“His name is Craigory, and he’s somewhere between 8 and 12 years old. When we met him, the shelter told us, ‘Oh, he doesn’t run, he doesn’t do much, he just sits down.’ That broke my heart. I knew if we could just get him home, we could fix that. Yes, he’s blind, but he’s a dog. He needs to play. The place we adopted him from had 97 other dogs, so what do you do with that many animals? You can’t do much. You can’t spoil them all. They would take him outside to go to the bathroom and then bring him back inside to his crate, so I know he spent a lot of time cooped up. My thing was, when we get him home, I want him to know: ‘Mama’s got me. If I want to run and play and be a dog, I can.’ I don’t want him to be scared because he can’t see. I’m his eyes. I got him. I wanted him to know that he could do whatever he wants to do, that I’m right here. And guess what - it’s working! We’ve only had him 3 weeks, but two nights ago we had a breakthrough. He dropped down, rubbed his face on the carpet, and rolled over. We were so excited we ran and grabbed the camera so we could get a video. He’s playing now! He even trots at the park. He’s our second elder dog. Our first one, Tink, passed away in January. We had her five years. Elders are just good pets. They’re so appreciative. We want Craigory to have a happy life with as many great years as we can give him.”
"Having arthritis has been challenging, but I don’t complain. I do about anything I want to do when the weather’s good: I shop on my own, go to church on my own, and spend time with friends. When the weather’s bad, my grandchildren take over and help me out. I was in my 50s when the arthritis started. It was painful, but I took it in stride. There’s no cure for it anyway. I keep a good attitude by being around people and loving them. They inspire me in my illness not to give up. I’ve seen other people go through tough times. They didn’t give up, and I’m not giving up either. God has been very good to me. I pray a lot, and I’m good, come what may."
"When I’m finished with high school, I'd like to be a business owner. I want to travel, taste the foods in different countries, bring them back to the USA, and run my own restaurant where I’ll serve food from all around the world. The best part of the job will be tasting all the different foods; the hardest part will be satisfying the critics. I hope they’ll say the food is good and that they’ll give me pointers on how to improve. My favorite food now is pizza. I think I can improve it by giving it a twist and adding ingredients from around the world. Part of what I want to do with what I make from my business is donate to women’s shelters, homeless shelters, and to St. Jude."
"My brother taught me how to paint 30 years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since. It took some time to master, but I love it. I love to make ugly spaces beautiful. I can take a foreclosure in bad shape and with holes in the walls, and I can turn it into a million dollar home. I’ve painted schools, churches, townhouses, apartments, and businesses---some of everything. A couple of years ago, I painted Al Green’s house. I’d say to someone starting out in any job: Don’t follow someone else’s dream. Follow your own. Find what you love, figure out the best way to do it, and get good at it. Take pride in what you do, and let your work speak for itself."
Carl Robinson, Professional Painter
Robinson Paint Company
"The name of the church is St. Joseph's, after the Joseph who was married to Mary. He wasn't the biological father, but he assumed the responsibility of raising baby Jesus. That's what we're trying to do here. A lot of these kids have been with us since they were five years old and they're in high school now; they've grown up coming here. This is their place to be. They know there are adults here who care about them. When we first started in the Vance-Lauderdale area, there were maybe 1500 households and fewer than 50 were headed by married couples, so for a lot of the children, there was no biological father in the house. It was also a time when crack cocaine had come to Memphis in a big way. It was said that you could smoke it once and be hooked. That's what happened to a lot of people. I don't know if there's been a cure found yet for that kind of addiction, but I've seen people over the years get down on their knees, commit their lives to Christ, and give it up for good. God delivered them. It happens. We know there are a lot of negative influences around, but we want the children in our community to have somewhere positive to go and something positive to do. That's our biggest mission at St. Joseph's and at the Emmanuel Center: to tend to these children. My job description for the past 27 years, the only one I've ever had, is this prayer: 'Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. So clothe us in your spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name. Amen.'"
Fr. Colenzo Hubbard with Fr. Sandy Webb (Church of the Holy Communion) on a recent work day at the Emmanuel Center. Teams from both churches (assisted by many children and adults in the community) cleaned, painted, gardened, built planters and benches, and constructed a Little Free Library to benefit the children of the Emmanuel Center.
Fr. Colenzo Hubbard, Executive Director of the Emmanuel Center and Vicar at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, 604 St. Paul Avenue
Bio: The Rev. Colenzo Hubbard and History of Emmanuel Center
Fun fact from the bio page: Father Hubbard is a graduate of the University of Alabama, where he received a degree in Social Work and was a member of the 1973 National Championship (and three SEC championships) Crimson Tide football team under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Website: Emmanuel Center
"LIKE" on FB: Colenzo
"Our family came from Mexico to the United States when I was a senior in high school. My dad had always worked for an American company, but when he got a job transfer, my parents decided it was time to make a move. I was upset about leaving my extended family, my home, and my language, and I was angry that I wouldn’t be able to graduate from high school with my friends. Although I had studied the basics of English, I didn’t know what anyone here was saying because I couldn’t understand the Southern accent. I took offense at everything, even just basic questions, so I’m sure my bad attitude is the reason it took me so long to adjust. As time went on though, I realized I had to accept it. This was my life now. I had to learn English. I needed to understand that I wasn't a kid anymore. One day I would have to find a job and support myself. My parents always told me that the best thing a parent can give a child is an education. Not money, not a house. The best thing is an education, and I’ve been able to get that here. And of course, once I settled in, it was easier to make friends and to feel content.
"The work I’m doing now for my Master’s degree in Art is centered on the issue of corruption in my home country. I grew up with it and was used to it, but now that I live here, I realize that it’s something that needs to be addressed. A lot of people tell me I shouldn’t talk about it, that I’m giving Mexico a bad image, that I should only talk about the beautiful things in my country, but I don’t agree. I think it’s a betrayal NOT to talk about it. The installation piece I’m working on now is a series of ceramic heads that represent reporters who have been killed for speaking about the situation in Mexico. Threads the colors of the Mexican flag lace their mouths closed and silence them. Bullets hang beneath each of the heads, and on the bullets are images of murdered reporters. Murder, corruption, and kidnappings are everyday concerns there; you can get killed for exposing them. Although I have dual citizenship, my extended family lives in Mexico, so I still have many ties there, and I care about what happens in that country. When there is violence, it’s not just another attack to dismiss. It affects real people and changes their lives. I am on this side of the border now, I’m in a safe zone, and I have to speak out about it."
"Loss of Identidad" (BFA piece)
(While in the USA, thoughts of Mexico; while in Mexico, thoughts of the USA)
Mexican Corazon, Ämerican Casa¨ (Mexican Heart, American Home)
¨Corazon Agringado¨(Foreign Heart)
Detail of new installation piece (still in progress) depicting corruption, violence, and the silencing of voices in Mexico.
Below each ceramic face hangs the photo of a reporter killed for speaking out against corruption, the drug trade, and other injustices in the country.
"Los 43", screenprint on communion wafers
(in recognition of the 43 students who disappeared in southern Mexico in 2014)
Vanessa Gonzalez, MFA student at Memphis College of Art / KK-6 Art Teacher with Omni Prep Academy
"I want to help the world be a better place. I really want to help endangered animals find a good place to live. And I want to tell people not to cut down trees because it hurts the environment and it hurts the animals, and that's how animals become endangered. I learned all about it in school and on the Internet. My favorite endangered animal is a tiger. I like how they sleep all the time and have stripes and bold colors and they're sweet and cute. If somebody gave me a baby tiger, I would keep it until it got older, and then I'd let it go in the wild."
"Ever since I was in sixth grade, I've wanted to work with kids who didn't have families of their own. Of course, I found out more about the field of social work as I got older, but I kept coming back to the children. I've been working with families and with kids in foster care ever since I finished my graduate degree eight years ago. It's every bit as rewarding as I thought it would be, especially when we're able to reunite families or, if that's not possible, to place a child in an adoptive home.
"I'm a military brat, so at some point, I might look at transitioning into working with the civilian military population and helping them before, during, and after one of the spouses is deployed. A lot of times, these young wives haven't had any experience with a husband being deployed. It's all new to them, they suddenly feel like single mothers, and they aren't familiar with the resources available to them. Too, there are issues to be dealt with when the spouse returns. There are so many adjustments for the entire family."
La'Keisha Gomes, LMSW, Youth Villages Regional Manager
Youth Villages, 5515 Shelby Oaks Drive
FB: Youth Villages
"Growing up with a twin brother meant that I always had a friend. We started school together, learned pretty much everything together, celebrated birthdays and milestones together, and graduated together. There was always someone to experience those times with, and we grew up learning how to share from the very beginning. We never felt like, 'Oh, he's older and gets to do more than I do' or 'She gets all the attention because she's the baby.' When you're the same age, that just doesn't happen. People expect us to be similar, but we have different interests and we look very different. He's a boy, of course, but he's also a foot taller than me and has curly red hair, so we could never pull off any swapping-places pranks. If I have kids someday, I'd like to have twins. It's fun. Well, maybe not so much for the parents---it's hard for them---but it's a lot of fun for the kids."
“There was no need for a saying like ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ where I am from in Puerto Rico, because growing up surrounded by family was just a fact. Everyone lived nearby and there was always visiting back and forth. My cousins and I played together at each other's houses, and for a while when I was very small, I lived with my grandmother. She was sweet and very nurturing, and I remember on Sunday mornings how she would take a comb and some water and make long curls in my hair to get me ready for church. Such an intimate thing. Now that I have a granddaughter of my own, she is being raised in much the same way, surrounded by family: by her parents and two sets of grandparents who love her. She is truly a village child. Since she was five months old, she has spent every Friday with us, and at night I read to her, sing, and speak to her in Spanish. Those are things that only the two of us share. That little child is my light.
“My sense of family is important not only with my granddaughter but in my teaching. My students are my kids. They are my babies even beyond graduation, and they know it. Sometimes I disagree with them. Sometimes I get mad at them, and they at me, but I always let them know, ‘You are my babies and I will go with you to the end.’ My students are part of my extended family, and where family is, there is home. Memphis is home to me now."
Maritza Dávila-Irizarry, Professor of Fine Arts at Memphis College of Art
Website: Atabiera Press
MCA Faculty Bio: Maritza Davila