NeighborHOOD Reflection
By Britney Thornton // Guest Blogger

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So how much would it take to motivate you to work? Pause. $8.50. Insert mental gasp. Really? Yeah, my friends say that a job has to at least be paying $8.50 for them to apply.
My recent conversation with a real disenfranchised youth in Orange Mound definitely surprised me. Apparently the fight for $15 message has not made its way to Ethel Street–a formerly notorious street for all things not so positive near the core of historic Orange Mound. I could not resist wondering how many more people would be willing to settle for $8.50 per hour? How this amount meets the needs of an individual– let alone a family? How much of a difference $15 would make?

Stopping to say hey to a familiar face, I rolled down my window to speak to Tarik on Ethel Street. “You coming out to ride with us?” Reservation. “Naw I ain’t gonna rob you.” Confusion. “What? I didn’t say anything about robbing me!” “Oh I thought you said ‘You gone rob us?'”

In actuality, I met with some college students days prior who were interested in starting a small business–a lawn care service working with disenfranchised youth age 16-24 to be exact. Their ask of me as an “experienced” non-profit leader was to connect them to real people who could give more insight on what would motivate a young person to want to work in said business.

Always down to connect to current residents in Orange Mound, I agreed to assist. To chauffeur them around. Not really having a plan, I drove the University of Memphis and Southwest college students around looking for real people to talk to. Somehow, we ended up on Ethel Street and I recognized a familiar face I had called out to earlier on a bike ride to “come ride with us next time.”

Epic fail.

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Why would he assume that I would ask “If he was going to rob me.” Though we enjoyed good conversation with the Orange Mound transplant, his inclination to assume the worst really touched me. What lived experiences made it natural for him to jump to this conclusion? Who did he see in me when I rolled down my window to speak to him? Who did I see when I decided to stop? What were the college students thinking throughout the interaction?

People watching is one of my most favorite hobbies. Humans are by far the most interesting creatures roaming the earth. So complex. So simple. So difficult. So willing. A mixed bag full of all things good and all things bad–I love us.

We walked away with more perspective. I was able to use Tarik’s input to write a story for my friend’s blog. The college students were able to strengthen their business plan. What Tarik got out of the interview, I am not sure? An opportunity to vent??

According to Merriam-Webster, reciprocity means “the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide how much good and how much bad came from our experience.

Just another neighborHOOD reflection.

britney thornton
Guest Blogger
Britney Thornton is a native Memphian from Orange Mound.  Licensed social worker, licensed educator, and former law student. Britney has found her passion as a community organizer.  A graduate from Baylor University and the University of Pennsylvania, she enjoys eating good food and traveling to new countries.  Founder of the non-profit JUICE Orange Mound, Britney challenges systems of oppression by thinking of new and creative ways to address old issues.  Innovative, personable, and driven, Britney is determined to redevelop not only the beloved community of Historic Orange Mound but also the great city of Memphis, Tennessee.

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