When I was asked to write this post, I was really excited. I added it to my to-do list, and then rumination and self-doubt began their work on me.
Do I have a big idea? I’m not much of the big idea kind. Have I ever had a big idea in my life?
Okay, okay, call to action, I can do that, I’m an action kind of gal!
Wait a minute, who am I to call others to action? What could I possibly have done to earn the right to call on others to take action? There are so many amazing and smart people in Memphis, why should anyone listen to me?
But, I had committed it to my list, so it had to be done.
I took an hour to write one of the most flowery, free flow, ode to nothing and hit send! Then the wish for an UNsend button washed over me. Thankfully the response to that unfortunate piece of writing was handled with relative sensitivity. I asked for more time, you know, to ruminate and wrestle with more self-doubt!
I am sharing because I think many of us feel this way. And feeling like your voice doesn’t matter or isn’t valuable couldn’t be further from the truth. From the legendary voices of Martin Luther King and Ida B. Wells in the ongoing fight for civil rights and human decency, to the voices of a group of women that stopped an interstate and saved one of the most gorgeous parks in America, our voices change things.
Not every time. It will not always be successful. It will not always be comfortable. We all know that change isn’t easy and it isn’t always fast. The truth is that using our voices and expressing what we believe in and think is important is what creates change. As a lifelong Memphian that has moved a bit and always come back, I see change happening at an ever increasing rate. From education to our neighborhoods, great things are brewing, and it is time for all of us to speak up and be a part of what many are calling a pivotal time, a renaissance, for our city.
I’ve been thinking about the people whose voices have shaped our world. What if they had listened to the voice of self-doubt that told them they hadn’t earned the right to share their insights? How much less rich and colorful would our world be without their ideas?
So I came up with three simple steps to share your voice:
Step #1 – Just Do It!
Each of us is made up of a lifetime of unique experiences and thoughts and that is what makes sharing your personal story so valuable. The thing about sharing ideas is that they are like snowballs tossing down a mountainside. Once shared, they inspire more ideas, and then even more, picking up momentum and speed. A few people started speaking several years ago against the Zoo parking on the Greensward, then a guy climbs up a tree to take a photo of cars parked on the grass, another makes a t-shirt and some yard signs, and now, every weekend, throngs of people gather to enjoy our city park in record numbers, meet to share ideas for a solution, call their city officials, write opinion pieces, put signs in their yards, all forms of engaging with their community.
Step #2 – Discover Your Community!
If you are a long time Memphian, you may think you know all about Memphis. If you are new, hopefully you are enjoying getting to know your new city. The fact is I thought I knew my city too, until I met a whole slew of new people. And I learned that there are restaurants, social activities, small businesses, and some downright stellar people who are driven to make Memphis a better place in every neighborhood. It truly opens up a new experience of Memphis once you realize you haven’t experienced all it has to offer.
There are so many new things to explore, so many new people to meet. Get out and get to know your city. How? Meet people and talk to them about their favorite things and ask them to take you with them the next time they go. There are many, many communities that make up our city, and the more you get to know and visit the businesses and people, the more we are all connected. Connected people are happier, they feel more engaged, and they get involved in their community, creating change.
Step #3 – Connect and Engage!
Meeting new people is hard. Small talk is uncomfortable for everyone! Pick one thing that makes your heart flutter and find things to do that relate to it. We have thousands of ways to connect and engage with each other; non-profit organizations, churches, sports leagues, bars, festivals, and more. So walk up to someone, admit you are super nervous, but want to meet new people. Make a connection, and another, and another. Conversations and movements are happening all over this city. Find one and let your voice be heard!
The Sears Crosstown building’s journey to revitalization stands as a perfect metaphor. The inspiration of three Memphians, who started with an idea, sparked a conversation, created community meetings, and are pulling off one of the largest real estate redevelopments of our time. This story demonstrates that when community members engage and participate in the vision for a better future, change happens. A formerly abandoned building from a bygone era will now stand in our skyline as a reminder and model of community driven revitalization. I hope it will inspire you as it has me to share your voice, discover your community, and connect and engage.
Kym Alexander is a professional by day, wife to Justin, and Mommy to an amazing toddler, Lila, on nights and weekends. Always seeking to connect with others who inspire her and to our city in productive ways, she’s excited about what she sees as a Memphis Renaissance beginning to take place. Wanderlust led her to other places, but the call of home always brought her back to Memphis. Kym works at The Juice Plus+ Company as the Manager of Tower Garden Projects.