9 Fun Events That Make Memphis A Better Place
I believe that just because you love a place doesn't mean you ignore its problems. And just because you're working hard and solving problems doesn't mean you can't have a little fun while you're at it.
In true Memphis fashion, our non-profits and charitable organizations have planned a tons of events and parties in the coming months that will not only be a blast (some of them epically so) but will also raise money and awareness to address some of the Mid-South's most pressing issues.
Here are just a few of the events happening in the next few months (beginning this weekend) that will help make Memphis a better place. If you have any more, feel free to add them in the comments.
1. Ignite Memphis Youth Edition, BRIDGES (477 N.5th Street), Saturday, Jan. 17, 4 p.m – 6 p.m., free, all ages/kid-friendly
Students will follow the Ignite event formula – 20 slides, 5 minutes per speaker – to present ideas on projects that will improve their communities. This event takes the formula a step further: student judges will select three presenters to receive $200 each to start their projects. The event is open to the public, and you can register here.
I dig that this Ignite event does two things differently form the usual Ignite events: it involves young people (who are often underrepresented in the Memphis conversation) and it also provides them with some cash to make their ideas a reality.
2. Grassroots Gala and Banquet, First Congo (1000 S. Cooper St.), Saturday, Jan. 17, 6 p.m., $10 suggested donation general admission/$30 seated banquet, 13 and up
The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center hosts their annual gala on Saturday, and this year they're turning it up a notch. Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou (author, theologian, and Black Lives Matter activist) is the guest speaker, Barbara J. Lester, Memphis Drum Tribe, and the one and only Carla Thomas are musical guests, plus belly dancers and hoopers from Co-Motion Studio will provide entertainment.
I always have a good time and learn a lot at this event, and this year I know is going to be even better. The MSPJC provides infrastructure for organizations that work on some of Memphis' toughest problems, i.e., Memphis Bus Riders Union, Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (H.O.P.E.) and H.O.P.E. Women's Caucus, Memphis United, and GrowMemphis. Read more here.
3. Works of Heart, Memphis College of Art, Saturday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m., $75 general admission/$200 VIP, 21 and up
This annual valentine's auction benefits the Memphis Child Advocacy Center. Enjoy beer, wine, and appetizers, and bid on 100 pieces of art from regional artists during an auction emceed by Joe Birch. The VIP "Big Heart Lounge" tickets include special gifts, artwork, and more.
Tickets are a little pricey, but when you consider that the artwork at auction is custom-made for this event, and that the Memphis Child Advocacy Center is one of the few organizations that provide services to victims of child abuse, it's totally worth it if you can make it happen.
4. Memphis Monologues, Amurica Photo, Saturday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., donations accepted, 13 and up
A Memphis twist on Eve Ensler's classic "Vagina Monologues", the Memphis Monologues is a chance for local women (including yours truly) to share their personal stories about the female experience. Stories range from funny to sad to heartwarming to challenging and everything in between, but they'll all be true and truly entertaining. There will be a cash bar, too.
Sure, this is a shameless plug since I'll be one of the speakers. However, proceeds from this event (and did I mention the cash bar?) will benefit Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis, which provides affordable reproductive healthcare to men and women in our area. It's an important service that is desperately needed, so please make plans to come, make a $5 or $10 or $25 donation, have a drink, and hear some heartfelt stories.
5. Tennessee Equality Project Gumbo Contest, BRIDGES, Sunday, Feb. 8, 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m., $15 under 21/$25 21+
The TEP hosts its 5th annual gumbo-cooking contest and Mardi Gras party on February 8th this year at the BRIDGES facility. Your tickets gets you into the gumbo tasting area, a chance to vote for the winning gumbo, plus NOLA-style jazz, craft beer (if you're of age) and more. The prices goes up $5 on Feb. 1 so get your tickets now.
The Tennessee Equality Project fights for the rights of the LGBT community in our state, supports marriage equality, and campaigns to eliminate discriminatory laws. This is such an important cause both in terms of human rights and the reputation of our state, so go eat some gumbo, fellowship with friends, and support equality.
6. Mid-South Food Bank Mardi-Gras Party, Sheffield Antiques Mall, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., $15, all ages
Let me tell you a quick story: Last year I went to wine dinner at Elfo's in Germantown. I went by myself, but met some of the nicest folks, all of whom lived in Germantown and Collierville. When I told them I wrote about events and reasons to love Memphis, they all started telling me about this big Mardi Gras party at the sprawling Sheffield Antiques Mall in Collierville. So while I can't speak from personal experience, I can say that this, at the very least, is a fun event that a lot of people attend.
The Mid-South Food Bank serves a huge area – more than just Memphis – and the need is very great and growing every day. This party is an opportunity to put food on the tables of families and senior citizens, and a chance to celebrate Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday proper. There will be five different Cajun food stations throughout the mall, plus a live band, prizes, and margaritas, beer, and wine, all included in the $15 entry ticket (an absolute steal) which provides – get this – 45 meals for the beneficiaries of the Mid-South Food Bank.
7. Mix-Odyssey, Visible Music College, Saturday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m, $50 before Feb. 1/$60 after Feb. 1, 21 and up
Volunteer Odyssey will host their second annual Mix-Odyssey cocktail and volunteer discovery event in February. There's a mixology competition between seven local cocktail experts (you can sample and vote for your favorite) plus food from restaurants around town and a fortune teller. See more on their FB event page.
I think the Mix-Odyssey cocktail event is a really fun way to get acquainted with Volunteer Odyssey and I hope to attend this year. If you don't know, VO is a very unique organization that helps pair individuals and groups with volunteering opportunities. They also maintain a volunteering opportunity calendar here.
8. MEMFix, The Pinch District, Saturday, April 11, free to attend, all ages
The goal of MEMFix is to re-energize and re-imagine the Pinch District to get ready for the opening of the BassPro Pyramid (and also in my opinion because the area could use a little love and care in general). The one-day event will showcase ideas, sidewalk/street improvements, pop-up shops and more. To get an idea of past MEMFix events in other neighborhoods, go here.
Bonus Save-the-Date event:
Faith in Action: Memphis Cleanup, all over the city, April 18 – 26, all ages
Memphis City Beautiful and the City of Memphis are teaming up to host the annual Faith in Action: Memphis Cleanup project again this year. Last year, more than 12,000 people participated on teams and individuals to pick up trash, plant flower, and generally to improve spaces all over the city. There's no cost and no experience necessary. More information is on the way about how you can help or sign up a team.
Have more events like these, that are fun and also benefit or directly improve Memphis? Leave some info and links in the comments!