young professionals

A City Ignited.

A sold-out Ignite Memphis was held Nov. 18 at Bridges in downtown Memphis. The program was comprised of five-minute, swiftly-paced speeches that acquainted the 350-person crowd with topics from eradicating homelessness to the tribulations of owning a food truck.

Ignite Memphis is one installment of a world-wide movement that encourages cities to share inspiring and zany ideas in a format that’s reminiscent of TED Talks on speed. This was the eighth iteration of Memphis’ production that’s presented biannually by Undercurrent, the city’s monthly meet-up for young professionals.

“We always want Ignite to inspire people,” said Dan Price, a co-founder of Undercurrent and a producer of Ignite Memphis. “We work hard to pick talks and speakers from the submissions that are not only diverse and unique, but interesting, culturally relevant, and backed by passion,” Price added.

Wannabe speakers must apply and be selected to present. Presentations tend to highlight acquired hobbies, lessons learned, or experiences that are deeply personal.

“My heart got so much bigger, and I ended up loving people so much more,” said Joseph Miner while presenting ‘Everything You Aren’t Told About Grief.’ His story recounted the roller-coaster of emotions he experienced after his mother’s death. “As a culture, we don’t talk about grief that much, so talk about grief candidly and be open to share,” Miner said.

Because of the casual format, guests easily conversed with the speakers before or after the presentations while dining on hors d’oeuvres, wine, and craft beer. Some cherished the opportunity to connect with others through broad and meaningful dialogue.

“We live in a world that is so driven by connectivity and all things digital, so it was refreshing to do something that was, at least, a slight deviation from the norm,” said Jasmine Boyd, an Ignite guest. “Imagine, people actually talking about ideas instead of hiding behind Instagram posts and Twitter rants,” she said.

While the Ignite format has been replicated elsewhere, the Bluff City adds a distinct dimension, according to Dan Price. “It speaks volumes to the culture of change, creativity, and encouragement in Memphis right now.”

Here was the fall 2014 lineup. Follow Undercurrent or like them to stay afloat of ongoing events and next spring’s Ignite!

It’s your turn to Judge our Judges

I was summoned last August and served jury duty in Shelby County. It was a criminal case that involved aggravated robbery and the process took nearly a week. TV court show myths were debunked, debates were waged in the courtroom (and in the jury chambers), and lots of clarification was provided by our presiding judge: James Beasley, Jr.

The incident that the case recounted happened in 2011, two years prior to the trial. It was evident that hours upon hours of preparation went into the trial on behalf of the prosecution, the defense, and the head jurist.

If there’s one thing that I took away from the experience, it’s the appreciation and faith I have in our local judicial system. In order to have a safe and effective city, citizens are forced to rely on the expertise of elected officials who must adeptly understand the Tennessee Code.

This leads into my “Be Prepared to Vote” public service announcement for Thursday, August 7, 2014. This election will feature Federal and State Primaries and the FINAL Shelby County General Election.

What might surprise you in addition to voting for Shelby County mayor and commissioners will be the 40 judicial races on the ballot. That’s a LOT of lawyers to parse through (81 to be exact). As you may be aware, judges are restricted from campaigning on platforms in Tennessee, so there’s less public information about them.

Since I’m not an attorney, I’ve sought out help from the Memphis Bar Association who has taken the time (and has the expertise) to rate each candidate.

The MBA tasked 1,383 active Shelby County attorneys to rate each candidate’s experience and qualifications. The resulting Judicial Qualification Poll has been immensely helpful to me as a layman.

I read the document and noticed that some candidates received less than a 10% vote of confidence. How ALARMING! I also read that some have little to no trial experience. One is campaigning to be the “Youngest Elected in History.” (Despite being a millennial, this race should be based on wisdom and experience.)

I have no connection to the courts or bar association but as a citizen of Shelby County, I have a vested interest in maintaining the integrity of our local justice system. Further, these judges are elected to 8-year terms. It’s one thing to elect a silly legislator for two years but entrusting someone to oversee dockets of civil/criminal cases for nearly a decade is a decision worth debating.

Please take the time to at least consider and read up on the candidates. I’m more than likely going to go with the convenient “cheat-sheet” provided by the MBA, which I’ll print and take to the voting booth.

Yes, there are always exceptions to lists and ratings – for instance, I’ve heard great recommendations about Danny Kail. Yet for the most part, the comprehensive picks seem sound.

Consider this a friendly and nonpartisan heads up.

You be the judge...of our judges!

You be the judge…of our judges!

Resources:
  • Judge James Beasley, Jr. of the Shelby County Criminal Court published this article in the Memphis Flyer about the importance of selecting experienced judges in the August 2014 Shelby County election.

Join Elle during her Week of Trivia!

Did you grow up dying to fill that Trivial Pursuit pie? Ever stop into a bar unsuspectingly and end up winning a free round because you could recall Prince Mongo’s real name?

Well this week you’re invited to play every weeknight with Elle Perry, our local trivia glutton. Elle has selected five different hot spots known for hosting pub-style trivia around Memphis.

See the schedule below and show up to one or all: May 12 – 16. We’ll be live tweeting our adventures so follow along via #WeekofTrivia. And make sure to check back to memphismaverick.com for Elle’s recap and guest posts.

Elle Perry is taking Memphis trivia by storm THIS week! Up to the challenge? Join the fun!

Elle Perry is taking trivia by storm THIS WEEK! Join her for the challenge.

Take 5: Adam J. Maldonado

Meet an actor turned street poet who’s fascination with people’s stories has secured him a place in the hearts of mothers, scorned lovers, and many others.

Adam the Poet

Adam flawlessly strikes another’s inspiration into his Underwood Champion typewriter.

Stage name: The Poet Adam

Starring roles: Poet Laureate of the People; numerous Mid-South stage productions including Jerre Dye‘s debut of Cicada.

Daily script: Adam takes cues from philosophy, literature, and life as he welcomes each client with, “What’s your story?” He can bee seen around town at events like Tennessee Brewery Untapped,  Broad Ave artsy happenings, and poetry slams. Folks typically approach and hire him on-the-spot for “personalized poetry.”

Behind-the-Scenes: “All the writing done for events is stream of consciousness.” His hands glide across an antique portable typewriter to capture one’s thoughts and feelings onto a crisp page.

Yet, don’t mistake his talent for dictation or caricaturization.  Adam’s empathy guides him toward creating three-minute masterpieces.

How? “The shortest distance between two people is poetry. What separates people is the lack of speaking what is honestly on their heart.” According to Adam, there’s far too much sarcasm and cynicism that hinders relationships. Thus, he bridges sincere communication.

Cool typewriter but what about the web? “For millennials, the power lies within social media. We can have an immediate impact on the culture around us.”

His dream? “For poetry to be pervasive throughout our culture. Turn it into an industry. Something where you can make money, work hard for, and it benefits people.”

e.g., Think personal poet-consultant. Call upon Adam to provide perspective on that difficult life transition or for everyday humor. Only time limits the quantity of muses. So, give him a shout.

(P.S. I purchased my first poem at Overton Square’s Crawfish Festival. My inspiration? Getting lost in crowds. Here’s (part of) poem #981.)

Take 5: Veena Rangaswami

Meet an intercontinental non-profiteer who digs blogging, the Far East, and has a soft spot for Elvis.

Veena Rangaswami

Puzzles never get in Veena’s way, especially when they impede global progress.

Stage name: Veena Rangaswami

Friends call her: V., Veeno, Veener, Vienna (i.e., she’s too friendly)

Starring roles: Program Manager (and expert catch-all) for The Wandering Samaritan, a New York-based nonprofit startup; recent graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service

Daily script: “Connecting international travelers with a sponsored miracle bank – donations fund miracles around the world.”

Really? “Yes, if travelers find a need, then they can help fund it.” Veena mentioned a friend of the founder’s who was passing through Nepal and learned that power outages were preventing children from doing their homework at night. He sent word to Wandering Samaritan who subsequently sponsored a solar panel installation for that family.

Your inspiration? “After college, I worked in India and taught English at a home for working street children in Bangalore for four years. Child laborers, runaways, those begging…anytime you see a child alone, you can call a helpline that sends the police and a social worker who bring them to a transitional home.”

Behind the scenes of blogging: “I like to issue challenges to myself. It started when I was applying to grad school. It was a way to keep my friends everywhere updated on what was happening.” See Veena’s “Wonderful World.”

And the King? “I love going to Graceland. Whenever family would visit from India, they would always want to see Elvis’ house. I bribe people to come to Memphis so I can go; I like to share it with other people.”

Personal best? A conservative estimate of 27 visits.

(Thanks for introducing us, Dylan Perry!)

Mixin’, Minglin’, and Movin’ the Needle

ASPIRE is the new network on the block for young professionals, and it’s warming up more than its own house. It’s fighting poverty, pushing service, and connecting faith-minded millennials across town.

That’s a lot for a Thursday night, but it didn’t deter the 60-plus who attended the kickoff for ASPIRE: Catholic Charities of West Tennessee‘s initiative for young adults. The first meeting was held at Overton Square‘s Local Gastropub and featured Chris Wallace, general manager for the Memphis Grizzlies and board member of CCWTN, as the guest speaker.

Mike Allen, president and CEO of CCWTN, founded ASPIRE for recent college grads and other young people who yearn to connect and serve others. “Feel the energy in here. Some people know each other, but a lot don’t; hopefully, tentacles will spread,” he said.

John Austin Tubbs, a student at Christian Brothers University and ASPIRE steering committee member, said that he got involved “because of the networking and that it’s uniquely based in volunteering.”

Allen personally informed Tubbs and other key influencers about ASPIRE because he considers it “a breeding ground for future board members and volunteers.” While Allen’s goal is to support Catholic Charities, it’s not the only resolution. He’s also focused on the overall potential impact to the city. “If they wind up on another board, then that’s also a win,” Allen said.

The events, which are promoted through Facebook and Twitter, are open to all and involve a service component such as bringing food or clothing items for a pantry or shelter. Social media is how Alison Powers, a design engineer with ThyssenKrupp, learned about the program. “I belong here; these are people that I get energy from,” she said.

After graduating from Stanford, Powers moved to Memphis for her career and has since been involved with her church and anti-poverty issues as a board member for the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. “The sense of community is something unique to Memphis, and I love that,” she added.

Upcoming (and cleverly titled) events include May’s “Cosmos & Claret in a Convent” with Amy Weirich and September’s “Burgers with Bishop Terry” in Bishop Steib‘s backyard.

[The CA also published an article about ASPIRE (which is how I found out).]