Memphis, TN. I am a born and raised product of this city. It is in this city that I learned to be me. I am passionate about this city in a way I don’t know that many people relate, or understand. There are so many things about this city that are great: Our resilience, our music, our southern hospitality… it is clear in everything from our southern drawl to the authentic-ness of our food. We grit and grind here. We are a city of overcomers, and of that I am proud.
Our city is currently on the cusp, we are at a defining point in our history. We, as a city, have to decide if we are going to continue to “grit and grind” or if we are going to take the necessary steps to lift our city out of poverty. We survive here against all odds, but it’s time we do more than survive. The poverty rate in Memphis sits at 29.8% and the childhood poverty rate is 46.9% . The majority of poverty is experienced by minorities. African-American/Black people represent just over 35% and Latinos are at 45%. In a city that where African American/Blacks hold the majority, this is a major issue.
We have to start looking at the true issues and what it will take to truly effect change. Our city will not ever reach its potential with so many barely making it. This affects not only crime, but our tax dollars and the growth of businesses into our city.
I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I do think we can do is offer resources that do what they claim to do. Memphis has a lot of “resource hubs” that aim to connect those in need with necessary resources. I think we might have more actual hubs than resources! Many of the “resources” offered for businesses and consumers are nothing more than pamphlets and classes that provide information but doesn’t really leave the user with any additional skills or support afterwards. Where do business owners turn who need help learning the financial aspects of their business? Budgeting, forecasting, etc? Where do they turn to learn about true marketing, customer service and customer experience processes and follow-up?
What about consumers that want to develop high dollar skills, not just the low return but high dollar skills taught at all of these career and for profit colleges that leave the students in even more debt with a skill set that does not allow them to command salaries above the poverty level?
But there are places available where people can get help.
South Memphis Alliance (SMA) opened its doors in 2000 to help organize neighborhood associations in the urban communities of South Memphis. Over time they’ve expanded their services to serve youth in foster care and families in need. Despite their growth, they’ve held fast to their core belief that civic engagement is the bedrock of strong communities, and that strong communities promote stable families.
Here are just a few of the things this organization offers…
SMA Clients are Dream Seekers because we believe everyone has a dream and needs hope for a future. Our mission is to improve the health, knowledge and stability of young people, families and communities through social services, advocacy and mentoring. Our work focuses largely on these core initiatives:
Dream Seekers – – providing hope for a future and assisting young people, families in need, and communities with their individual dreams.
SMA Laundromat and Resource Center (LRC) – – providing services where families already are is a very unique approach to social services.
SMA Dream Seekers Resource Center (DSRC) – – we are developing this facility so that Dream Seekers have a place to call their own.
SMA Center for Families and Children (CFFC) – – we will be developing this land into a facility, to be the hub of services in South Memphis, upon kicking off a capital campaign.
Community Action Panel – – composed of community leaders from over a dozen South Memphis civic groups who we support.
Other objectives include to provide culturally specific services to families in crisis. We offer support and services in the following areas:
- anger management
- domestic violence
- substance abuse
- HIV/AIDS testing/counseling
- physical and mental health
- goal setting
- personal/community engagement, including for youth – – an opportunity to serve on a leadership board, called Y4Y or Youth for Youth
- financial education (including individual development accounts, or matched savings)
- MRT © (Moral Reconation Therapy)
Thanks for taking a few moments to learn more about us, our work, and how you may want to get involved!
Shahida Jones is a born-and-raised Memphian. If you have questions about SMA and how it can help you, please contact her at 901.774.9582.