How did the development wave not hit my community?
I mean, Orange Mound is the oldest African American community in the City of Memphis, right? Coming home in 2014, I was immediately struck by the disparity between Orange Mound and Cooper Young. One community, completely redeveloped. The other strikingly the same since I last lived in it during high school. One community, full of new life and new spaces and new events. The other–my community–full of abandoned houses and jobless able-bodied people and old stories.
Eventually, I came to a crossroads. Do I move into Cooper Young or do I move back home to Orange Mound? I proudly chose the latter. But, moving back into my two-bedroom home-house at the age of 24 with the other 4 people living at home was not the most comfortable decision. Inviting people over to visit, not happening. The commute was always to go to places and spaces outside of my community. An oh-to-familiar feeling from high school at Harding Academy of Memphis. Being a minority student from grades 5-12 was never completely comfortable as I was always aware of difference.
I grew up poor and unlike many children today, I knew it. I mean, how could I not? I was so different from them. On one hand, I had so little. My mom was never one of the school moms who fed us during lunch or attended the events. My dad was always borrowed for daddy-daughter events. My fee was always covered by nice white people who thankfully were Christian and willing to give a helping hand. I learned to embrace being a token Black girl. And quickly, I began to thrive. Before making the transition into Harding, I took all of the esteem provided by my adult mentors from Hanley and channeled their energy to be excellent. Lord, knows I had my doubts that I could do it alone. This esteemed collection of the best and brightest African American mentors a young child could have changed my life. Phenomenal human beings like Mr. Salahuddin Muhammad who was my afterschool Director and Mrs. Ruby J. Payne who was my Principal and Ms. Geraldine Morris who is my all time favorite teacher instilled life in me. Up until that point, no one in my family had the privilege to go to private school. The stakes were high and I was too obliged to let anyone down. Did I mention that I rocked it?
Britney sits down with justmy
Yep, I became an elitist. I remember the time I stood at the senior class brunch and gave a speech and forgot to thank my own mother. Nothing intentional but very telling of my frame of mind, I quickly overlooked the woman that had sacrificed her everything to ensure that I had the best education she could provide. At the time, all I could think about was how other moms fed me before my extra-curricular activities and I sat at the table of other families for meals and other people supported me during my performances. She was not there. Oh to be young and naive. Of course, the fact that she worked over time to be able to pay the new monthly bill created by my private school education never crossed my mind. For a long time, my mom paid to have a broken relationship with me. I still tear up today thinking about her selflessness and sacrifice. I am determined to try to make the rest of her days the best of her days for this very reason.
In all, I own my truth. I now have an Ivy League degree from the University of Pennsylvania. I am a Licensed Social Worker. I am a Licensed K-8 Educator. I attended Memphis Law. I started a non-profit. Never will you hear me minimize it or be ashamed of it or apologize for it. Every single experience over the past 28 years has made me who I am today–a compassionate, service-minded, fiery advocate who is at the beginning of finding my rightful place of being a leader not only in my community but also in my city. Giving back is the least that I can do, especially considering all that I have been giving.
“a simple mission”
A direct challenge to the ideas that we are not concerned about the quality of our neighborhood or do not have anything to contribute, JUICE Orange Mound uses change to make change.
I have found my passion in JUICE Orange Mound. A beautiful creation that embodies all of who I am and hope to be. The mission is simple: Continue the great legacy of Historic Orange Mound. Our 501c3 organization seeks to prove the possible by empowering residents to not only be more engaged but also give their spare change. A direct challenge to the ideas that we are not concerned about the quality of our neighborhood or do not have anything to contribute, JUICE Orange Mound uses change to make change. Quarterly, we organize door-to-door canvass events where we sent volunteers to the doorsteps of the great people of Orange Mound. And man-oh-man have people been excited and generous in their giving! We are on to something good and I hope to see you join our movement.
Starting from day one, the ritual of leaving my neighborhood to go to a “Good school” was difficult.
After high school, I went off to Baylor University. It was there that I switched my major to Social Work and soon thereafter learned that one of the former mayors of Waco, TX also was a social worker. That’s all I needed to hear to set my aim high. As you hear the announcement of my intent to run for City Council in District 4, just know that my pursuit has begun. Again, I channel the spirit of my teachers who taught me early on that “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I accept my calling and am eager to run my race. Together, let’s straighten it out.
making a difference
“if it is to be, it is up to me”
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Sadly, Rush suffered a stroke in 2004 and has been unable to perform since, but was honored in 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel during the Chicago Blues Festival where June 12th was declared Otis Rush Day in Chicago.
Meet Rebekah Hedges. She is an educator, writer, photographer and former crime and events reporter. Welcome to the New Girl with JustMyMemphis.