"I've made my living doing music for thirty-plus years. I'm a former Stax recording artist and have played in bands with Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Quincy Jones, Maurice White, and others. I studied music at Texas Southern, but a lot of what I do, I taught myself. My latest CD is Feeling Fantabulous, and I'd say my favorite cut on the album is What's Really Going On? It was inspired by Marvin Gaye and deals with problems the city and the world are facing---the bigger issues. The whole CD is a message album."
Wendell MusicMan Moore, singer / songwriter
"I was homeless until just recently, but now I have a 40-hour-a-week job and I'm trying to rebuild my life. If you want a job, even if it's a dishwasher, take it. I'm staying with friends and still trying to find an affordable place of my own, which is not easy, but I'm doing what I have to do."
"The best decision I ever made was to separate myself from gang activity. When I was growing up, I knew everybody in my neighborhood. The old people would always wave and say hi, invite me into their homes, get me to cut their grass, no problem. But when I was 13, I joined the Gangster Disciples and that stopped. All I saw in the eyes of the old people then was fear. It's easy to manipulate a young person into joining a gang, especially if they lack guidance at home, but there's a lot of hatred, a lot of violence in that life. After thirteen years, I decided I wanted better for myself, so I got out. I knew there were young brothers who looked up to me, and I wanted to lead them in a better direction. I'm not saying I don't talk to the gang members anymore. I do, but I'm by myself a lot more now. I can't hang with them because that can lead to bad behaviors. I can't have drugs in my system and have a job, for instance. I can't go to work with a hangover. But I don't hate anybody. The lines of communication are open and they're still family, but they see me now as a dude who's trying to do something, not break something. I see kids in my community now, and I always try to tell them to stay in school and do the right thing.
"My dad used to tell me, 'Boy, you're not going to see 16. You're not going to see 17. Or 18.' That went on for a long time, but then I left the gang, met a woman I wanted to be with, and we got married. I was finally making the right decisions for my life, and my dad said, 'Son, I'm proud of you. Now you know what it is to be a man.' He had never told me that before. I feel a lot better being a man than I did doing those unnecessary acts of evil."
"Art Village Gallery was established in 1991 to promote international artists and artwork from third world countries to the local market. We are expanding that vision to also focus on local artists whose work complements the contemporary feel of the gallery.
"Here's a sneak peak into the soon-to-be open storytelling space (photos below): We have transformed the lower level gallery into a space for story-telling, with AV equipment and lots of comfortable seating. People will soon be able to come together to share short original videos about the people or things that inspire or move them. More information about video submissions and story nights will be available soon on the WEBSITE, so be sure to check back.
"We will also have movie nights once or twice a month, with light snacks. We aim to be neighborhood gathering place where everyone can express themselves and connect with new friends. We want to encourage creativity and provide a venue where everyone fits in and feels important. Memphis has so much division and separation between people. It's time to tell a new story. We can change our corner of the world."
The storytelling space:
Main floor of the gallery:
The wine-tasting room:
Paintings below are by Ephraim Urevbu. Read more about his art and vision HERE.
Ephraim and Sheila Urevbu, Art Village Gallery, 410 S. Main
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
"On April 19, 2014, I walked into Methodist Hospital experiencing a v-tach storm, which is when your heart is racing out of control, and on May 1 I received a pacemaker / defibrillator. That was the first time I had ever been sick in my life, and I was so scared I was going to die. My fear got the best of me, and I sank into a depression. I lived daily in a dark hole, not even opening the blinds. I gained weight and never went outside. When I applied for Disability benefits, I was denied because they said I still had skills, but I was so depressed I couldn't work. I had just given up. Then this spring, a friend talked me into checking out HopeWorks. I thought I was just coming to orientation, but the day I came was the first day of class, and that was when I decided to fight for my life. The Personal and Career Development class is 14 weeks long, and I haven't missed even once. It was the best decision I ever made. I came for orientation, and this week I'll walk out a graduate. I thought I needed Disability until I found HopeWorks. It rearranged my thinking. Now, the sky's the limit!"
HopeWorks is a non-profit organization located in midtown Memphis (1930 Union Avenue) and dedicated to helping the chronically unemployed (and underemployed) become self-directed and goal-oriented. Personal and Career Development classes are offered several times each year. GED courses are also available through Hopeworks.
"My mom is my hero; she lived through a bad situation and then got us out of it when I was just a baby. I didn't meet my biological father again until I was 30 years old. I had never even seen a picture of him and had no idea what he looked like. All I knew was that I'd gotten my blue eyes from him. I wrote a song about him called These Eyes Are Blue, and my husband and I performed it at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in 2012. To be onstage in that place, singing that song about my father, meant a lot to me. When I finally did meet him, we didn't talk much about the past, really. I was glad to meet him, but we didn't have a lot to say to each other. He called me after that, and it was during our second conversation that he cried and asked for forgiveness. I told him I had already forgiven him. I felt like I was meeting not the man he had been, but the man he was becoming. The next time I heard anything was when his housemate called and told me that he had died of a heart attack. His funeral was only the second time I'd ever been with him."
YouTube link to These Eyes Are Blue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BurTVC-x3GY
Kassie and Ben Wilson performed at South Main Sounds (550 S. Main) and at The Green Beetle (325 S. Main) on Friday evening, August 14, 2015. South Main Sounds is a venue for local songwriters and (occasionally) visiting artists such as Kassie and Ben.
Kassie Wilson, Singer / Songwriter
"I retired in 2002 after 30 years working for Chrysler in Wisconsin, and we moved south to get away from the cold weather. My husband and I love to travel. We've gone to Israel, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy---just lots of places---and this year we'll be going to China to celebrate our 30th anniversary. In addition to traveling, I love volunteering in areas related to my faith. I teach a Bible class, do one-on-one Bible studies, conduct women's empowerment workshops, work with the Literacy Council, and volunteer with Agape Child and Family Services, MIFA, and HopeWorks. I bowl with the Young-at-Heart, walk 3-5 miles four times a week, and participate in the yearly 5K race for colon cancer. I came in first last year, but this year I got beat out by a 62-year-old! I'm 65! Retirement is great. It's freedom to do what you really want to do."
Question (after watching these guys a few minutes and almost having a heart attack on behalf of all mothers everywhere): "Why do you do something so dangerous?"
"I'm at a loss for words."
"Because of the rush. I've broken a few bones, but it's an athletic art form."
"And it helps with the ladies!"
“I was living with my toddler daughter in a little bitty bedroom in my mom’s house, waiting tables and trying to go to school, when I found out I was pregnant by my (now ex-) husband. We were separated but still legally married, so he felt like he was entitled to certain privileges. He was not at all interested in the pregnancy though. He met with a lawyer, signed papers, and was done with it. I didn't feel that I could handle another child by myself, not in my situation, so I decided to explore my options. The sister of a friend of mine was having fertility issues, and she and her husband had just decided they would pursue adoption, so I got in touch with them and we started emailing and talking on the phone. I decided I wanted them to be my child's parents, so I flew out to Utah to meet them in January, and while I was there I had an ultrasound, which indicated the baby was a boy. They just started crying; they had lost a baby themselves at 16 weeks. I stayed there for a week and got to know the family better. We were open and honest with each other from the very beginning, and I think that laid the foundation for the relationship we have now.
“When the baby was born in June, I had a little time with him by myself; then when I was ready, I invited the couple into the hospital room, handed him to his new mother and said, ‘Meet your son.’ The look on her face was worth every tear.
“People can promise an open adoption, promise everything under the sun, and then renege when they have the baby in their arms, but it doesn’t have to be that way. My son’s parents have been wonderful to me. Ellis is 3 years old now, I get to see him every year, he knows who I am and that he grew in my tummy, and he knows his mom and dad couldn’t have children and that God gave him to them. They tell him his story twice a week at bedtime so that he'll never remember a time when he didn’t know it. His parents send photos and videos that help me feel that I’m a part of his life, and sometimes we Skype-chat. They don’t send me just the ‘happys’ either; I get some of everything: the potty-training moments, going to the dentist, the bump on the head, the temper tantrum videos, helping mommy shovel snow, playing with his trains, ‘reading’ books. I appreciate that. I want to know who he is, not just who he is only when he’s happy. His adoptive mother doesn’t flinch when I refer to him as my son either. He has two mommies who love him.
“Could I have kept him and raised him? Could we have made it work? Maybe, but how healthy would that have been for any of us? I wanted the very best for my son. He has a better life than I could ever have given him, and I don’t just mean in terms of material resources.
“There is still so much stigma around adoption, and until we can get the issues out and talk about them, they won’t go away. People can be so critical of birthmothers without knowing anything of the circumstances. Every situation is different. There is no such thing as a typical birthmother. We are single, married, divorced, teenagers, in our 20’s or 30’s, self-sufficient, dependent on parents, already raising children, working full-time, or just not ready. What we have in common is that we love our kids and want the best for them, like any mother. Just because we aren't raising our kids doesn’t mean we aren’t mothers. Sometimes there are valid reasons for closed adoptions, but I’m very much for open adoptions whenever possible.
“Deciding to place your child for adoption is tough. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there is joy for the child and for his new parents; on the other, there’s tremendous grief over the loss. There are times when I get up in the morning and just say, ‘It’s hard, and it sucks.’ Anytime I see a child who looks like my son, who is my son’s age, it grabs me by the heart. If I see a little blond-haired boy splashing in a pool with his dad, for instance, I feel grief at first, then I imagine my little boy enjoying swim time, and I text his mother to ask, ‘How does Ellis like playing in the water?’ and she tells me. Holidays and birthdays can be especially difficult. Mother’s Day and Ellis’s birthday are within a month of each other, and those 30 days are rough. I try to work and stay busy so I won’t think about it, and that helps some. I also try to do things that are constructive, things to take care of myself. I communicate a lot more with his family during that month, and they understand.
“Churches have support groups for people who are grieving, but because we as birthmothers haven’t had a death --- our child is still alive --- we are told we don’t fit into such a group. We don’t belong. Of the three members of the triad (birthmothers, adoptive families, adoptees), birth mothers receive the least support. There’s a lot of processing that needs to be done by birthmothers, and we need a safe place to do that. Grief never follows a neat pattern. We can be doing fine, but then be set back to the beginning because of a photo or what someone says, or perhaps because of a holiday or birthday or seeing a child who looks like your child.
“Birthmother support groups do exist---I’m a member of one---but that number needs to be expanded. That’s a big part of the reason I helped to start a chapter of United for Adoption (licensed non-profit) here in Memphis: to help provide that support for all members of the adoption triad. We’re not an adoption agency ourselves, but we want to provide a neutral space for those who are interested in or already involved in some aspect of adoption, a space not controlled or sponsored by any one agency. The national organization United for Adoption has been around since 2012, but the local chapter was just launched in December 2014, so it’s still new and we’re still working on building the program. We're also working on changing the way the media approaches adoption. We provide emotional support and we're working toward being able to provide housing for adoptive families who come from out of town for an adoption. We find counselors who work with adoption issues and help expectant mothers with their decision, whether they choose to place or to parent. If they choose to place, we connect them with a birth mother support group, and if they choose to parent, we connect them with state and local resources to assist them. We also work with a couple of local homes to provide housing for expectant mothers who need a place to stay during their pregnancy.
“One of our chapter’s goals for this year is to sponsor an all-day adoption conference. We plan to have panels made up of various members of the adoption triad so that attendees can ask questions, gain perspective, and participate in open dialogue about all aspects of adoption.
“Our chapter is operating with a staff of 4 right now and are meeting only once a month, but we hope to expand to more support groups and twice a month meetings soon.”
I Am So Much More by Tabitha Nilsen
I am not just a birthmom...
I am also the mother to a precious little girl who is my entire world...
every day she does something that makes me laugh or smile,
even when I'm having the worst days.
I am not just a birthmom...
I am a singer. I love music.
I love to learn new songs, and love filling my heart with music.
I am not just a birthmom...
I am an artsy craftsy chick. I like to sew, knit, and other random arts and crafts.
I'm not particularly wonderful at any one of them, but I am fairly decent with many :)
[read Tabitha's essay in its entirety HERE]
Tabiltha Nilsen, Chapter Chair, United for Adoption Mid-South
Local chapter: https://www.facebook.com/ufamidsouth
National organization: http://www.unitedforadoption.org
"I worked with the Girl Scouts for 30 years: 24 as a volunteer and 6 professionally. One of the funniest times was when two other leaders and I took a group of elementary school girls camping at Sardis. We were hiking through the woods and the kids saw a stream they wanted to play in. It was only about a foot deep, so we said sure. Well, one of the girls was wearing terrycloth shorts. You know how heavy and saggy terrycloth gets when it's wet, so she asked if she could just take them off. We thought, why not? There weren't any boys around. Well, the next thing we knew, all 28 of the little girls had decided they wanted to play in the water with just their underclothes on too. They were splashing around, laughing and being silly, and just having a ball! The only problem was, when we got back they told everybody they had gone skinny-dipping! They hadn't done any such thing! I don't think they even knew what the term meant, but they had heard it somewhere. I got called in and had to explain the whole episode to the supervisor."