"There were some difficult times when I was growing up, but being with my grandmother made me feel loved, cared for, and important. She was a safe place for me. My two sisters and I took turns spending weekends with her, and I always looked forward to that one-on-one time. She took us to art exhibitions, out to eat, to the Botanical Gardens, and to the Nineteenth Century Club, all things my parents wouldn't have done with us. On Saturday mornings at her house, we'd sit in front of the TV with our trays of toast and eggs, cream of wheat, bacon, and grapefruit---I still can't believe we ate all that, but we did---and watch Tarzan movies and painting shows on TV. When I was with her, I knew I would be okay."
"I knew I'd love my children, but I didn't know just how much I'd love being a parent. She's six weeks old, so she doesn't do a whole lot yet, but he does. He just turned two. He's a really good big brother, very empathetic. I love watching him learn. It seems like he's learning something every minute. He's beginning to really talk now and make sentences and tell us what he wants. My favorite part of the day is being outside with him. He 'helps' me garden. He just got his own shovel."
"Your whole perspective changes when you have kids. You have to keep a schedule, you can't take a nap when the children nap because that's your only chance to get chores done, and you don't have free time anymore. Everything is harder, but the good part is, the kids bring so much joy into your life."
"My parents taught me, 'Never let people see you sweat' and 'Don't look down on people, but at the same time, don't let people look down on you.' Both pieces of advice have come in handy all my life, ever since I first knew what they meant."
"I usually play catcher, but I can play first and third base too. When I grow up, I want to be a professional baseball player; it's my favorite sport. The hardest part will be getting as good as Derek Jeter, but that's my goal. I want to be BETTER than Derek Jeter! Also, I'll get to know the other players on my team. And I'll make a lot of money so I can pay my bills. The best thing about baseball is that it's fun!"
"We gather twice a year, and Cambodians from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee all come to Memphis because it's the only temple in our area. In November, we honor the memories of those who have passed away, and it's a serious time. But in April, we come not only to honor our ancestors but to celebrate the Cambodian New Year. We pray blessings on the year ahead, and we pray for long life, peace, and prosperity. It's a time for our people to see each other, talk to friends, and keep our culture alive. It's important to pass that on to our children and keep it for as long as we can. I don't know how long that will be though. Our children speak English well now, and they're losing our native language. I wish they would keep both."
Cambodian Temple Memphis / 5111 Bryndale Avenue
FB: Cambodian Temple Memphis, TN
“My father was a doctor in Venezuela where I grew up, and I was the one always following along behind him. Watching how he dealt with situations made me realize that when I see something wrong, I cannot turn away. I have to take action. I was very shy as a teenager, but with determination and persistence, I overcame that. I had to. I became an attorney and was the voice for my clients, so I had to be able to stand up for them.
“One of the things I saw when I moved to Memphis was the need for bilingual, bicultural services for immigrants who are victims of crime, especially crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault. Many Latino women (most of the victims of domestic abuse are women) come from countries where corruption is rampant and the society is male-dominated. They have seen firsthand what happens when they go to the authorities. In one case I worked with, for example, the woman had been severely beaten and almost lost an eye. She went to the police in her home country and was told, ‘Be glad I’m not your husband. I wouldn’t have left you looking like that; I would have just killed you.’ So these women have experiences that make them distrustful of the police, and then they move to this country and don’t know that it’s any different. They’re afraid of the police and they're afraid to report crimes. If they do call the police to the home, often the officers end up talking to the husband rather than the victim because his English is better (having learned the language on his job). The woman doesn’t know what they are saying, only that the policeman leaves and nothing has been done. There’s a language hotline that officers can use to help with communication, but it’s more than a language issue. If someone goes to the dentist, anyone can translate, but especially for these very personal assaults, you need someone who really understands the cultural background and can be sensitive to that. As an advocate for these women, I narrated an awareness video for MPD that is now part of their mandatory training and promotes cultural sensitivity when dealing with Hispanic victims of crime, but more than that is needed. That’s why CazaLuz was founded. It’s the first and only culturally specific domestic violence and sexual assault agency in the region exclusively serving the Hispanic and Latino communities in the Memphis/Shelby County area.
“There are people who say, ‘Well, they’re just immigrants. What happens to them is not my problem.’ No. We cannot turn away. If people are afraid to report crime---any crime, not just domestic assault---or they don't trust the authorities enough to cooperate and see the case through the court system, then the criminal is still out there, the cycle repeats itself in the next generation, and the safety of the whole community is affected.”
Articles from La Prensa Latina ---
FB: CasaLuz Memphis
“I used to work at St. Jude, but when I had my first son, I decided to stay home for a year. At the end of the year, I planned to return to work, but I couldn’t find a day care I liked. I remember crying my eyes out because, even though I checked out a lot of places, none gave me peace of mind. So I decided to open an in-home day care, and I did that for four years, but after much prayer, God threw another opportunity my way. My husband is from El Salvador, I’m from Colombia, and we speak both Spanish and English, so this past fall, I opened Mi Escuelita Bilingual Christian Academy (Mi Escuelita means “My Little School”). We have 44 children from 16 different countries now. My husband and I work there, and all of the employees are bilingual native Spanish speakers. Being bilingual is not just a plus anymore; it’s more of a ‘must’ these days. Children need it for their future. It opens up so many more opportunities for them."
Photos below courtesy of Camila Contreras:
Camila Contreras, Director / Owner
Mi Escuelita Bilingual Christian Academy, 1018 S. Yates Rd.
“I don’t typically go to garage sales, but one morning I saw a sign for one and thought, ‘Well, I’ve got a little extra time today, I’ll go.’ And there it was, my inspiration: a box of color Kodachrome slides from 1947 that showed a family camping, fishing, and just spending time together. I was so drawn to the pictures of these people, even though they were strangers; it felt like I was pulling my own family close together again. I think we all have a need to belong, to feel connected to a time and place, and that's what those photos did for me. I loved that they were from the 40's too. The fashion, the authenticity, the lack of vanity, and even the naiveté really appealed to me. For instance, people didn’t really know how bad smoking was for you, so a lot of the people in the photos were holding cigarettes in their hands. I used the pictures I found that day as a beginning point and I’ve continued to paint using images from that time period.”
Jennifer Wilson grew up in Memphis. Although she now lives in Little Rock, AR, she comes back often to visit her parents who still live in the house where she was raised. Her work is currently on display at RS Antiques & Art, 700 S. Mendenhall.
“A longtime friend of mine who teaches middle school in Frayser noticed that her students didn’t really go anywhere, so she started a mentoring program. She's gotten me involved with this group of girls as well. As adults, we may drive from Germantown or Collierville to downtown Memphis every day and think nothing of it, but that's not part of these girls' experience. When we took them to Germantown earlier this year, they said things like, ‘Wow - I didn’t know this existed. I didn’t know people lived like this. I didn’t know where the Wolfchase Mall was. I've always wanted to see Saddle Creek.’ They’re seeing communities that have outdoor shopping malls where you can go from store to store and shop safely, and they’re amazed because they don’t have that in Frayser. We try to expose the girls to ballet, the arts, plays, and restaurants---things that they might not have the opportunity to experience otherwise. We look for free things to do, but we’ve also begun to ask friends and groups to sponsor the girls: maybe pay for an activity or for lunch for an individual student. We want these girls to know that there are professional women out here who can assist them and be a resource for them. The children in our community need us to step up and show them that there's a big world out there.”
Latasha Brown and Tabitha Branch (the teacher in this story) mentor students at Grandview Heights Middle School. Latasha is also a Senior Creative Partner with Initials, Inc.