COLUMBIA- "Martin Luther King Jr. stated, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.' Anyone who knows Tyree Byndom can tell you he is not a silent man," Mayor Bob McDavid said at the 16th annual Columbia Values Diversity Awards.
Silence is never something Tyree Byndom, winner of this year's Columbia Values Diversity Award, has struggled with. He hosts three radio shows back to back on community radio station KOPN every Saturday from 2-6pm. Byndom worked with the National Society of Black Engineers to start after-school tutoring programs in Columbia. He's also involved with the Minority Men's Network, the Everyone Eats Program, PedNet's Unite for Healthy Neighborhoods, and Columbia's Stop the Violence campaign.
Byndom moved his family to Columbia's First Ward neighborhood so he can be an active and involved presence there. He brought back the Douglass Park Neighborhood Association after 11 years of nonexistence.
But the first time Byndom moved to Columbia's First Ward, getting out was all Byndom wanted to do.
When Byndom was nine years old, his mother Debra Gentry, moved Byndom and his brother to Columbia to escape the violence of St. Louis.
"When I felt like St. Louis wasn't safe, I left because I watched every friend I had die," Gentry said.
She watched not only friends die, but loved ones too. "When I learned that [Byndom's father] was shot, I was 9 months pregnant," Gentry said. "He died the day Tyree was supposed to be born."
Gentry was 14 at the time. She put herself through school and got her college degree while raising two boys.
"I did it because I wanted to be an example to them. I was the first one in the family to earn a bachelor's degree. I just wanted to let them know if you think it, you can do it period," Gentry said.
When Gentry and her boys moved to Columbia, it wasn't an easy transition.
Byndom ended up at the Juvenile Justice Center, and a few years later despite his mother's push to go to college, he joined the Marines.
"You know for me it was my way to get out of [Columbia]. That's just the reality of it. A lot of my friends were getting locked up," Byndom said.
"I feel a person has to grow and the only way they'll grow is if you allow them to. You have to let them go because then when they come back it's that much sweeter," Gentry said.
But Byndom's return home wasn't as sweet as his mother had hoped. "He was angry. ‘I'll kill you if you look at me, I'll kill you if you step on my shoe.' I said, ‘look son something's wrong,'" Gentry said.
"She basically said what do you want to do. Then after that she said you have to choose what mark you're going to leave on the earth," Byndom said. "I got to the point where I started asking myself 'what's my purpose?' 'What am I going to do?' 'What am I trying to accomplish?'"
In 2001, Byndom was asked to host a radio show on KOPN. He said that show helped show him his purpose in the community.
"It's up to us no matter what our differences are, no matter what problems we have with each other to come together to find some goal to create some type of change for our kids," Byndom said.
Gentry created a change for her kids and now Byndom is trying to create a change for Columbia.
"At a certain point it started to click of how much time and investment she put into me," Byndom said.
Now, every Saturday at 5pm Gentry and her husband Greg join Byndom to host Kore Issues on KOPN. They talk about their lives, their stories, their issues and engage with listeners as they call in to do the same.
"I'm very proud of him... It's really nice for a community to recognize a person that is trying to be different, trying to make a difference, caring about his community, caring about somebody other then himself," Gentry said.
To find out more about Byndom and the organization's he's involved with click here.