Building off of the big success of last December’s Memphis Power Summit, we teamed up with The Equity Alliance and Memphis for All to kick off the Memphis Power Fellowship last month! For the past month, the Power Fellows have been deepening their understanding of the organizing and political landscape in Memphis and Shelby County by attending community events and trainings, including City Council’s Day at the Hall at the end of April. Through events like this, they’re learning who some of the key decision makers are and how community events operate, so they have a strong foundation for being effective change makers and amplifying community voice in passing policies that will make the future brighter for us all.

Over the next several months, the Power Fellows will learn about the interconnection of communication and organizing, and they’ll sharpen their skills in public communications, media relations, canvassing, mobilizing community members, and policy advocacy. They’re currently learning about crowd canvassing and how to write a script that engages people and keeps the conversation going about issues that impact our day-to-day lives. They’ll practice those skills at crowd and door-to-door canvasses during their time with us to get out the vote for our local elections, advocate for a moral budget, and other justice actions that arise throughout the year.

Keep an eye out for the Power Fellows, and stay tuned for more updates!

Many milestones of my life come in 5s and 10s, and besides turning 50 on Saturday, this year marks:

  • 25 years back in Memphis
  • 20 years in Memphis politics 
  • 10 years at Stand for Children – Tennessee

Throughout these years, my greatest privilege has been working alongside countless brilliant adults and youth to build real, lasting community power that will bring the changes we need for a brighter Memphis where all of us – especially Black youth, families, and communities – have the chance to thrive and live our best lives. I’m extremely proud of the impact and work that we’ve built together at Stand for Children TN over the last 10 years.This year, I’m hoping you can help me mark these milestones in a big way! Please help me celebrate with a special donation of $50 (or any multiple of 10 or 50) for my 50th birthday and 10th year at Stand. With your continued support, we can keep building true power and liberate ALL Memphians from the status quo that has kept us down for too long.

This picture of me and my parents reminds me of how I learned early on that sitting out is never an option: my mom and dad lived and breathed activism and community engagement. 

After the assassination of Dr. King, my dad (later differentiated as Big Cardell) helped organize a weekly student walkout protest (Black Mondays) that ended up leading to the first Black Memphis School Board Members. With Momentum Memphis, the Moral Budget Coalition, and the Justice & Safety Alliance, we’re continuing the fight for education equity by dismantling the lingering effects of segregation through fully funded public schools, ensuring our students learn comprehensive and truthful history, and breaking the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Many of you may know (or have seen around) my mom, Susanne, a true force for social justice. As a kid, she “dragged” me and my sisters to school board meetings, marches, and protests all around Memphis to fight for justice, equity, and building parental power to make sure all students received a high-quality education. She not only instilled in me the importance of ensuring everyone has access to education and opportunity, but also the importance of community strength. Early in my Memphis political career, you might have even seen me and my mom on opposite sides of campaigns, as I charted my own path to change based on the values and independence she taught me. I’m proud to continue building power through our coalitions and supporting values-aligned candidates from our endorsement process (where you can usually find Susanne sitting on the endorsement committee).

My parents taught me that change doesn’t happen alone, and it doesn’t happen in silos. Since coming back to Memphis 25 years ago, my most meaningful work has been building power in coalition with changemakers across the city. As I shift into the old guy in the room, I also look forward to supporting great new leaders rising up in our community. Even though we still have a ways to go before reaching those changes that will really move Memphis forward, I know we can get there together.  

To celebrate my 50th birthday, 10 year Standversary, and the legacy we all carry forward towards justice, please consider donating $50, $10, $100, $250 (or any multiple of 10 or 50) to Stand for Children Tennessee. Together, we’ll be the power we need to create a flourishing Memphis and beyond, now and for future generations!

Many thanks to all those who have walked this path with me, supported me, challenged me, fought with me, and helped me learn and grow!

We were able to accomplish a great deal in 2023, working in Memphis, Shelby County and at the state level. Increasingly, we have focused on building coalitions and partnerships to increase our impact and effectiveness. We can’t thank enough the wonderful organizations and people who we are privileged to work alongside in this fight for justice. We wanted to take a minute to reflect on these collective wins and share them with you for a dose of inspiration as we close out the year. 

Advancing Justice and Safety

  • The Justice & Safety Alliance (JSA) hosted a well-attended community healing event following the police killing of Tyre Nichols, bringing community members together to take a breath and connect in our shared determination to prevent future instances of police brutality.
  • When MPD’s “draft” presentation of their plan to potentially harass and violate the rights of young people downtown (Juvenile Crime Abatement Program) was leaked, Stand worked with JSA to lead the public outcry and ensure the public understood the implications of this proposed program and pushed against it. 
  • Following the lead of Official Black Lives Matter Memphis and Decarcerate Memphis, JSA helped support the tireless activism and advocacy that pushed the City Council to pass critical policing reforms. This support included hosting an online action–through our collective efforts we galvanized nearly 1000 Memphians to email City Council in support of the ordinances. 
  • During August’s Special Legislative Session, we worked with organizations statewide on youth justice issues, including the work to eliminate youth fines and fees. Together, we developed a bill tracker, sent out regular communications to keep the public informed, and recruited diverse local and statewide organizations to sign on to our open letter opposing a dangerous blended sentencing bill (HB 7073). 
  • We supported advocacy led by justice-impacted and adjacent youth with the Youth Justice Action Council (YJAC). They took their 2nd tour of the new county detention center, engaged in the city elections by releasing the YJAC City Level Demands and participating in candidate forums, partnered with Power Poll Memphis to create the “We’re Sick of It! – Changing the Narrative Around Youth Violence in Memphis” interactive event, and conducted research working alongside U of M Public Health Professor Dr. Jennifer Turchi. Check out their podcast: “That’s Not How We Do It Here,” wherever you get your podcasts!
  • After historic wins in 2022 with new District Attorney and Juvenile Court Judge, our efforts turned towards seeing those elections produce results for increasing justice and safety by supporting the new administrations of DA Steve Mulroy and Judge Tarik Sugarmon. We have worked closely with those offices, attending DA Mulroy’s Public Safety Summit and supporting several other efforts. 
  • We partnered with Innovate Memphis in receiving a grant to develop a justice data dashboard. We held sessions with community members to learn what data people were most interested in, how they would want to see the data, and what they might do in their communities with more accessible data.

Strengthening Democracy 

  • Our advocacy led to the most transparent redistricting process for the Memphis City Council in decades. Following up on the successful coalition advocacy in 2022 calling for a public redistricting committee in 2022, we continued to advocate in the redistricting process as several council members and the Council attorney continued to work against transparency and fair representation. We worked with partners to submit community-created redistricting maps, mobilized support, and pushed the council to have public review of districts that would shape the city for the next 10 years. 
  • After the all-time low turnouts in the city elections, we mobilized Memphians to urge City Council to return the power to the people in shaping future elections. Our advocacy and your emails to Council led to the passage of a critical ballot question that will ask voters whether to reinstate runoff elections for the Mayor’s race, a significant step towards making future elections easier to navigate.

Investing in People and Communities

  • Based on our efforts with the Moral Budget Coalition’s 2022 Community-Centered Budgeting Process and multi-year push for greater community involvement in the budgeting process, Shelby County Government developed its own interactive tool for the public to send input on the budget directly to the Mayor’s Office and Commission. This was a big win for public involvement, and we’re ready to mobilize to advocate for a Moral Budget in 2024 and beyond!

Electoral Successes and Advocacy: 

  • After his unjust expulsion from the Tennessee State House, our stellar endorsement committee swiftly reconvened to endorse Representative Justin J. Pearson in the special election, which he won decisively. 
  • Working closely with Rep. Pearson and his team, we launched an independent campaign in the Memphis Mayor’s race—our work and investments avoided worst-case scenarios and prevented Sheriff Floyd Bonner from becoming mayor. We look forward to working with Mayor-Elect Paul Young as he takes office in January!
  • With the People for Fairness and Justice, we celebrated victories in 8 out of 13 City Council districts, including three significant runoffs that led to the first majority female Memphis City Council! We’re excited to keep strengthening this coalition for future elections. 

Supporting our Students in their Education Success

  • We partnered with EdTrust to develop and advocate for state legislation that requires the TN Dept of Education to report on 9th grade on-track metrics and their use in other states. Ninth grade is a critical year in a student’s education–students who are on-track by the end of their freshman year are up to four times more likely to graduate than off-track peers. Center for High School Success Director Lori Oduyoye gave an excellent testimony in support of HB 1295, which passed into law and was one of the winners of EdTrust TN’s Ten for Tennessee award!
  • With Momentum Memphis, we hosted town halls to raise awareness of the Third Grade Retention law that was implemented this year and supported statewide efforts to push back on the law. 
  • We continued to work with early literacy efforts including engagement in the development of MSCS’s Community Partnership Plan, serving on the MSCS Strategic Partners for Literacy, and continued support for the Early Literacy Consortium to  strategize ways that the overall community can be involved and support literacy development across the city.  

Developing Leaders of the Future

  • Our 2023 cohort of fellows spent the year honing their skills and boosting their confidence as community organizers. They had opportunities to engage with our collaborative efforts with coalition partners, actively engage in the field through impactful deep-canvassing initiatives, and participate in City Council and School Board meetings around justice and safety issues. 
  • We capped the year off with The Memphis Power Summit, which was more than an event–it was a catalyst for inspiration and change, reminding us of how powerful we are when we come together.

These wins did not happen in a vacuum and aren’t just successes of Stand TN. Most of the work we do is in coalition and partnership with organizations and people across the city, county, state, and country, because we know that we cannot create lasting systemic change alone. The fight for a more just world where we all have what we need to thrive is ongoing, and in 2023, we were proud to work with and support Memphis organizers and advocates who put in countless hours of work to take steps forward. We owe so much to today’s organizers, and to those on whose shoulders we stand.

I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together in 2024!

Since November 2022, Stand for Children and Decarcerate Fellows have been meeting weekly to deepen their deepen their skills and confidence as community organizers, plug into work we and our coalition partners are engaged with in the field, assist in deep-canvasing, attend City Council and School Board Meetings, and other community events.

After the last workshop, our fellows will never look at a blanket the same way again. This week our fellows worked together to accomplish a seemingly impossible task: flipping a blanket over while they’re standing on it. They worked together, strategized, and eventually implemented tactics to reached their goals. The real revelation came during our debrief when fellows shared stories about times they experienced challenges collaborating with others to reach a common goal. The exercise served as a jumping off point to discuss the challenges and solutions that often go hand and hand with working collectively to solve a problem and reach a shared goal.

Stay tuned for more updates from this next crew of community leaders!

Want to attend a Stand Tennessee event but don’t know how to find us? Follow these directions below:

Park in the Crosstown Concourse garage or the parking lot next to it. Please refrain from parking in the 2-hour and food drop off parking spaces as those spaces are reserved and monitored by security. 

Next, walk towards the entrance labeled “West.”

Once you’ve entered the building, you will be standing in the West Atrium. Next, walk straight towards the elevators. They are located at the end of the West Atrium entrance. (Note: You will pass the Christ Community Health Entrance on your way towards the elevators).

Once in the elevator, press the button for the 4th floor. When the elevator opens, you will see this sign pictured below:

At this sign, you will make a right and walk straight down the hallway, where you will see this sign:

Make a quick left and you will be outside of our office doors. Hit the buzzer located under the smaller Memphis Education Fund sign to the right. The receptionist will let you in and will notify us of your arrival.  

My name is Dominique Garrett and I am the new Memphis Communications and Community Engagement Manager with Stand for Children Tennessee. You may have received emails from me inviting you to attend community events across the city or alerting you to take action to make equity in education a reality in Shelby County Schools. For those of you I haven’t yet met, I wanted to take a chance to introduce myself.

I was born and raised in Memphis to two parents who started me off early on my educational journey. When I was very young, my parents subscribed me to National Geographic Magazine, which was the best gift ever at that time. Just seeing my name on a piece of mail in the early ages of my childhood used to light up my day! As I grew older, science became my favorite subject, and I participated in every science fair I could. I went on to graduate from Wooddale High School and later from the University of Memphis with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I’m currently working on pursuing a master’s degree in Project Management … so wish me luck!!!

While my educational experience was enriching and fulfilling, that’s not what I witnessed every day within my community. While it was – and still is – a norm for my family members to be high school and college graduates, this is not the norm for many youths in my city. I soon realized that everyone did not have the same educational opportunities I had, so I started to work with non-profits that focused on educational advancement for Memphis students.

I chose to join Stand for Children because of the valuable impact we are making for the youth of Shelby County Schools and because of wonderful supporters like you! Without your dedication and advocacy, I would not be able to shine a light on the educational equity injustices our community is experiencing every day. It is because of your stories that we were able to influence Shelby County Commissioners to Fund Students First by providing funding towards pre-K, facility improvement, and transportation.

Now that you’ve learned more about me and my role at Stand, I hope you’ll connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And if you know of any community engagement events that we should be apart of, please email me directly at [email protected].

An activist in her own right, Frances McNeil has spent decades advocating for her children – and all children – to have access to the best education and opportunities available.

“I’ve always been passionate about children, I guess because I had a home daycare. I raised my children at home… kids came to us. I’ve always had kids in my life so I’ve always felt passionate about children and wanted them do well.”

– Frances McNeil

Frances is a mother of two, resident of the Frayser community, and relentless advocate for children, education and families in her community.

Frances first joined Stand almost two years ago at a funding rally downtown where we called on the City of Memphis to invest in public education. Two years later, she remains an active participant in our education advocacy and seeks to gain an understanding of changes that she can share with children, parents and families that she knows.

“I stay in Stand for Children because I really want the people with special education (needs) to be just like the rest of the students and receive a good education.”

– Frances McNeil

Frances connects her passion for advocacy back to her own experiences as a mother after years of challenging the status quo for special education students. If one principal had not reached out to her asking for her trust in him, and to provide her son with the education and resources he deserved, her faith in public education for students with special needs would have dwindled. This principal not only restored Frances’ faith in her son’s education opportunities, but his faith as a student once he was given more elective classes and opportunities to express himself.

As a member of the Stand family and Momentum Memphis Graduation Success Task Force, Frances is a key member of our team and driving force of our work. We are proud of Frances and her commitment to supporting youth and encourage all who can join us in fighting for educational equity.

As we prepare to close out 2018 and look back on our work during this year, we find much to celebrate. Our network of passionate staff, dedicated volunteers, engaged parents, and steadfast community leaders has had some significant achievements this year. Here are just a few:

  • More than 4,300 people signed our Momentum Memphis pledge to promote youth opportunity and success.
  • We partnered with Cami Anderson and the Discipline Revolution Project to launch the Memphis/Shelby County Discipline Reform Alignment Initiative, an alignment of efforts to implement and support discipline reform, restorative practices, and preventive measures in Shelby County Schools and the greater community. 
  • Our co-hosted Fund Students First press conference and rally in June drew a strong showing of community support that helped result in the Shelby County Commission’s approval of $12.7 million in additional funding for Shelby County Schools.
  • The Memphis Educational Equity Learning Series has reached more than 300 community members with featured discussions on everything from school discipline reform to charter schools.
  • All ten of our endorsed candidates in the August 2 Shelby County general election won their respective races.
  • We expanded the Memphis Freshman Success Network to 13 local public traditional and charter schools, and have hosted two network meetings with nearly 60 educators since September.
  • Our Momentum Memphis Task Force members have been doing phenomenal work: meeting monthly to coordinate activities, attending school board meetings, contacting elected officials, organizing rallies, and generally pressing forward with the steady, hard work of improving the education environment on behalf of youth in Memphis and Shelby County. 

Our work is far from over; our staff and Task Forces have already charted the course for 2019. We will jump-start the new year with a discussion about trauma and the criminal justice system with the ACE Awareness Foundation and Michelle Kinder, Executive Director of Momentous Institute, on January 8. 

Join us in the new year and help make 2019 a banner year of change for our children.

Momentum 500 Hopes to Drive Student Success

Based on ACT scores, the state of Tennessee considers just 7 percent of graduating Shelby County Schools students ready for college. Additionally, the Memphis child poverty rate is 43% and the city also has the highest rate of opportunity youth (children ages 16-24 who are not in school or working) in the country.

To truly improve our education system, achievement rates and outcomes for students, parents must have a seat at the table and be involved in the ongoing movement to help more children succeed in school and beyond.

Stand for Children member and Team Captain, Bernice Martin, recognizes the importance of supporting student success and works alongside other parents to maximize individual and collective impact for the benefit of students in Memphis schools.

A retired grandmother of five, Mrs. Martin joined Stand for Children in September 2015 and became a leader within the organization earlier this year. She volunteers her time as a team captain, training others parents on how to amplify their voices for greater influence and rallying them to advocate for effective solutions to address education challenges that many students in Memphis currently face.  She also runs a girls ministry at her church and serves as a mentor for young women.

Mrs. Martin recently shared reflections on why she joined Stand and her experiences over the past two years.

                      Mrs. Martin with her grandchildren


My best friend ran for School Board so I was already somewhat involved in education prior to joining Stand, but I became more involved because I noticed a lot of changes occurring within our school system. I’m passionate about children and their future, and I liked Stand’s mission to advocate for all and not just some. Making sure my grandchildren get a high quality education is one of my top priorities. I advocate not only for them, but for all children being affected by education changes taking place.

With my management background, I also felt like I had a unique set of skills to offer to that cause. So many parents don’t have the skills and training to effectively advocate. And often they don’t have time to follow what’s happening in our legislature- they are busy enough with work and trying to get their kids to school on time every day.

So with Stand, it is like parents now have an information hub to stay on top of what’s happening in the schools and in the political arena that may impact their children, and a place where they can learn how to get involved.


We are building an army to fight for our students and we need more people to volunteer and who are willing to get in the ring with us. Stand offers classes to teach parents how to advocate – how to make a difference – and also gives opportunities for parents to learn soft skills to speak on behalf of their child.

When I joined I honestly was hesitant because after retiring, I didn’t want it to feel like a job. But I learned that advocating is sometimes just about showing up to a meeting or event – even if you aren’t the one speaking on behalf of children – or it could be just your presence gives other parents and children the encouragement they need to know someone is in their corner.    


Now is the time. There is a lot happening. A lot of changes are being made (to school systems, education policy, standards) and we don’t know what the outcomes will be or what else may come down the pipeline. So we need to be ready. We need to have our voices heard and considered in decision-making that affects students and schools. We are voters. The right people aren’t always in right positions to do what’s best and with Momentum 500, we can have an army in position to influence them and hold them accountable; or be ready to move them and vote them out if needed.


What is holding you back? In Stand, there are opportunities for all to advocate and we meet you where you are. Get in where you fit in because we are on a quest to make change!

Everyone may not want to speak out or be a team captain, or meet with legislators, but education advocacy starts with you just making a commitment to support children and their best interests.


Momentum 500 is an initiative led by Stand for Children to form a coalition of parents in Tennessee who share a common goal to improve education quality and outcomes.  The Momentum 500 Coalition works alongside parents, school leaders and legislators to enhance academic achievement, school performance, and influence education policy decisions that affect students in Tennessee. 

As Memphis Operations Coordinator and Digital Strategist, Amariah works to improve the education system and schools in Tennessee.

In February, we highlight the contributions that African Americans have made to develop and advance our country and society. Each year during black history month, individuals are remembered and celebrated for their achievements; breaking barriers; and overcoming numerous obstacles. Despite advancements made, African Americans still confront inequities and face discrimination in employment, education, and other areas that affect quality of life. Perhaps the most important area to address to move forward is education – as the children of today prepare to become our leaders for tomorrow.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela

To ensure a fairer and equitable model of education for black and brown students in America, we must all answer the call to intentionally dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline that damages, disables and devastates our nation’s youth. This transformative work is essential to our ultimate freedom and liberation.

Often, the first form of discrimination or state violence black and brown youth suffer is inequitable education and spatial segregation. [State Violence can be described as the policies and practices of repression and control used against marginalized groups by government or legal institutions. The damaging and debilitating effects of state violence can be seen in the courts, workplaces and/or schools.]

Black children and families have been violently indoctrinated into a system in America where learning means learning to stay in your place, devoid of question or complaint. In 1961, a group of courageous youth known as the Memphis 13 challenged this notion by becoming the first to integrate all white schools in Memphis, where historically learning environments and instructional resources are superior. While the precedent for students transitioning from schools that were under resourced and deemed unconstitutional was set in the 1960s, today, inequities in predominantly white and predominantly black schools and resulting achievement rates are still prevalent and striking cause for concern and action.Across America, urban schools are occupied with school resource officers and educators who sometimes confuse typical, adolescent misbehavior with criminality. Zero tolerance policies that lead to disproportionate & automatic suspensions as well as aerosol weapons such as Freeze + P and pepper spray invade hallways and classrooms.

The school-to-prison pipeline results in suspensions of black youth at three times the rate of their white peers, long hours in court opposed to the classroom, and a greater possibility of having a lifelong involvement with the criminal justice system. Throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the fear of the adolescent “superpredator” spurred law makers and school districts to adopt the “zero tolerance” rhetoric into their discipline structures, policies and procedures. By the year 2000, schools were suspending more than 3 million students per year.

In order to begin to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, we must demand discipline models, policies and practices that help, not hurt students, especially our most vulnerable.

Our children’s black and brown lives will not truly matter until our halls are free of aerosol weapons, order- maintenance policing in schools is dissolved, equitable funding reaches the classrooms and zero tolerance policies are no more.

This is the type of work that Stand for Children is engaged in year-round. Showing up, speaking out and advocating to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to college or career training.

We stand in solidarity with our ancestors who learned to read and write while facing death, mutilation, and forced permanent separation from family.

We stand in solidarity with politicians of African descent who led the fight for universalized public education during the era of Reconstruction.We stand in solidarity with Septima Clark and others who developed Citizenship Schools.

We stand in solidarity with SNCC who birthed Freedom Schools during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. In the spirit of educator, activist and youth organizer, Ella Baker:

“In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed… It means facing a system that does not lend its self to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

Access to a quality school is not equivalent to access to a quality or equitable education.  Despite the fact quality schools are essential, they are only a fraction of the equation not the entire equation. We must and can do more to level the playing field and change the odds for current students and future generations – especially for those students who look like me.