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Abidemi Kayode: Teach How To Be A Person

“I’m deeply concerned with knowledge. How you acquire knowledge, how you use knowledge, and how you disseminate knowledge.” While it might seem unsurprising that an educator would be interested in all these aspects of knowledge, it is clear that Abidemi Kayode, a school administrator, concern runs much deeper than many in his vocation. Unlike the bulk of them, Abidemi isn’t so much concerned with knowledge learned from books and used to pass tests – dates, equations, etc. – as he is with knowledge about oneself and how to navigate the world one finds oneself in. 

This concern springs from Abidemi’s view that “the true definition of education is once you learn what you learn, you’re able to solve your own problems.” Certainly the knowledge of dates, equations, and definitions can help solve problems, but they’re not the panacea that our educational system and society at large seem to treat them as. Giving students, or “scholars” as Abidemi calls them, just this type of knowledge is “like going to Home Depot and grabbing a hammer. But if I don’t know what to do with that hammer, it’s not gonna help me.” If we don’t teach students how to not just research, but research things relevant to the world that they live in, “you’re not truly educating scholars. You’re branding puppets, you’re branding robots, you’re branding workers.”

Currently, Abidemi feels that our educational system really trains people to be subservient individuals, rather than authentic selves. He thinks that this mentality expands beyond schools as well: he himself felt the need to apologize to his son years ago for teaching how to be his son, rather than teaching him how to be a person. Abidemi felt, like many parents do, that they needed to be their child’s first cop and control their actions so that by the time they were old enough to be interacting with real cops they wouldn’t get in trouble. Following that, Abidemi points out “when you send me to school, ok now I’m my teacher’s subordinate. When I go to Sunday school I’m the preacher’s subordinate. When you send me to work, I’ve got a boss there as well. We don’t teach them how to become the people who make a difference in the world.” 

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Abidemi also notes that our scholastic system, alongside not teaching kids how to use the tools it does offer, provides tools that are very one dimensional. In a counterintuitive way, it tends to give toolboxes to every child that are really best suited for those who need them the least, the ones who are already comfortably living in the world, rather than offering toolboxes for those in deeper need. Similarly, the scholastic systems assumes that all it’s scholars come to school ready to learn. It doesn’t acknowledge that some scholars are hungry all day, or worried about whether or not the electricity will be on when they return home, of almost never see their parent who works two jobs. He sees these economic issues occurring with kids of all races in his schools. 

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April Jones: Finding My Heritage

April Jones, artistically known as Sharie LaShell is an R&B recording artist. Her music combines R&B, Neo Soul, Rock, and Pop to create a smooth, light, but powerful sound. She loves to pay homage to the 90’s New Jack Swing period. She has a song that was released around the time of the pandemic that reflects that period. This song features 19-year-old Memphis rapper, Princess Yasmin and it is upbeat and jamming. She encourages the people to embrace as much positivity as they can, get up and dance, and let go of the stress, especially those things you can’t control! 

She brews her herbal tea, stocked with a blend that would benefit the throat of any vocalist or lyricist. She adds fenugreek, rose hips, lemon balm, and burdock root; all of which were gathered from Maggie’s Farm. She breaks up the tea by grinding it and then begins to strain it for her first cup. Filled with antioxidants and flavonoids, she sips as she speaks of how it gets her prepared to create music.

Her smile was constant and bright, her voice engaging and textured. Her singing voice breaking through with some of her inflections. Her house was filled with her original paintings and drawings. She delves into music and visual art seamlessly. Behind her small in-home studio, her paintings reflect the struggle she was going through as the paint flowed from her brushes. She is proud of her femininity, proud of her Black, proud of her music, and proud of her art. You can tell she is grateful, loving, concerned, and educated; not naive to the plight of others like she once was. Historically grounded, she uses her and music to represent what others are often not bold enough to say. She is musical. She is a joy. She is light. 

“My mom said ‘I’m tired of raising two white girls.’”

April Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Her family consisted of her mother, stepfather, twin sister, an older sister, and an older brother. Her mother engulfed her and her twin in music and creativity from the beginning of their lives. For a while, she attended Willow Oaks, an urban school, then she switched to a predominately white school. She had a crush on a Jewish boy named Zach in middle school and begin to attempt to be more like him. Her newfound identity caused her family to shun her. In the 7th grade, she attended an urban, less diverse school. It was closer to where they lived, it was easier work, and there were more people from their neighborhood. Her mother wanted the twins to be around other black children more often. She felt their demeanor had begun to reflect their surroundings too much. She felt like they were emulating privileges they would never have. Jones felt like her mother’s attitude added another obstacle to the journey towards self-identification. 

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The MFW History Ambassadors Program  – HAP is an interactive, educational experience designed to enhance the knowledge of middle and high school students in underserved neighborhoods around the rich history, heritage, and culture of Memphis and Midsouth.

Our Offerings

HAP offers a six-week internship experience for students to discover and engage important people, places, and events that have shaped Memphis’ 200-year history. HAP participants will learn about the hidden gems of their neighborhoods, discover local history from the historymakers themselves, and connect with their own story along the way. This experience also offers career pathway trainings for school-aged youth interested in film production, media literacy, and broadcast journalism. Students will receive a modest stipend for completing this internship experience.

Our Goal

The goal of HAP is to foster a sense of civic and community pride through the cross-pollination of community and neighborhood stories. Thereby, connecting youth with historical and character building knowledge that not only enhances their sense of self and appreciation for the contributions their forebears have made throughout the years, but also instilling a greater sense of pride and ownership in the positive outcome of their future story.

Our Process

Over the course of six weeks, HAP participants will interview local history makers, learn from longtime residents, and visit historical landmarks, museums and sites that are pertinent to their learning experience. Participants will then be given the opportunity to recount their experiences through the production of their very own short documentary film. At the close of each HAP internship experience, HAP graduates will make a final presentation and public screening of their creative works at a local arts theatre or school auditorium, before a live audience. Following their presentation, all HAP participants will receive feedback and recognition from their peers, parents, teachers, and community leaders from around the city.

 

The MFW History Ambassadors Program  - HAP

Verge Memphis

In the fall of 2016, we chronicled the musical stories of emerging artists, musicians and producers on a quest to reach new heights with the music careers in one of the most well known music cities in the world, Memphis, Tennessee. Some of the artists featured in the 62 minute film included local favorites Nick Black, Faith Evans Ruch, Marco Pavé, Brennan Villines, Kyndle McMahan, Black Rock Revival, and Keia Johnson.

We also featured local DJ’s, studio engineers, music producers and legends like Larry Dodson, Jody Stephens, Tonya Dodson, Kevin Houston, Kirk Whalum, DJ Bay and Kurt KC Clayton, to name a few. And along the way, we met other artists, producers, festival organizers, and music enthusiasts who created beautiful backdrops of this amazing story about our city’s love and appreciation for the Memphis sound and indie grind.

Be on the lookout for Verge Memphis Reloaded in 2022!

Verge Memphis In the fall of 2016, we

Memphis Driven is a Television Talk Series exploring the limitless possibilities of Memphis and the mid-south all over the world. Our first stop was Los Angeles, California back in late 2018 where we met 30 Memphians pursuing their careers in art and entertainment. They each shared their amazing journey to Hollywood, the sacrifices they made to get there and the grit and grind lessons they learned to make it to the top.

Memphis Driven is a Television Talk Series

North Memphis E: Walking in My Truth

Erick Williams also known as North Memphis E is someone who has turned his hardships into motivation toward discovering who he truly is and what and who is a part of his ancestry. The journey to his self-discovery starts in the archives of Memphis. He went digging into the history of Memphis and stumbled upon the Chickasaw Historical Park. The first time that Williams saw the park he had more questions than he did answers.

North Memphis E took us on a tour through Chickasaw park where he would discover the history of the Mississippian Nation. This was a Native American nation that occupied areas in Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and possibly Ohio according to Williams. In this park, you will find two mounds. Williams described them as “Earth Work.” Back in the day, the people who occupied the space that is now Chickasaw park used inspiration gathered from Ant mound-building and built mounds for the important leaders of the village. According to North Memphis E, the mounds were built by the village people on their own out of love and appreciation for the leaders of their village.

In the park, you can find a statue that gives a brief history of the mounds in context with the Civil War. The statute states, “The chisca mound next to the river was utilized during the civil war as an artillery redoubt and magazine inside federal fort Pickering covering the site of the original fort Pickering. The top of the mound was excavated for the stronghold in 1863.” Essentially, those fighting in the war cut off the top of the mounds and used them as cover during battle. However, once the battle was over, they began digging into the mounds and discovered there was more to the mound than a hiding spot.

The Priest’s mound is the highest mound in the park. It’s the mound that looks over the river and over the remainder of the surrounding area. It’s a very steep mound and there were strict rules about who was allowed inside. If you were not someone working on the mound or a member of the religious council, then you were not allowed inside the sacred area. 

“It’s the suffering that helps you find yourself and helps you walk in your truth. It’s like working out. When you break your muscles down, you are only breaking them down to build them back up,” said Williams.

With that in mind, North Memphis E is now on the road to a promising future. A future that rebuilds the legacy of his grandfather and leaves a legacy for his son.

“Son, Daddy wants you to know, you never have to be of the world. It’s always okay to be different. Don’t ever let someone tell you it’s okay to be a part of the in-crowd. Walk in your truth. Always own yourself,” said Williams.

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Dr. Patrice Holley: Education is Your Best Debt and Community is Your Best Support

Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Dr. Patrice Holley’s roots stem back to generations of fighters and go-getters. The story starts with her grandparents, gets passed down to her parents, and is instilled in her. 

Her grandparents were both college-educated. They actually met on a college campus, but how they got to that college campus is interesting and moving. Dr. Holley’s grandmother grew up on a farm. She also grew up in a county where she couldn’t continue her education past the 8th grade. Her grandmother knew that she wanted more than to live on a farm for the rest of her life, so she decided to pack her things and moved, by foot, to a place where she could finish her education and go on to college. Dr. Holley’s grandfather, also known as her paw paw, was a graduate of Booker T High school when he decided to take a gap year before transitioning into college. He took that year to take care of his family in St.Louis before his friend, Dr. Holley’s godfather, convinced Dr.Holley’s grandfather to start his collegiate journey at the Mississippi Institute. This is where he met Dr. Holley’s grandmother.

The story of how Dr.Holley’s grandparents met is one that moves her emotionally and motivates her to know that she has the power to overcome any circumstances she is in. She believes this same go-getter mindset is what is lacking in the community today and that’s why people aren’t where they would truly like to be in life.

“I think just knowing people’s stories and seeing where they have come from and where they are and letting that inspire you to know that they did it and so can you is powerful. That may sound cliche but it’s not. It’s true,” said Dr. Patrice Holley. 

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Dimitri Stevens: Life Through Art and Ice Cream 

Dimitri Stevens is a local artist, who is originally from Oakland, TN. He gets his inspiration from the things that surround him. 

“To create art in a sense it’s trying to make sense of chaos. That’s why I get inspired by everything I see,” said Stevens.

As one might imagine, it’s not hard for Stevens to think outside of the box and he prides himself on his ability to do so. He shows this pride through his creation called “Recluse Gallery.” The name was inspired by the brown recluse spider. Stevens gets inspired by this spider because in a way it mirrors Stevens himself. The Brown Recluse Spider is unique. It has 8 legs but only 6 eyes and it stays hidden. Stevens identifies with the ways of this spider. The way that the spider stays tucked away “off the web” just like Stevens who doesn’t have the biggest social media presence. Stevens says that he himself is a loner and can do his best work and his best learning that way. 

Stevens is an artist that likes to take risks and chances. He enjoys thinking outside of the box and one of the exercises he does to inspire himself to think outside the box is to create multiple paintings before creating a bigger form of art. Stevens was able to do this at the Brooks Museum, where he’s worked since 2012. He originally started out painting about a hundred wine glasses with sugary treats before he got the idea to paint ice cream cones. His simple idea ended up leading him toward artists who also painted ice cream cones. Stevens began to see the ice cream cone in a different way and he started to think a little deeper about the summertime delight.

To Stevens, the ice cream cone is an image that portrays many items and ideas: feminine and masculine energy, pop art, religion, feelings, being balanced, and freedom. The ideas of freedom and feminine and masculine energy are two ideas that resonate with Stevens as an artist to him the ice cream cone is a shape with everything in between and he gets to fill up space however and with whatever he wants. To Stevens, the actual physical object of ice cream also represents a tug and pull of masculine and feminine energy as the ice cream goes from something hard, frozen, and cold, and it transitions to something soft, flowing, and warm as it melts. He likes to call it “masculine and feminine energy arguing with each other.”

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Demarcus & White: Priceless

Demarcus and Jay White also known as the “Priceless Twins” is a dance group that plans to take their brand to the next level. They have been using their past to fuel their fire into the future.

Demarcus and Jay White have been working toward building a name for themselves for 8 years now. As we interviewed them, they walked us through what their journey has been like. It hasn’t been ideal. Growing up with a mom who suffered from mental illness and an unwelcoming family dynamic, the Priceless Twins have been exposed to toxicity that has held them back from their true goals in life. They were incarcerated, doing free shows and getting exploited, and fighting over women. They were becoming a product of their environment. Once the Price Twins realized how special their dreams are, they’ve taken time to reflect on their damaging past and learn patience for others and acceptance of others. They also learned how to let go of people who no longer served them and they did exactly that. These lessons have allowed them to carry resilience by giving them a “keep pushing forward” mindset. Since deciding to take their brand seriously they have leaned on each other and their management team for support and guidance as they navigate a new chapter in their career. 

Since deciding to get serious about their brand, The Priceless Twins have decided that despite their negative past they want to spread positivity and love to their supporters. Their ambition and charismatic personalities have gained them thousands of supporters in and outside of the United States. Something that the Priceless Twins stand firm on is their intentional interactions with their supporters. They’ve said that they’ve received over 40,000 comments before and made time to respond to all of them with positivity and validation. They’ve answered their flooded direct messages with acceptance and light. The twins are so dedicated to their supporters that they’ve taken the intentional interactions to another level in 2021 with the Priceless Twins Tour Bus. Their tour started taking place in February. It consists of a 4-hour session with the Priceless Twins and 20 supporters who are of drinking age. They all load up on the party bus, have a good time and stop at different places for additional surprises for their supporters.

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Deja Price: Doing My Part

Deja Price is now a social media activist, and her walk of life is what drove her into becoming an activist. Price was born in Memphis and raised in Olive Branch. She traveled around a lot when her parents divorced and with travel came different experiences with people including racism. When she was in Olive Branch, she experienced a majority of her encounters with racism. There were teachers in her school that would ask microaggressive questions like “why are Black girls always the loudest in the group?” or “why do Black men have a certain kind of chest hair and white men don’t?” These were all inappropriate questions that had nothing to do with actual textbook content, and even some of the textbook content Price was reading were stories glorifying racism. 

In the year of 2012, Treyvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. Word of his murder swept the nation similarly to the word of many other staple names in the Black Lives Matter Movement. It hit Price hard as well. After hearing the word of Treyvon Martin’s death, came news that George Zimmerman would not be charged with murder. He would not be charged with anything. He was scott free. And Price had enough. The injustices that were gone to Treyvon Martin launched her into a world of fear. She cried to her mom that she was afraid to have kids and raise them in a world like the one we are living in now. She wanted to do something about it. Her first interaction with fighting in the social justice movement was born from that conversation. Later on, Deja Price, her mother, and Price’s brother went to Prices’ very first protest at 16 years old. Ever since that time, she has been an active member of the social justice movement.

Price got her college education from the University of Memphis. Although she didn’t experience much racism on the campus, she was involved with a sorority where her sisters didn’t quite respect Price and her culture. She stood up against those sisters who were ignorant and by default, she was labeled as the “angry Black woman,” which is a name she actually grew fond of.

To Price she is Black before she is a woman; however, her gender identity does allow people to easily dismiss her as an angry Black woman without a cause. She has embraced that label throughout her journey because she understands that anger doesn’t always come from a place of destruction. Sometimes it comes from a place of self-worth, and Price knows that Black people have had enough and are worth more.

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