Meet my daughter Yates and her BFF Ciara. In this picture they are dressed up to go Trick or Treat last Halloween. Like most best friends, they spend the night at each other’s houses, they giggle at things this mom doesn’t get, they have cute catch phrases they say simultaneously and they finish each other’s sentences.
They are 9 years old.
As most 9 year olds, they have been taught in school all about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, but they do not understand how his death in the city of Memphis ripped this place apart. Nor should they. They deserve to live in a community that embraces them and all its children.
Instead, they live in a community that created two school systems that represent the best and the worst of those who live in the city and those who live in the county.
Over the last few months, since the Memphis City School board voted to surrender its charter, I have read a lot of the worst side of this community as people comment on Facebook and Twitter. Frankly most of the comments have been downright hateful. The adults in this community have resorted to name calling, race baiting, political maneuvers and lawsuits to “do what’s best for the children.”
Of course, often one’s view of what is best depends on your address in Shelby County.
I am a Memphian.
Born in Methodist Central Hospital. Reared in Central Gardens. Educated first in a small Episcopal school down the street from my house and a graduate of Memphis Central High School.
Although my address today is in Germantown, when people ask where I am from I say Memphis. Not Germantown, not Shelby County, Memphis. And I love Memphis.
My daughter and her best friend attend a Shelby County School. They love their school. It has wonderful teachers, a strong administrative staff, lots of activities and highly involved parents. It’s the kind of school I wish for all students in the community.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a school like ours and they should.
We have an opportunity today to do what is best for all the children by working together for the future. No one has all the answers so set aside your fears and listen.
To those in the county, Memphis is not a scary place to be feared. Crime exists in every metropolitan area, not just Memphis. You are missing out on the cool funky vibe of Memphis and the best and warmest people if you’ve never been inside the loop. There are children there who need your attention and time.
To those in the City, many who live in the suburbs are transplants to this area. When they moved here, they trusted a real estate agent to put them in a nice home with good schools. And like a good real estate agent, they put them in the county because it’s an easy sell. So give them a break, they have never had the opportunity to really know Memphis. Show them why this city is referred to as the City of Good Abode.
There has never been a better opportunity to embrace all our children. Let’s use this time not to tear each other down with hateful words and misplaced assumptions but to get to know one another and find the best in all of us to help our children. Because they don’t know our history, they don’t know state law, and they don’t really care.
They deserve our best. Let’s give it to them.
I’ve met lots of cool people in my life. I’ve met theatre people who challenged my creativity, delta girls from Mississippi who challenged my fashion sense, educators who challenged my intellect, deeply committed Christians who challenged my faith, unbelievers who challenged my beliefs and my own children who simply challenge me. I have known all these people personally, in real life.
My one year anniversary on Twitter will be March 17, 2010. In that last year, I have been privileged to meet a variety of people who have challenged me just as much but most of them I have never met in person. They are the community of people I have surrounded myself with on Twitter. I wish I could list all the great people I’ve met but I will limit it to three. For those who think Twitter is silly or nonsense, perhaps you should not read further. After all, what good could possibly come from a place where one writes anything they wish but only in 140 characters or less?
Quite a lot. Take for example one of the first people I came to know on Twitter. His name is Steve Ross and his handle is @vinbic. (Go to his blog for an explanation of his handle name.) Steve is a progressive blogger who is concerned about politics, politicians and policy. He is my go-to guy with any questions about Memphis-Shelby County issues.
Those of you who know me well probably wonder why I list Steve here. After all, I’m a pretty conservative girl who has never voted for a democrat in a national race. However, I admire Steve because he is genuine and real. He actually cares about the City of Memphis and the people who live here. And it’s a crying shame that he was not selected to be a part of the Shelby County Charter Commission because he would have been a fabulous voice there. Shame on the City Council for missing out on him.
The next guy is actually connected to Steve. Richard Thompson is better known as @mediaverse on Twitter. He writes a blog that he describes as an online trade publication that covers the Memphis media. Since I am a media junkie, I love to follow him. Now, Richard is no shrinking violet. He says what he thinks and sometimes he creates controversy. In fact, he and I got in into it during one of our first interactions. What it was about is now history, and thankfully, Steve Ross was instrumental in resolving it. Today, I enjoy reading his comments on local media because he makes me think and be more discerning about what I am reading. I just don’t directly question him anymore – sorry Richard, I’m just not looking for a fight!
It is funny how being engaged on Twitter brings people into your life. I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life as a stay at home mom and I have been happy to do it. However, as my youngest daughter entered elementary school, I began to want to get back into my former life as a marketing/pr/communications professional. I re-worked my resume and sent it out just as the economy crumbled. Nobody was interested in someone who’s not held a full time job in 8 years despite my achievements during my working career or as a volunteer. I began to follow anyone on Twitter with the same background.
Enter my friend, Amy Howell, or @HowellMarketing as she is known on Twitter. She and I instantly hit it off and after a while, we figured out that she actually knew my husband, professionally, of course. Today, I am privileged to work with Amy and her team and that would have never happened without Twitter.
Because Howell Marketing has embraced social media in a big way, I spend more time online than ever before. In January, I was invited to attend the fabulous SoFresh conference in Nashville. I was blown away by the speakers and came away with a new appreciation for the future of marketing and pr. The connections I have made with people across this country, and the world, constantly amaze me. I am grateful for that.
In the past year, I have learned more and met more people than I have in the last ten. I am excited about what is to come. Cheers!
Last week, my high school history teacher died. Mrs. Lore Hisky was 81 years old and by all accounts led a wonderful, well-rounded life. I often saw her and her husband mentioned in the local society magazine and they even got a mention in the local paper for their involvement in Memphis Scottish Society. Her death got me to thinking about the things she taught me and how much she impacted my life.
The first thing she taught me was an appreciation and love for European history. She made the architecture and artwork of old Europe seem alive to me. I couldn’t wait until I could see these things for myself.
Fortunately, early in our marriage, my husband worked for a European company and travelled there often. Mrs. Hisky’s descriptions of the great Chartres Cathedral built in the middle ages, with its two contrasting spires, green roof, flying buttresses and large stained glass windows made me insist that he go to see it on his first trip. It was the middle of winter and bitterly cold. He had to ride a bus for hours and while he never came out and said so, I’m sure he did not have a good time. Which was too bad for him.
In the time that passed, I did get to travel with him and see many of the great places Mrs. Hisky told us about. Notre Dame, Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Grande Arche de la Défense and more. Certainly, our favorite place to visit is Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny. Every time we were fortunate enough to be in Paris, we made sure we made the long ride out to Giverny. I am so grateful to her to have an appreciation for these great places of beauty.
Secondly, I owe Mrs. Hisky a debt of gratitude for my love of politics and government. As a high school senior, I was fortunate to participate in the Close Up program in Washington DC, a civic educational program that gives a “close up” view of government and democracy in action. Sitting in on senate meetings, hearing speeches from our Representatives and Senators really sucked me in and I have been a political junkie ever since. Although, they drive me insane and make me want to throw them all out of office. But that’s another blog.
The final thing I learned from Mrs. Hisky was an understanding that my learning did not end after high school and college. She instilled in me a passion for learning. While it is certainly easy for me to veg out in front of a soap opera or reality show, I still enjoy reading and stretching my mind. Additionally, she was always a lady and so elegant. We don’t see ladies like her much any more and that’s a shame. Mrs. Hisky made a difference in my life and in the lives of thousands others. Thank you.
“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.” ~ Japanese Proverb
When I signed up for Twitter, I really had no idea what I was getting into. I really thought it would be a shortened version of Facebook. I loved being on Facebook because it allowed me to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in decades. And I found that I could have meaningful relationships with these old friends despite the distance of time and space. Surely Twitter would be an extension of that.
Anyone who uses Twitter knows how wrong I was. Twitter is a whole different animal. It has a stream of consciousness feel to it. Once you find the people you want to follow, it’s easy to sit back and read. No interaction is really required particularly if your stream is filled with news feeds or celebrities.
But you are missing out if that’s where you stop. The interaction I have had with people I have never even met has been surprising. It’s a great community of people who welcome you openly just because you have chosen to follow them. I have been challenged intellectually, professionally, and politically. My involvement on Twitter has caused me to really think about what I feel, think and believe. Having to keep your thoughts to 140 characters forces you to be accurate and on point.
My Twitter experience has even pushed me to do something I have wanted to do but never got around to doing. This is my first entry in my blog. And because of Twitter, I’m sure it won’t be my last.