I was born and raised in Memphis,Tenn. My parents moved to a little suburb of Memphis when I was going into high school, but nevertheless the Bluff City still remained home. When I visited places, I would say I am from Memphis. It didn’t matter what my zip code said… my area code was always “901”.
I may seem like a die-hard Memphis super-fan but in actuality it took me until my mid twenties to really #choose901. I always wanted to be somewhere else. I wanted to reside in a big city where I saw big things happening and where I in turn could do big things. I was naive. I had misguided notions of success and opportunity. Naive and ignorant to the fact that big things happen because you are capable and resilient and willing to put in the work , not because of where you reside. I didn’t realize that home wasn’t something that changed with moving boxes and changes to address forms. Home is a deeper paradigm than that. It is not a place you have a deep infatuation with or simply ‘like’, it is a place you choose to love. When you choose to love it and accept every gorgeous part and every flaw, then you are home.
Now in full-disclosure, I am not saying that I would never pick up and move to another city or decide to put down roots somewhere else. I love to experience new things and places…but I am saying that Memphis is home to me.
It may not always be easy to choose a place as home when you just happen to be there by circumstance but with a little extra intention…I think we can all choose to love our cities well.
- Date your city. Even if you’re from somewhere I think this is a good practice to uphold. I’m somewhat a creature of habit when it comes to places I frequent. I have my favorite brunch spots, happy hour spots, dinner spots, shopping spots, etc. When we started our podcast about Memphis, I made the conscious decision to actively try new things and places. My relationship with the Bluff City had stagnated but now it’s been revitalized and I’m learning about new places and faces on a daily basis. (Wow. That just got Suessical.)
- Accept the flaws. Yes, we have crime. Yes, bad things happen. But…bad things happen everywhere. It is in the midst of those bad things that something beautiful can spring up from the ashes. Neighborhoods can be revitalized and not just gentrified so a generation of youth will have opportunity. Literacy labs and educational outreach programs can help a disenfranchised area become a flourishing neighborhood that’s no longer limited to a cycle of crime and violence. These are our broken pieces, instead of griping and complaining and avoiding areas where the brokenness exists…what will you do about it? Accept it and do something.
- Support it. We have chain stores galore. I shop at Kroger, Target and numerous other big box stores. I’m not saying don’t shop where you are. However, when you support local businesses you support your community. Instead of Starbucks I often go to Tamp & Tap, Muddy’s , Ugly Mug, City & State or Otherlands. Instead of Domino’s I try out Rock N’ Dough or Aldo’s. I try out bars, restaurants, boutiques and other shopping venues around the area because, selfishly I want that moolah to line the pockets of the Memphis community. I believe supporting local businesses is one of the best ways to support your community. And, a beer from Wiseacre is a helluva lot better than anything you’ll get from a big box store.
- Defend it. We get compared to other cities a lot! Nashville is our sister city and probably the one we get compared to the most. I love Nashville but to say we are anything like it is completely ridiculous and ignorant. We both have great food and music scenes but when you get into the crooks and crevices that is one of the few things you can liken about us. We are unique. We got soul. We got the Grit, the Grind, and the best damn barbecue you will ever eat, period. We can’t help the persona that the rest of the country chooses to believe about this muddy river city, but we can educate them on the ways in which they are misinformed. Yes, crime is most likely the thing that comes up a lot. But, what you might say is that we are working on a solution to bring more officers to the city so that we are able to reduce our crime rate. We are bringing redevelopment, education and opportunity to areas of blight so that we can reduce our crime rate. Or simply, that we are not our crime rate…we have more to offer than that. One of the best things that is happening in Memphis right now is the fact that it is going through a metamorphosis that is allowing the entire city to fix the broken pieces. You defend the ones you love. Memphis may not be your city, but it is mine. I’m taking the opportunity to chat about it’s best qualities and why you should love it too, because we defend the ones we love.
- Make it better. The idea behind my podcast sprung up when I realized how many people were actually doing amazing things behind the scenes in Memphis but weren’t necessarily seen or recognized for it. We have amazing chefs, filmmakers, musicians, artists, philanthropists, business owners, photographers, creatives, etc. You name it…there’s a least a dozen in Memphis and they are doing awesome things. I am thankful I get to actively unearth those individuals and shine a light on them! I hope that in highlighting them, it will inspire others to use their gifts to make the city better. We all have something to offer. Even if all you have is time, you can use that to volunteer within the city at an organization you are passionate about! Do something. Make a positive impact. Use your skills, gifts and talents to make YOUR city better. It doesn’t take a lot but it does take everyone.
It’s a lot of work to do anything intentionally. Whether that means dating, speech, or loving your city, it takes a conscious effort. I love other cities. Currently, I am infatuated with Seattle. In theory, I would move there in one heartbeat. But, it wouldn’t be home. To this day, no other city has captivated my heart like Memphis has. It is my city. What is yours? Are you loving it well?