Why Loving Memphis Isn’t Enough (Unless You Do Something to Back It Up)

Posted by Holly Whitfield | June 17th 2013 3561 0

Ed. Note: This post was written by Kerry Crawford.

On Friday, my friend Shannon sent me an article from Next City called "Loving My City Enough to Fight for It". It's mostly about author Anne Trubeck's adopted home of Cleveland, Ohio, but a lot of her points can (and should) be applied to Memphis.

If you don't have time to read the whole thing, the idea is this: it's not enough to love a city, you have to turn that love into activism for making the city better.

I couldn't agree more.


I'm pretty sure Memphians just started really loving (and accepting) our city in the past five years. There's been a sea change from apologizing for our quirks to celebrating them while simultaneously working to make Memphis a better, stronger, more fun place to live. (See, for example, the entire Grizzlies' 2013 playoff run.)

Memphis is always going to be a little bit weird, and I'm glad we've stopped trying to pretend like that's not the case. It's nice to see us stop yearning to be some other, "better" city.

In the article, Trubeck writes:

"In and of themselves, the projects going on around town are not headline-making or striking. The things aren’t new, such as bars, developments or non-profits. But the ethos surrounding them is. It goes something like this: disinvestment, “this place sucks,” gave way to cheerleading, “this place rocks.” Cheerleading, though, is often passive and at its root, sentimental. It does not incite change. The mood of the day is more modal: “I should help out.”


I'll admit to picking up the pompoms. When this site started, I was in constant spirit girl mode, writing about how great Memphis is and trying to answer every hater on Twitter with some kind of positive comeback. To be honest, it was a little exhausting.

That's changed, though. At some point, we started ignoring the haters. We've stopped trying to meet every negative comment about Memphis with an impassioned speech about how great the city really is. We've stopped reacting to negative attention. We've accepted – finally – that haters are going to hate.

Four years ago, when Memphis was listed on any one of Forbes' lists of crappy places to live, we'd get all up in arms about it, threatening to boycott them, sharing the story (which really, just gave them pageviews) and getting our collective panties in a bunch trying to prove them wrong. Now, when those lists come out, no one notices.

That's because we've got better things to do. We're too busy building the Memphis that we want to live in to be bothered. That's something to be proud of.  

Trubeck also makes this very valid point:

"But we have been here before — on the cusp of something interesting and vital — and we have seen it fail. This time, we sense that the stakes are too high, the promises too promising. This time, it cannot fail. So more people, whether individually or institutionally, are helping out those who are trying new things."

One of my favorite things about Memphians is our hustle. Outsiders (and city leaders) may call it "entrepreneurial spirit", but we know what it really is: hustle. It's the drive that leads us to start things, to find solutions, to step up and take care of business without waiting on someone to do it for us or tell us that its' ok.

All over the city, there are good people fighting to make Memphis better. We're working to overcome apathy, lack of resources and negativity. We're starting things. And whether those things are community gardens, silly holidays, non-profits, volunteer opportunites or parties, we're making the city better every time we do.

But we can't stop fighting the good fight. We can pat ourselves on the back for how far we've come, but we're not allowed to stop now. We have to keep going, because no one's going to do it for us.

What will happen if we don't keep going? I don't know. But I'd rather think of all of the incredible things that will happen if we do.


Show Comments


  1. Kim says:

    Thank you for making a difference.  It's nice to point out the positive and to work toward improvement rather than complain. I hope to do more to improve my city as well

  2. widespreadplumber says:

    pretty sure i have been loving memphis for a goodtime longer than five years. welcome to the party.

  3. Courtney says:

    Awesome, awesome post! I fell in love with the city when I moved here 3 years ago.  I have since the city change for the positive just in that time frame, and I'm incredibly excited to be a part of its continued growth.  Thank YOU for being a cheerleader and advocate for the wonderful things happening in Memphis.

  4. Amanda W says:

    Amen.  I just had my 1 year aniversary of becoming a permanent Memphian- and this is the mantra I tell everyone who doesn't understand why I want to live here, or those annoying people who do live in this awesome city and still hate on it- every city has issues. But what is so amazing and why I love Memphis is that there a TON of people working every. single. day. to make Memphis better, and even cooler, the world better from spaces within Memphis.  And those people aren't behind the scenes, they are on the streets, they are visible, they stand up for a unique city that has so much to offer to the world. That's inspiring. 

  5. AdrieneHoops says:

    I love this post! It so captures the spirit of living here and wanting to make amazing things happen for this city! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Vena Cava says:

    Art and zombie walks are fun and I value both, but I would rather see animal abusers actually punished instead of let off with probation like ALWAYS, and the Memphis Animal Slaughterhouse turned into a shelter instead of a torture chamber.

  7. So who wants to come to my sillly holiday non-profit volunteer dance party in a community garden? You bring the band. I'll bring the glitter and hula hoops. It'll be a blast!

  8. Realist says:

    Your words of encouragement are nice, but alas they are just words. The community gardens, holidays, and volunteer stuff you talk about is NOT going to change a city that is in deep financial decline. Delta has decided to move its business elsewhere (a HUGE deal), and we are focusing on community gardens? More and more young professionals are moving to Nashville, Austin, Houston, Atlanta, and the SF Bay Area — for jobs and better opportunities. So yes, how can we 1.) make Memphis a booming place where young people will want to live? 2.) Attract new, big corporations to the area that will become major employers and boost the area? (Corporations keep moving elsewhere, too). 3.) How can we get rid of crime in the city so there's no white flight & dissapearance of resources? 4.) What can we do to improve the schools so people with money will actually want to stay in the city instead of moving their families to, say, Arlington? These are some pretty serious questions, and they're not going to be solved by throwing a party, planting a garden, or shaking your rear at the next dubstep event.

  9. Great post Kerry! I agree 100%.

  10. Jan says:

    Good onya, Kerry.  I love people who can make a difference and DO!

  11. Barry Joyce says:

    i work as a teacher …i try everyday to make my kids aware and to see new stuff ….to believe in their abilities to get beyond the life they are dealt 

  12. Tatia Johnson says:

    Hey Chloe! I'm pretty sure that between you, PJM/The Candy Company & Tomi (and the other awesome folks we know) – we could make that happen. 🙂


  13. Well said, Kerry. And awesome pic 🙂

  14. Memphisclaire says:

    Excellent post.  I volunteer at three different non-profits in Memphis and enjoy my work so much.  There are so many opportunities to do so in community-based organizations.  I moved here 11 years ago and have seen major improvement in that time.


  15. Alice says:

    Thanks for all the work you do to make Memphis better, and for this post. I've done the cheerleading thing too, and it's so important to do the work to improve our city. Thanks for the reminder!

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