December was National Adoption Month. Find out more HERE.
"I used to be 3, then I was 4, and now I'm 5. I'm about to be 6 next year. The best thing about being 5 is you get to do big kid stuff!"
AJ was adopted from Ethiopia.
December was National Adoption Month. Find out more HERE.
"I was born in Ethiopia, and Amharic is my first language. When I found out I was getting adopted from the orphanage, I was nervous, but then I saw my new parents' picture and I said, 'That must be my mom and dad.' I said thank you to God, I am ready to be adopted. That was two years ago. I have good grandparents now, and my mom and dad love me and take care of me perfectly. They give me a good life, and I love them. I want to say thank you to them for adopting me. When I grow up, I want to help orphan kids too."
"The best thing about getting adopted is that I get to do things I probably wouldn't have been able to do before, like going to the ocean. We went this summer and I liked it. The hardest thing about being adopted is adjusting to the new rules."
"My favorite thing about being adopted is having a family, a warm home, shoes so my feet don't get cold, and a Thanksgiving dinner. I made a caramel pie for Thanksgiving, but it got a little burned. The smoke alarm went off.
"When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut or a teacher. I'd like to be an astronaut so I can go up in space and wear that big bubble helmet, but teaching is my back-up plan."
“I’m 40 years old and very proud of that. When I was 24, I had just finished a five-year degree in Anthropology and was holding down three jobs: teaching high school, working as a research assistant at the Anthropology Institute of Colombia, and working at the National Museum on weekends. Bogota is a huge city, and I spent a lot of time in buses in heavy traffic. It was really stressful, I was exhausted all the time, and I started getting sick. After a month and 5 trips to the ER, I was diagnosed with acute leukemia. I went into the hospital that same day to begin treatment. It was so hard, but there was never a time when my family or I thought I wouldn’t make it through. They’d tell people, ‘She’s okay. She’s going to be fine.’ They surrounded me with energy, love, and hugs, and stayed beside me all the way. My dad had just recently lost his job, so he was at the hospital every minute. My mom took leave from her teaching position, and they cared for me through three rounds of chemo and two sessions of radiotherapy. My 80-year-old grandmother took a cab to see me every day too. My family has a great sense of humor, and my mom was always taking photos of me and saying, ‘This is going in that picture album we’re making about all the fun times.’ We have photos of me that look like a commercial for Coca Cola, taken when I was finally able to drink a Coke again. Then, when I was so swollen I looked like a balloon, my mom grabbed the camera and said, ‘I’m getting a picture of this!’ Their humor really helped cheer me up and get me through it. My room became the one where even the residents hung out because it had the best magazines and the best snacks. It took eight months of being in and out of the hospital, but in the end the cancer was gone. Nobody knew if it would come back, but my doctor told me: ‘Go live your life. If you feel bad, come back. If not, have a great life!’ My defenses were very low, and I barely had any hair, but I was determined I wasn’t going to get sick again. My family and friends supported me, but I really believe that my getting well was a miracle.
“When I first started getting better, I felt a lot of pressure to be perfect. I’d been given a second chance and I wanted to do everything just right, better than before. I wanted always to be kind and generous and never to do anything wrong, but that was so tiring. Finally I talked to my dad about it, and he said: ‘Maybe your original self was so good that God wants you to use this second chance to continue being just who you are. You don't need to be perfect.’ That helped me a lot.
“I had maybe a 1% chance of getting pregnant after the leukemia treatment, but I have a five-year-old daughter now. I only speak Spanish to her, and she understands everything. There’s a new little boy in her classroom from Venezuela who doesn't speak English, so she’s sort of the official interpreter. I told her, ‘You’re going to be doing a lot of this. Better get used to it.’ I’m very proud of her. She's my second miracle.”
Margarita was born in Bogota, Colombia, and began working in museums while she was still in college. She moved to Memphis in 2002 and served as the Educational Specialist for our own Children's Museum of Memphis for five years before joining the staff at the Dixon. Margarita is fluent in Spanish, French, and English and is active with the Centro Cultural (Latino Cultural Center).
Margarita Sandino, Director of Education, Dixon Gallery & Gardens
4339 Park Avenue 38117
"What am I most thankful for? Being blessed to wake up every morning to see another day."
“When I left my admin job in higher education, I knew I wanted to stay in Memphis, work in the non-profit sector and be connected to art, Southern culture, and historical preservation. I’ve always loved cemeteries, even as a kid, so when I got the position at Elmwood, it felt like it was meant to be. Elmwood is the oldest active cemetery in Memphis and has almost 80,000 graves. The first burial here was in 1853, although we have stones going back to 1826 because some people were moved here from other cemeteries after we were started. The whole history of Memphis is here at Elmwood; it’s full of wonderful stories.
“One of my favorites is that of Emily Sutton who died in the 1873 yellow fever epidemic. She’s one of several madams who stayed in the city and opened their homes (brothels) to care for the sick until they got sick themselves and died. As part of Emily’s will, which we have on file, she specified that she wanted to be buried at Elmwood and that she did not want an expensive gravesite or an ostentatious tombstone. She was originally buried in a public lot, which was the cheap part of the cemetery, but two years later, her remains were moved to a spot just across the road from Lenow Circle, and a beautiful, finely carved tombstone was erected to memorialize her. We don’t know for sure who moved her there, but in the 1870’s Lenow Circle was the place to be buried in Memphis; it was where all the society folks, the rich folks, were being buried. The figure on the top of Emily’s monument is that of a woman praying, pleading, and looking over into that wealthy, elite section. Carved on the base is a beautiful poem:
Let sweet voiced mercy plead for her
Who calmly sleeps beneath this sod.
Nor erring man, in pride, usurp
The province of her judge, her God.
“In other words, don’t judge her. Only God can judge her. When I look at the statue's location and the poem, I can’t see it any other way than as a message to the people across the road. Whoever put it there had her given name, her Christian name, carved on the stone: Emily Sutton, but that isn’t how she was known in Memphis. She was known as Fannie Walker. Fannie Walker is a play on words and a common name for a prostitute in the 1800’s. The message caused a big scandal, and so the cemetery management in the 1870’s responded to the complaints by putting large marble plaques on the ground on three sides of her monument, plaques that say: Fannie Walker, Fannie Walker, Fannie Walker. So if you approach the grave from the road, you don’t assume that this is the respectable Emily Sutton, but you realize that this is the prostitute Fannie Walker. Her story is one of many that Elmwood holds. I could tell you so many others. I love this place and feel very fortunate to be a part of preserving the history of Memphis.”
Bob Barnett, Assistant Director, Elmwood Cemetery
Elmwood Cemetery, 824 S. Dudley St., is Memphis' oldest active cemetery.
The grounds are open every day of the year, 8 am - 4:30 pm.
Office hours are M-F 8 am - 4:30 pm, Saturday 8 am - noon, closed Sunday.
“I moved to Memphis because, historically, it’s a town where people are passionate about music, and I wanted to take mine to the next level. Both my parents are musicians and I grew up singing in church and playing throughout high school, but I had no real musical identity until I came here. The influence of Memphis music has shaped my style into something I call soulful pop. I recorded my album Sweet Soul (released May 2015) at Royal Studios, where so many greats have recorded over the years, people like Al Green, Ike Turner, and Tina Turner. Memphis continues to have a huge impact on my music. Recently I was able to contribute a song, Nothing’s Missing, to the 2015 Musicians for Le Bonheur album. The CD was just released last week, and all the proceeds go to benefit the patients and families of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.”
Mary performed at South Main Sounds Songwriter Night #18, 550 S. Main, November 20, 2015. South Main Sounds is a regular venue in Memphis for singers / songwriters.
Mary Owens is a student at the University of Memphis, majoring in Music Business.
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/maryowensmusic/
“I grew up in orphanages for most of my life, but it was okay. It seemed normal to me to have houseparents and live with lots of other kids, but when I aged out of the system, I didn’t really have any skills. I finally found a job with a roofing company, worked there for years, married and had kids, but during that time, I started drinking more and more heavily and ended up on the streets. I was homeless for twenty-something years, sleeping under bridges or up next to a building. I was the guy holding up a sign at the corner of Summer and Highland. That was where I spent most of my time. I’d come into the church once in a while and go to the Art Room, but not regularly.
“I started going to the Warriors Center---they help people with drug and alcohol problems---and they were always telling me that I needed Jesus Christ. I was seeing the same people come for help again and again---myself included---and what they [Warriors Center] said finally started making sense. We studied the Bible there, and the thing that stayed with me the most is when Jesus said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ I don’t think he was talking just about communion. I think he meant everything, so that’s how I try to live my life now: I’ve been sober for two-and-a-half years and I try to do good things, do good to people, help as many as I can. I try to do everything in remembrance of Jesus. I go with a group from Jacob’s Well on Wednesday nights to feed people who are homeless. I know where to find them, and I still know a lot of them, although many of the guys I knew have died: frozen to death, drunk themselves to death, been hit by cars, overdosed. And I come to the church on Mondays to serve a meal to people who are homeless or unfortunate. Good people have helped me out along the way, and it will take me the rest of my life to pay that back. I won’t go back to the streets though. That’s no way to live.”
Community Art Room, Mondays 10 am - 12 pm
Highland Heights United Methodist Church, 3476 Summer (Summer & Highland)
“My father has always been my hero. All of my life, he’s taught me to care about others, not only through his words but mostly through his actions. He is a veteran and worked for the Memphis Fire Department for 25 years before he retired. When he received the Memphis Firefighter of the Year Award in 1981 for rescuing a woman and her baby from a burning building, it really made an impression on me. He showed me that helping others is what brings true happiness in this life. My father’s shining example of helping others led me to my journey with Memphis Music.
“When I began working for the local non-profit Memphis Music Foundation, which existed to help local musicians, I found a way to give back to the community and reconnect with my Mexican culture. My parents adopted me from Mexico, at birth, at a time when there were almost no Latinos in the Mid-South, and even though I had a wonderful family life and upbringing, there was a void in my life. I looked different and felt disconnected from my surroundings being the only Mexican in my school for a long time. Years later, through the Memphis Music Foundation, I was able to work with lots of incredible Latin Artists in Memphis, and it was a huge relief to finally reconnect with my roots. That experience led to more volunteering in the Latin community with the Centro Cultural Latino de Memphis, planning and promoting events. Among other things, the CCLDM (fostered by Caritas Village) offers free art classes to everyone, Latino or otherwise. And it’s the only place in the city where you can go to learn the ancient art form of Aztec dancing for free from Danza Azteca Quetzalcoatl (DAQ). Through meeting DAQ, I’ve become most passionate about our annual Memphis Day of the Dead Celebration. It’s a celebration where we pay tribute to our passed loved ones which is something that should be important to everyone. It’s especially meaningful to me because I lost my mother to cancer when I was 16 years old, and participating in the Day of the Dead for the first time with people who shared my Mexican heritage helped me process that loss years after it had happened. It gave me a special way to grieve and reinforced that there’s no better way to help yourself than by FIRST helping others."
Catrina Guttery hosts Memphis Made on Sunday nights from 8-10 pm, featuring 2 hours of Memphis music. "Memphis is known all over the world for its music. It's a big part of what brings us together. Memphis Made showcases both established and up-and-coming bands, giving them an outlet for sharing their music with the world."
Catrina Guttery, WEGR Rock 103 On-Air Personality