Lessons about hate are sadly inevitable

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

May 28, 2009

Earlier this week a press conference was held to speak out against proposed legislation to protect county employees against discrimination based on their sexual proclivities. Black ministers came together with white commissioners, which is something that happens in this town, well, almost never.

So that’s good, right? I can point that out to my children and say “See? There is racial harmony in Memphis, despite what you hear on the news and read in the papers every single day.”

And then when they ask why these two radically different groups came together, I’ll say, “Well, because they both hate gay people.” Not that these leaders are concerned about the rampant violent crimes in our city or about the education of the youth of our city, but that the spirit of union was displayed to speak out against a segment of our society that they deem to be different … (read more)


Visible School graduate came for, finds home, life purpose

Profile feature for The Commercial Appeal

May 28, 2009

The Visible School is in a low-slung building just off Interstate 40 and Canada Road in Lakeland, nestled between a carpet store and a Super 8 motel. Its students work to earn bachelor’s degrees in ministry, specializing in modern music or media production.

This is where Danielle Wilson earned a degree in practical ministry May 16. She says it’s also where she found a home.

Wilson was born 32 years ago this month, in Westboro, Ohio, a town so small that “there’s no post office. It has two stop signs and a cemetery,” she says.

Here’s the story she tells about the years that led up to her move to Memphis: Her parents divorced when she was 10, and went their separate ways; her father went to work five days a week, and her mother simply went away … (read more)


Sow we go: Organic

Corporate Giving story for The Commercial Appeal

May 22, 2009

Digger O’Dell Nursery and Landscape is working with the “Drake & Zeke in the Morning” radio show and 98.1 The Max to deposit fresh, local and organically grown produce into the Mid-South Food Bank.

The Field of Greens, as it is called, is an organic garden on a half-acre of land at the corner of Farm Road and Mullins Station in Shelby Farms.

“Shelby Farms donated the land to make a demonstration classroom teaching the importance of composting and organic gardening,” said Michael McPeak, who with partner William Kitchens bought the Digger O’Dell Nursery three years ago. “The area hasn’t been touched in 15 or 20 years, so the land will only get better and better.”

The garden is laid out like a baseball diamond with mulched walkways and smaller plots of tomato, corn, squash, melons, peppers and okra. There will be scheduled work days throughout the growing season, with volunteers and speakers on hand to teach the public about organic gardening … (read more)


Hilton ROCS — Reaching Out to the Community to Serve

Corporate Giving story for The Commercial Appeal

May 15, 2009

The Memphis Operations Center for Hilton Hotels Corp., which is the corporate office for the brands Hampton, Homewood Suites, Home 2 and Hilton Garden Inn, has partnered with five area nonprofits.

“Hilton was helping over 30 organizations, and we decided we didn’t have any focus so we didn’t have any real impact on the community. Two years ago we went through the process to focus on breaking the cycle of poverty and help with getting people back on their feet,” said Hilton spokeswoman Marilyn Hughes.

Hughes developed Hilton ROCS, Reaching Out to the Community to Serve, and assembled a selection committee from many different departments within Hilton … (read more)


Terrible 2s give way to scarier, wicked 3s

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

May 14, 2009

I’ve known anxieties, real and imagined, mature and juvenile, and I’ve overcome a lot of those fears. But there is something in our lives now, in our very house, that terrifies me in a way I could never have imagined. My family moves with fright, tip-toeing down hallways and peeking around corners.

We live in terror of Genevieve, a strong-willed little girl who will be turning 3 years old in two weeks.

The Terrible Twos have nothing on the threes. And alliteration does not make the difficult times any easier. Terrible Twos are bad, but the God-awful Threes are worse. So much worse, in fact, that no parent has the time to name this stage. A naming better left to Dante anyway … (read more)


Salvation Army’s Kroc Center only $2.9 million from starting developmen

Business news story for The Commercial Appeal

May 8, 2009

The Salvation Army’s plan to build the Kroc Center on a 15-acre site at the Mid-South Fairgrounds moved closer to reality this week with the announcement of a $1 million grant from the Kresge Foundation.

The community center, on land along East Parkway south of Fairview Middle School, will be funded by a Kroc Foundation grant of $60 million. The Salvation Army is required to raise $25 million to get the Kroc grant.

Stephen Carpenter, Kroc Center director, said $21.1 million already had been promised, and the money from the Michigan-based Kresge Foundation means there’s less than $3 million to go … (read more)


Out of the Shadows

Feature story for the May-August 2009 ArtsMemphis Magazine

I was asked to write the story of “Crowds in the Shadows,” a photographic exhibit recalling the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile from 1973 to 1990. The exhibit is for the Museo de la Memoria in Santiago, Chile, but is due to be on display at the National Civil Rights Museum in May of 2009.

My piece tells the story of Marcia Scantlebury Elizalde, the director of the Museo de la Memoria, and a political prisoner under Pinochet. I interviewed Ms. Scantlebury with the aid of translator Juan Fuentes, who was instrumental, not just with the writing of this story, but understanding the climate of Chile at the time of the coup.

There is not a modern country whose civilized exterior doesn’t shroud a grotesque history of uncivilized behavior between oppressor and oppressed. But if a country’s people are its heart, and culture its soul, then its government and institutions should reflect its conscience. Chile’s Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights) will do just that …


Harrah’s Entertainment a growing need

Horticulture therapy, other Botanic Garden programs reaping fruit of generosity

Corporate Giving story for The Commercial Appeal

May 1, 2009

For the fifth consecutive year, Harrah’s Entertainment has partnered with Memphis Botanic Garden to give its outreach programs what they need to grow and flower. Harrah’s recently donated $25,000 for the 2009 Live at the Garden concerts, a series of five live music shows held in the Eden of East Memphis.

This year’s lineup begins with alt-rockers Train on June 5, followed on June 18 with a performance by ’70s rockers the Doobie Brothers. Joe Cocker will take the stage on July 18; Heart will appear on Aug. 15; and the program will close with a performance by ’60s pop favorites The Moody Blues on Sept. 4.

“The concert revenue goes to offset the overall operating expenses at the garden,” Jim Duncan, executive director of Memphis Botanic Garden, said. Last year, more than 33,000 attended concerts in the five-show series … (read more)


No more sofa sitting when fresh air awaits

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

April 30, 2009

When my sisters and I were growing up, there were two things you never said to our mother. You never asked her what was for dinner after she got home from work, and you never, ever told her you were bored.

You didn’t ask her about dinner because, whatever it was, it would come with a heaping portion of lecture. You didn’t tell her you were bored because she’d find you something to do, and it almost always involved cleaning or mowing something.

Joshua, my 7-year-old, is the most bored of my four children, but he and I deal with his boredom by a means of shorthand, a kind of secret language twins, 31 years separated, might use … (read more)


Passion to serve: Servicemaster, employees earn praise from MIFA program it helps sponsor

Corporate Giving story for The Commercial Appeal

April 17, 2009

ServiceMaster sponsors the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association’s annual “Day of Reflection and Service,” and this year the business found itself among the honorees at the event.

The day is a celebration of MIFA’s staff and volunteers and honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton gave out awards for special service to MIFA over the past year, including the first MIFA Pathfinder Award, which went to ServiceMaster for “the company’s 15 years of faithful service and generous contributions, as well as eight years of sponsoring Day of Reflection and Service.”

The Memphis-based ServiceMaster Co. offers cleaning, lawn care and other services to homeowners and businesses, and employs more than 30,000 people nationwide … (read more)