival. At the festival, families can enjoy a safe, fun day outside, according to Burgess’ website.