"My children wanted to be held all the time, and the only way I found that I could get things done and still take care of them was to 'wear' them. Then I discovered that you can actually make your own woven wraps, so I read a lot of weaving books and took online video classes to learn how. Then one day my husband surprised me with a loom he had found on Craigslist. It had been sitting in someone’s garage not being used. I’ve always done some sort of art or craft, but being a mom, it’s so hard to set aside time to make things; you’re always focusing on your little people. Weaving is a craft you can do in short spurts between the times your children need you or late at night when everybody else is asleep. It’s something for me, but it’s also something to share with my family."
"My parents always taught me to treat everybody the same. Never have animosity against anybody. Forgive everybody for what they’ve done and continue to do the things that you know are right. I’m 50 years old and that teaching has been with me for a lifetime. When I have an urge toward negativity, I ask God to forgive me. I’ve learned that sometimes things don’t happen like you want them to happen, but you continue to be the person that you are. Don’t let negative people change you."
DIANE (right): "Sometimes people stop moving forward and they stagnate, but when you know somebody's in your corner, you're motivated to get yourself unstuck. At The House, we do that through relationships, through encouraging each other, and by developing a sense of sisterhood. We work with ladies in the Orange Mound community to bring out the gifts God has put into them. We have classes in financial literacy, how to write resumes, how to find and keep a job, sewing, and basic life skills such as cooking healthy meals. Some of the women enjoy gardening, so they grow vegetables and flowers here and help keep the grounds looking good. We have something called 'Tea Life' where the women learn about the various teas, learn how to package them, and then work in the Tea Shop. This building has been here for a long time, but The House was established three years ago. It gives women somewhere to go that nurtures their hearts and is enjoyable and serene. I look forward to getting here in the mornings. It's a place of peace."
Diane Bowen, Work for Life Job Readiness Facilitator
Tonzetta Wilson, Receptionist
Orange Mound Women's Resource Center, "The House"
Address: 3028 Carnes Ave. (corner of Semmes & Carnes)
As we continue to live through this week’s nightmarish events, let us move toward each other and not away. May we deliberately cross the lines that divide and bring compassion, even in the midst of terrible pain.
The posting of Connecting Memphis interviews will resume in a few days.
"Memphis has changed over the years. It used to be that people couldn’t even go to a park without somebody arguing and shooting, but the police have started having more presence in the neighborhood and I think that’s having a positive effect on the young teenage kids. A lot of them are trying to get to know the police officers. It’s surprising. I think the police are realizing that the younger generation responds a lot better when you take the time to really talk to them. If anything happens, like it does sometimes, officers are quick to respond. They greet people, talk to them, ask what happened. A couple of years ago, everybody was afraid of the police department, but it seems much better now. There’s beginning to be more trust, but I think there’s still a ways to go. What some people don’t understand is that the officers can’t do their job if you don’t talk to them. The best way for the police to get to know people is to get out in the community: go to parks, go to events, take bike rides. They do that here. There are a number of officers living right in this neighborhood, so people are getting to know them that way too. Last year the police held a cookout in the park and that was a good thing for building relationships. Things are different than they used to be. Better and quieter. It’s a lot more peaceful around here now."
"I learned a lot at Juilliard---I started in the pre-college division when I was 9 years old and finished my bachelor’s there at 22---but I think it’s really more about what you do with your training once you get out. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time to play well, so of course I practice every day. You’re always building. However good a piece sounds, you’re always thinking about how to make it better, more complete. It’s good to have intelligent fingers that can move on the keys, but the bigger goal is to say something with the music. For me, that something is love and its expression in terms of my own life. As a musician, I’ve always aspired to make use of the information that’s been passed on to me and then to tell the truth about myself in a way that relates to the truth of everybody else. I think that’s the work of all artists."
"In music, there’s the tremendous weight of tradition and what you do with it, and then there’s the creative side, where you do your own thing. Creative projects are what I've become most interested in. I’ve got a one-man opera project going on right now called The Cosmic Ladybug."
Arthur Hart, pianist
Bio on the Arthur Hart Music website
"My grandmother and mother always taught me to have faith in God, in myself, and in other people. I don’t go to church now like I used to, but I still keep God in my heart, and because of that, I give people more respect and keep away from doing nonsense. I have my ups and downs, but when times get hard, my faith keeps me going."
"My mom was going to school as I was growing up. She worked really hard and went from not having anything to earning a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s in Respiratory Therapy. I didn’t get it then---all that studying---but I do now. I see how hard she worked, and I admire her for what she’s done. It pushes me to try harder, to be like her."
"When I was in college, we were put on teams and expected to create something. One team staged on a huge weekend event, one team started a church, and another team switched ideas so many times that I don’t know if they ever actually accomplished anything. [*laughs*] Our team decided we wanted to do something that would last for a very long time and would impact a lot of people’s lives. We thought about a music venue or an art gallery, but conversation was such a big part of what we wanted to do that we finally decided on opening a coffee shop. There’s a lot of harshness in this world, so we wanted to create a place where everyone is 100 percent welcome. Most of us here really love God, and we believe that should be reflected in how we treat people. One thing we’ve starting doing every semester is raising awareness about Memphis organizations that are doing good. We raise money, usually through our tips, and donate it to help with causes like homelessness, veterans, the environment, or domestic abuse. Our philosophy is pretty simple. We believe God wants us to love people, so that’s what we try to do. That’s it."
Becca Skaggs and Jaron Weidner are co-owners of Avenue Coffee (a 501c3 nonprofit) at 86 Echles Street near the University of Memphis.
“My mom and I used to piece quilts together. She’d go down to Sears and get remnants; then we’d cut them into little blocks, place them, and sew them. We made up the patterns as we went, and when the quilts were done, we’d put them on the beds. All the time we were sewing, my mom and I talked about church and about the community. We stayed home most of the time because there weren’t any shopping centers to go to, but sometimes on Saturdays when we were older, she’d let my brother and me go to Beale Street. We’d ride the bus down, then just walk around and look at everything. We were too young to do much and we didn’t have any money, but we’d go over to the peanut shop on Main Street and get us a bag of Spanish peanuts for a nickel. It was fun going down there by ourselves, but we always had to make sure we got back on the bus and got home before dark."