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Though Dee was an amazing poet early on, she took her writing very seriously and kept it very close to her heart. She didn’t share it with many people. Even those close to her would have to wait to experience the fullness of her art, including Tim. It was a whole year before she ever shared it with him. There were certain personal things she wrote about that she wasn’t ready to disclose.

After Dee began sharing, he knew there was so much more poetry to disrobe. Tim was used to performing the works others, but he was great at free styling, Dee bragged. “He’s kind of intimidating when it comes down to the writing. Even right now with the way he puts his words together, I’ll read it, and I’ll just be like ‘wow,’” she said.They offset one another because Dee is the ultimate performer, Tim added.

When they saw what performing spoken word together could do, they made magic. Initially, they were still performing solo and being called to the open mic stages as individual poets, but with the chemistry they were brewing and the talent they were grooming, it was undeniable that they could conquer poetry together and time came to show it.

When they started doing plays, the family supported them even when they weren’t doing as much spoken word. From then on, they never looked back or allowed their vision to become blurred. It’s important to also note that it wasn’t always just Tim and Dee in their crew.

Inner City South began as a five-member group in 2002. The name was actually created by another member of the group. To be able to use spoken word for social, economic, and educational justice was their mission. “When you hear our name, it’s not going to be anything watered down. It’s going to be some real truth and honesty,” Dee said as she addressed their vision. All of their poems aim to hit something, which includes the fun poems, as well.

Even Dee’s play called Mind Games, which addressed bi-polar disorder was a part of a bigger story she needed to tell. Shunning family and not getting them help is a problem in the black community because some topics are taboo or become shoulder shrugs. Inner City South aims to highlight the problems so the issues don’t keep getting swept under rugs. The dynamic duo points out that even human trafficking hits closer to home than many would think. They said, “It’s because we’re right by everywhere…Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas.”

excerpt from forthcoming Anthology ‘Our Neighbors, Our Stories: Finding Common Ground…’

Interpretation by Carin ‘Wrighteous Soul’ Malone

Though Dee was an amazing poet early on, she took her writing very seriously and kept it very close to her heart. She didn’t share it with many people. Even those close to her would have to wait to experience the fullness of her art, including Tim. It

Join me for an afternoon conversation with Lakethen Mason, the creator of Our Neighbors, Our Stories, a series that chronicles the lived experiences of Memphians throughout the Midsouth and around the world.

 

Join me for an afternoon conversation with Lakethen Mason, the creator of Our Neighbors, Our Stories, a series that chronicles the lived experiences of Memphians throughout the Midsouth and around the world.  

Inclusion is Key

Stephanie grew up in South Memphis in the Holiday Heights area, Her mom has lived in the same home for 60 years, which is the house, on Sundays, her family visits. She didn’t have a mom who just occupied a space on the block. Her mom opted for a little more
as she became an active part of the Neighborhood Watch. In a part of the town where they did things, school wise, a little differently, Washington attended NARHS Elementary but was bused to Evans eventually. It wasn’t a rough transition at all because as a kid, she just enjoyed riding the bus with her other peers.

Of course, she understood much later the point of the busing was diversity, inclusion, and interacting with other ethnicities during those years. Coming from South Memphis, that taught them to love people for who they were. It was a good feeling to make friends with other races and backgrounds and to have a mixture of something “different” in the atmosphere. It exposed them to other kids and showed them that other cultures existed, so that was something she embraced instead of resisting.
The next school on the agenda was Overton High, where the mascot used to be a rebel. Of course, as kids, Washington and her peers didn’t know any better.
A mascot was a mascot until other kids who were familiar with its history uncovered the mystery and pushed for a change even while being young, they were bold.

Because of that, today, the school is known as the Overton High School wolverines, completely out with the old. Washington knew that early diversity and inclusion allowed her to be able to relate to other kids, not just those with her skin color and that became helpful later in life as she developed a love and respect for others.

Stephanie grew up in South Memphis in the Holiday Heights area, Her mom has lived in the same home for 60 years, which is the house, on Sundays, her family visits. She didn’t have a mom who just occupied a space on the block. Her

Living With Grace

Wendy Oliver attended Evans Elementary and for high school, Overton. Of the six children her parents had, she would be the only one to not attend Hamilton.Oliver is a resident of the Alcy Ball community and has been since her family built a home there in 1959. That home is where she currently resides.

Her father was a truck driver and her mom a homemaker during those times. By the time she came along, they had three children who lived in the home. Her father was already working hard and saving smart and made it a point to set the example for teaching his children how to hold their own.

When Oliver thinks about her community, she instantly thinks safe. She credits her father for setting the atmosphere and infrastructure for this feeling.  She mentions, her father was a man of few words but one of big action and his hands were never idle. He was such a family man, she boasts. Oliver also learned from her family how to access value, how to exercise good manners, and the building healthy relationships with others. This became a pillar for Oliver’s approach to life and thanks to her mother, the key to her ability to navigate through life gracefully.

Going back to Oliver’s early school days, she recalls always being an excellent  student who was highly inquisitive. Reading was her forte because she was intrigued by information,
so she never had to be coached to do it. Oliver willingly took the initiative.Receiving two encyclopedias as gifts lit up her entire day. Her thirst for understanding always drove her to ask questions when she didn’t know and she never shied away from giving the answer when she had one.

Oliver recalls how 2020 in particular changed the way she did some things for the better.
Instead of looking at the world with dread, she took actions in to her own hands, evaluated her habits, got her health on track and refused to allow an uncontrollable circumstance to dictate how she would react to how she lived her own life…

an excerpt from the forthcoming Anthology  ‘Our Neighbors, Our Stories…’

story by Carin Malone

Living With Grace Wendy Oliver attended Evans Elementary and for high school, Overton. Of the six children her parents had, she would be the only one to not attend Hamilton.Oliver is a resident of the Alcy Ball community and has been since her family built a home

Cheering to the Finish

Tim Green, Jr. grew up in Valley Forge Apartments. His neighborhood is that unique space that could be considered Whitehaven or Westwood. He calls it Whitehaven, and honestly, either choice is all good.

Growing up, Tim met a lot of different people from all backgrounds. He bonded with a group of close-knit friends who he was allowed to play with as long as he did so safely. Green is still friends with many of them today. Both sets of his grandparents still live across the street
in that apartment complex today. While Green lived with his mom and sister but belongs to a family of seven, including six girls. Talk about becoming a man in a woman’s world.

Fortunately, Tim split his time equally between his mom in Whitehaven and his dad in Southeast Shelby County, and when it’s the best of both worlds, you love it. He never felt neglected by the separation of mom and dad. It just worked.

And while, as a child, Green not feeling the depth of poverty but still experiencing traces of it throughout his upbringing. “You know how people say they didn’t know they were poor until they got older” well Green relates.
Due to the split upbringing, he was walking a fine line between low-income living and middle class stability. All of these experiences played a significant role in the way he approaches the work he does, today.

You see, the 12-year-old Green loved school and sought every opportunity to get involved any way he could. In 6th grade, he was introduced to an amazing mentor Mr. McKinney. McKinney was his first, black male educator, which turned out to be a defining alignment of the stars. This positive encounter helped pave the way for how he carried himself as a young, black man.

By 7th grade, Green transitioned to John P. Freeman, an optional school where all the other students also had lofty educational endeavors.
As Green was trying to figure out the social construct of middle school, he was preparing for the next quest. So, He began singing in the choir, became involved in science and so much more.

He recalls the impact of a compliment from his English teacher about his attire complimenting elevated his own expectation of dressing for success., and everything about his appearance from that day forward became intentional.
He had been gifted with a powerful inner voice
through nurturing interactions that he could build upon for years to come.

Green explained that even though he had cheerleaders in his corner, he realized not all students were fortunate enough to have such a support system to cheer them on. He goes on to say that by the time students make their transition from middle to high school, it is so important to have good and encouraging people on your side, cheering them toward the finish line.

an excerpt from the forthcoming Anthology‘Our Neighbors, Our Stories: Finding Common Ground…’

story by Carin Malone

Cheering to the Finish Tim Green, Jr. grew up in Valley Forge Apartments. His neighborhood is that unique space that could be considered Whitehaven or Westwood. He calls it Whitehaven, and honestly, either choice is all good. Growing up, Tim met a lot of different people from all backgrounds. He

By the time she made her arrival into the arms of a mid-wife, Mary Mitchell, the historian of Orange Mound, Tennessee, was surrounded by generations of loving family members welcoming her into a good life. Her parents lived as double tenants alongside several other members of their family tribe.

By the time Mary was four and her sister was two, her parents parted ways, which switched up the family vibe, but still they managed to get by and turned out just fine.Her paternal side of the family purchased the home she currently resides and has been residing for many of her 80 plus years.

At one point, Mary’s family had to move to Douglass, they didn’t allow the fruitful friendships and relationships they had developed just disappear. Since they were still members of Mt. Pisgah, they walked back and forth to get there every chance they had. Mitchell recalls, “I don’t think there was a person from Haynes to Airways that, in my growing up years, I didn’t know who I couldn’t go by with a sob story, sad story, happy story, silly story, and get loving, kind, tender care, cookies or whatever you wanted,” says Ms Mitchell.

Orange Mound is a sacred place with a feeling of
belonging. When you could link with your neighbors for tea parties, cookies, and good times, it became natural to let your hair down and enjoy the good vibes.When only a couple of people in the neighborhood had cars, you still had a ride even though you didn’t have your own. Those truly were good times!

an excerpt from the forthcoming Anthology ‘Our Neighbors, Our Stories: Finding Common Ground…’

story by Carin Malone

By the time she made her arrival into the arms of a mid-wife, Mary Mitchell, the historian of Orange Mound, Tennessee, was surrounded by generations of loving family members welcoming her into a good life. Her parents lived as double tenants alongside several other members

It was Dr. King’s dedication that served as Maurice Blair’s motivation. Everybody wants to master change until it requires a little slaving like rolling up one’s sleeves and actually creating the pavement that others will one day walk down in order to travel. The rose that grew from concrete may require Blair’s hands to lay the gravel. On any given day, pushing through is a must, and he does what he has to. He says, “A great leader not only knows the way, but they show the way.” They don’t always say what they do but they always do what they say. They’ve graduated just talking. It is their personal responsibility to pave the road they’re walking. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there,

Blair is convinced people should get “there” when they can.

He encourages people to work for change even if it means punching the clock again and again. The mission, if they choose to accept it, is to overcome and not succumb to obstacles in the way of their journey. Never stop wanting to see and be the change. Keep yearning for it. What can’t be seen on the other side of progress, is worth earning.

For Blair, it’s about dedication, perseverance, and standing when you really just feel like sitting. He truly believes it’s the doer who has to commit to doing everything but quitting. Even in Dr. King’s last speech, Blair shares how Dr. King didn’t feel like going, but he went because the mission was much bigger than him and he had seeds that only his hands were in charge of sowing, so had he sat out at any point, he would’ve that would’ve meant sitting out of growing, and that is what sets effective leaders apart from those who just talk a good game.

There are no blurred lines with Blair. His message is plain. He is aware that jealousy, envy, and animosity can creep in when a person least
expects it, especially among his own race. He doesn’t just turn the other cheek when faced with negativity, he does an about-face. He makes no room for colorism or attacks that seek to make its way through the cracks…

An excerpt from the forthcoming Anthology ‘ Our Neighbors, Our Stories: Finding Common Ground…’

story by Carin Malone

He encourages people to work for change even if it means punching the clock again and again. The mission, if they choose to accept it, is to overcome and not succumb to obstacles in the way of their journey. Never stop wanting to see and be the change. Keep

Planning for the Future

Michalyn Easter-Thomas currently serves as the Memphis City Councilwoman for District 7, which comprises of historic North Memphis neighborhoods like Douglass, Voluntine-Evergreen, Hyde Park, Klondike, Smokey City, Nutbush and more. These are areas she is very familiar with as she has spent most of years in North Memphis. As someone who describes herself as introverted, Michalyn knew she had to step out of her comfort zone and use her voice to let her community know that she was fighting for them. Prior to running for elected office, Earter-Thomas, founded a non-profit organization called Our Grass, Our Roots. The organization allowed her to build trusting relationships within her community. Without doing the community work and gaining that trust and support of people through her organization, she recognized that there was no
way she would have even been able to win.

From her research, she found that the people who are really going out to vote were not necessarily the ones on social media. Instead, she insisted on the tried and true knocking on doors and making direct phone calls to reach her constituency. Easter-Thomas fondly recalls personally reaching 6,500 people in her district and found this to be a winning approach. She came out victorious to win in a nine-way race and breezed through a runoff election to become the youngest African American to be elected to the city council to date.

Michaelyn also reminds us that she is “North Memphis all day, everyday.” Many people have their own idea of what it means to be from [North Memphis], but what Michalyn remembers most about her experience is that of  a spirit of “family cohesiveness and knowing who your neighbors are’ that made her growing up their so special. She also points out that many of the issues plaguing these communities, such as housing inequalities and economic development, fall on the lack of planning on the part of the city. According to Easter-Thomas, he city controls a lot of what happens in our neighborhoods, such as permits to build developments or whether an environmental factory goes in the middle of the neighborhood or not. When thinking about factors like this, you also have to think how these decisions and ordinances affect the livelihood and the health of residents in these communities, such as how communities like South Memphis and North Memphis have high asthma rates and how there are more factories in those neighborhoods.

Since she has the experience of growing up in North Memphis, she believes she can help change the neighborhood’s trajectory, starting with some of the environmental issues she witnessed in her growing up there.

Planning for the Future Michalyn Easter-Thomas currently serves as the Memphis City Councilwoman for District 7, which comprises of historic North Memphis neighborhoods like Douglass, Voluntine-Evergreen, Hyde Park, Klondike, Smokey City, Nutbush and more. These are areas she is very familiar with as she has spent most

Challenge The Status Quo With Love

Michael J. Curtis is a proud South Memphis native, who went back and forth between Alcy Ball snd Castalia. Curtis is a Registered Nurse with a statuesque physique, charismatic cadence and winning smile which made the conversation even more interesting. I wanted to know what was beneath the surface of this debonair young man. Well, for starters he’s an avid book collector. He describes himself as a bibliophile and has a special affinity for collections of notable figures, like Barack Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Jr.John F. Kennedy. Maybe that explains it.

As it pertains to his South Memphis roots, this part of the city is a very special place for Curtis. He remembers being at his grandmother’s house after school and dragging his basketball goal down the street. He knew that as soon as people heard the noise, everyone would quickly come outside and join him to get to know each other and have fun with each other.

Curtis says he owes so much of who he is to his mother. He describes black women as the
“backbone” of many different sectors of society. His mother encouraged him to become a part of Kappa Leadership League, an organization targeted towards young men in high school and cultivating leadership skills and ways to be productive and active members of their communities. While a member of the Kappa Leadership League he learned skills such as how to change a tire, which may seem trivial, but “if you never had someone around to teach you, it’s important to find someone that will,” remarks Curtis.

When it comes to South Memphis and what it needs today, Michael believes that South Memphis is largely left out of the larger narrative of Memphis. There is an apparent lack of resources for things like grocery stores, banks, and healthcare providers. For some, it might not be a burden to drive to places like Midtown to get access to these things, but other factors come into play, such as what do you do if you do not own a car.

People need to identify what is going on in these communities, develop solutions to fix
them, and put them into action. As he puts it, “we need people to get on that boat and go against that current.” The current that he is speaking of is systemic racism and social injustice. Although segregation is no longer legal, there are still systems that deprive many black neighborhoods of basic necessities and resources. Although it’s not something that Michael can fix alone, he is optimistic that we as a community can come together and fix the larger problem. He acknowledges that he is privileged in many ways. He hopes to utilize his resources to provide other people with opportunities they might not have initially had.

Michael also stresses the importance of having positive role models to inspire our youth. He mentions former President Barack Obama. For many people, imagining a black president seemed almost impossible until he was able to do it.

He even acknowledges his own position of privilege as a nurse. Curtis stated that working as a nurse, who happens to be black and make  inspires so many patients. It helps them see the possibilities around them because “if you see it, you can achieve it.” That’s something he’s very proud of and takes very seriously in representing his position and privilege at the highest level.

Challenge The Status Quo With Love Michael J. Curtis is a proud South Memphis native, who went back and forth between Alcy Ball snd Castalia. Curtis is a Registered Nurse with a statuesque physique, charismatic cadence and winning smile which made the conversation even more interesting. I

Breaking Down The Kendrick Consent Decree

Attorney Jake Brown has been a part of the Memphis community since he was 12 years old. He grew up in the Germantown area and now lives in the Midtown where he is a senior litigator at a private law firm. Brown has represented several high profile cases involving police surveillance of private citizen and various practices involving the civil rights of certain individuals. During our conversation with Brown, he took the time to break down the meaning of and the story behind The Kendrick Consent Decree.

The Kendrick Consent Decree was birthed out of the FBI’s questionable role in the civil rights movement and the organizing of black people and people of color in the 1960s. On a national level, The FBI had leaders like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. under heavy surveillance. This monitoring of social activists groups was also being done on a more local level. Local Memphis law enforcement known as red squads were covertly surveilling activist groups, such as members of the NAACP and organizers of the sanitation workers strike.

Red squads were supposed to be reminiscent of
law enforcement in the 1920s who were sent to seek out communists. After the declassification of these red squad files, records were made known about the type of information they were keeping on these activists, in particular a set of files detailing when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis for the sanitation strike.

The files included memos that were sent out that kept particular tabs on him, such as where he went and who he spoke with. These files often referred to Dr. King as an “agitator.” This practice of the Memphis Red Squad was at its height under the leadership of Mayor Loeb and  continued under the supervision of Mayor Chandler.

During that time, a University of Memphis student was also a Vietnam Veteran and
activist who was roommates with a member of the Memphis police department. The student
learned from his roommate that the police department had a dossier on him. He contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which ultimately caused a lawsuit. They believed this type of behavior had a chilling effect on people’s First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit would become known as Kendrick v. Chandler. The settlement, in this case, was a consent decree that prohibited the Memphis government from monitoring constitutionally protected political activities.

In 2016, Memphis protestors occupied the Memphis bridge in a call to action to raise
awareness about and eliminate police brutality. It was believed that such illegal practices were resurfacing as a way of surveilling known activists associated with this protest.

Attorney Brown speaks on how there is a
tendency to treat protestors like violent or dangerous criminals. As a result of that, the organized crime unit of the Memphis Police Department, which is trained to handle “the worst of the worst in terms of criminality” would show up to these peaceful demonstrations for the purpose of identifying key activists and creating secret files on them without their understanding or knowledge. Understandably
so, this has caused an obvious division and distrust between local activists and protective law enforcement.

In February 2017, an alleged blacklist came out. This was said to be an example of the city engaging in something explicitly prohibited by the decree. The blacklist sparked Blanchard v. City of Memphis, a lawsuit born out of Memphis’ creation of a list including multiple members of the Black Lives Matter movement and local political activists and organizers.

Attorney Brown continues to seek justice in cases where use of privilege oversteps the civil liberties of private citizens…

Breaking Down The Kendrick Consent Decree Attorney Jake Brown has been a part of the Memphis community since he was 12 years old. He grew up in the Germantown area and now lives in the Midtown where he is a senior litigator at a private law firm.

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