"Most of the time I was growing up in Botswana, I lived with my grandmother. She was kind, humble, very strict, but also very loving. She's the one who motivated me to go for my dreams and the one who led me to Christ. I remember going to church with her, which in our village is more like going to a family gathering. I've been in the States for seven months now pursuing a degree in theology. I plan to go back to Botswana when I'm done. I miss it sometimes."
"I picked up a guitar when I was 14, went online, and basically taught myself how to play. I really like storytelling, so once I learned to play, I started writing my own songs. 'Hey Society' is probably my favorite. I wrote it during a time when I wasn't dating anybody, I'd just cut off my hair, people were giving me a hard time about it, and I felt like an outcast. I think a lot of teenage girls can relate to that feeling. It's not good, but we do tend to spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think of us, worrying about guys, worrying about fitting in. The message of the song is to be independent and to be yourself."
Mara Daniele's music is available on iTunes and Spotify.
"I appreciate my whole family. We joke around and have fun together. I like being with them."
Austen: "The best thing about my dad is that we play together. He takes me to basketball practice and we watch TV together and I beat him at NBA 2K15 and Madden '13 on PlayStation. He teaches me to work on big trucks too. I already know how to change tires. And he always makes me laugh."
Reginald: "The best thing about Austen is that he's my son. He reminds me of me, like a little mini-me. It's funny to watch him do certain things I used to do. He's understanding, mannerly, obedient, and full of joy. I like to laugh a lot, and so does he."
"My mom has had a big influence on me. She taught me to show respect to older people, to take care of my grandparents when they were still living, to tell the truth, to work hard, and to get along with and love my three sisters. As a child, I remember her always saying that if I saw someone drop something on the ground, to pick it up and give it back to that person and not even think about keeping it for myself. She said, 'It hurts other people to lose things just as much as it hurts us.' She taught me to do good things in life."
"I'm a high school history teacher. When something 'clicks' with a student and that light goes on, you know you're making a difference. But it's not just the teachers who have an impact. Everybody is important. There's a building engineer at our local elementary school, and he's always telling the kids, 'Be the best at what you do.' Students need to hear that. And they also learn from each other. Everybody's talking about Malcolm Butler now, the guy who made the interception that saved the game for the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. He was one of my students a few years ago; I taught him. My students know he's from the same small town they live in, so they think, 'He did something with his life. Maybe I can do something with mine too.'"
From Vicksburg, MS, visiting Memphis.
"The most important thing I can do as a father is to be there for my daughter. I want to raise her to appreciate and have a relationship with God. My wife and I are working together to provide a better home for her than either of us had growing up."
"My art goes back to my Jamaican roots. I can make something out of just about anything people throw away: tables, doors, beams, household items. I pick through it all and find a way to use it."
Charles Thomas creates his Nappi Head Art at the Marshall Arts Gallery, 639 Marshall 38103.
"I'm working on this song for my mom, who passed away when I was 17. She had breast cancer, but I thought she was getting better because she came home from the hospital. Nobody wanted to tell me that she was in hospice care. I could have been spending time with her, but instead I just went off with my friends and did regular teenage stuff. I didn't understand that she was dying; nobody explained it to me. This song is about waking up in the morning and realizing that she's gone."
"If I could sit down with anybody, it would be Jesus Christ."
"What would you say to him?"
"I've done a lot of bad things in my life. I'd ask him, would he forgive me of my sins."