River City Rising Blog

Author and mother, CJ Kirkland, writes of her observations of people, events and experiences that have had an impact on her life in and around Memphis. Born in New York, raised in the Bahamas, and now a Memphian by choice, she truly has a multi-cultural perspective.

  • A Visit to Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

    • Monday, February 24, 2020
    I am embarrassed that Memphis has been a part of my life for so long, yet there is still so much I have to learn about her. I am embarrassed that half a mile from my neighborhood stands a home I had never before visited but is such an important part of the city’s history- of American history. When I Read More »
  • River City Rising: What a Difference a Day Makes

    • Friday, November 15, 2019
    As we enter the season of thanksgiving, I say thank you for the gift of time; for the blessing of every 24-hour block I’m given. I say thank you for my friends and family’s lives that were spared during one of the most destructive 24 hours my hometown has seen to date. Read More »
  • River City Rising: In Memphis, Santa Drives a Truck

    • Wednesday, December 12, 2018
    We were supposed to be reading but instead spent our precious few minutes together counting- because that’s what four-year-old preschooler Chase wanted to do. Initially I tried to steer him back to our “assignment” of enunciating each word in Ten Little Ladybugs, however, he was much more interested Read More »
  • Advocacy Through Film: A Caregiver's Calling

    • Wednesday, November 14, 2018
    Life didn’t go as Lofton planned but I believe the greater plan all along really was to prepare her for such a time as this, a time when some of our most vulnerable, most fragile, most misunderstood yet most beloved and most important pillars of our lives will have their stories told by one who unde Read More »
  • Thank You

    • Thursday, October 11, 2018
    Four years ago this month the River City Rising blog went live: a once-abstract idea of wanting to somehow make a difference with my writing had now become a concrete platform thanks to the open heart and mind of someone who was willing to give me a chance, even though neither one of us knew exactly Read More »
  • Striking Out Cancer In September

    • Friday, September 07, 2018
    September is a big month for cancer awareness: it is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Awareness month, Leukemia Awareness month, and Prostate Cancer Awareness month to name a few (for the full list please visit www.choosehope.com) The month also begins with a big day Read More »
  • Finding Memphis's Beauty Mark

    • Thursday, August 30, 2018
    It was a big statement coming from a little guy who, since birth, has traveled all over the world. Yet it was here, in Memphis, where he found his paradise- known by its proper name of Shelby Farms Park. While we swung back and forth on a big swing overlooking the lake, I thought about the many name Read More »
  • Wherever I go, there you are.

    • Wednesday, August 22, 2018
    Self-help and spiritual experts warn us to not dwell in the past but I also adhere to the wise words of my favorite musician... Read More »
  • Fashionable Philanthropy

    • Friday, July 13, 2018
    What we wear, especially in today’s world of fast fashion with its whopping 52 “micro-seasons” per year, speaks about who we are as a person and can influence those around us, whether that is our intention or not. Read More »
  • Six States of BBQ Life

    • Friday, June 22, 2018
    There are also many life lessons to be found in the exploration of food experiences, as I recently learned when my family and I duplicated a road tour I initially read about in the July 13, 2014 edition of The Commercial Appeal. Read More »
  • U of M: Education in Honor

    • Monday, May 28, 2018
    "I’ve often been asked how I “do it” with a husband who is away from home so much for work; how do I manage everyday life as a working mother to a young son, with virtually no family members living in our vicinity who could lend a hand if need be." Read More »
  • Mama Gaia: Tackling "to-do" Together

    • Tuesday, May 15, 2018
    Mama Gaia offers a completely organic, vegetarian menu. Though not always easy, it is their aforementioned passion that “keeps them going” so that they can offer the same opportunities of healthier eating- at affordable prices- to fellow Memphians. Read More »
  • They're Back!

    • Monday, May 07, 2018
    Some of my fondest memories as a new Memphian and a new mom were made aboard a Memphis trolley. Read More »
  • Martyrs Park

    • Wednesday, April 25, 2018
    For the first time in seven years of living here (most of the time!) I visited Martyrs Park, an accidental discovery during my self-guided downtown tour. It is a beautiful park on the Mississippi River and is dedicated to those who lost their lives while helping Memphians affected by the yellow feve Read More »
  • East Buntyn Art Walk

    • Friday, April 13, 2018
    The East Buntyn Art Walk will take place on April 21, 2018. For more information, please visit www.eastbuntynartwalk.com Read More »
  • Reflections on MLK50

    • Thursday, April 05, 2018
    I purposely did not write about MLK50 yesterday because I believe there were, and are, voices more powerful and more relevant than mine. While I proudly embrace Memphis as home it does not escape me that I am a transplant. I have not lived through the racial, educational, and socioeconomic struggles Read More »
  • Memphis Theological Seminary: Ministry Without Walls

    • Wednesday, March 28, 2018
    As I am writing this blog post our Jewish brothers and sisters are preparing for the start of Passover (Friday, March 30), our Christian brothers and sisters are preparing for Easter and its accompanying holy days (beginning with Holy Thursday on March 29) and Memphis Theological Seminary is prepari Read More »
  • Memphis Inner City Rugby: New Friday Night Lights

    • Friday, March 16, 2018
    Friday Night Lights will take on an entirely different meaning this Friday in Memphis. Spotlights will shine brightly not onto young men running about football fields but onto a group of young women who have run about open fields playing rugby. Read More »
  • Potbelly's Giving and Grace

    • Thursday, March 08, 2018
    Potbelly Sandwich Shop is now open at 5400 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, Mississippi. Read More »
  • Need for Hollywood Feed

    • Wednesday, February 28, 2018
    Gifts come in many different forms and sizes. Some are large, concrete, and require advance discussion of logistics, such as the delivery of thousands of pounds of dog food. Others are small, abstract, and spur-of-the-moment, such as an authentic uttering of “I’m so sorry” to someone whose silence Read More »
  • Stories That Write History

    • Friday, February 23, 2018
    Jason Farmer is a Memphian who has been quietly going about creating change within our community and, much like Colvin, doing so without much fanfare. Read More »
  • When a Servant Leader Leaves

    • Tuesday, February 06, 2018
    When basketball player and community champion Zach Randolph returned to Memphis on January 19, 2018, now as part of the Sacramento Kings, the fans at FedEx Forum that night made it clear to him that his heart both on and off the court had left such deep impressions on our city that no matter who he Read More »
  • Central Library: Preserving the Core of our Community

    • Monday, January 29, 2018
    If you haven’t been to our city’s central library yet, please consider visiting soon. Through all of its various resources, perhaps you will see, think about and question our world in ways you haven’t before. Read More »
  • Awaking to Change

    • Monday, January 15, 2018
    But here in Memphis, where Dr. King’s final call to a Promised Land still echoes, I am reverently awake. Read More »
  • Giving the Gift of Time

    • Wednesday, January 03, 2018
    Funded entirely by his company HRO Partners, Baker has infused his own personal philosophy of giving into the creation of this network which seeks to empower at least 10,000 local participants to pay it forward with their resource of time. It is a resource he has so willingly shared over the years b Read More »
  • Giving the Gift of Presence

    • Wednesday, December 20, 2017
    Thank you, Coach Daniel, for sharing your gifts with all of us and for being such an influential presence in so many of our children’s lives and, consequentially, ours. Read More »
  • Giving the Gift of Books From Birth

    • Monday, December 11, 2017
    When two separate but equally purposeful entities join together a magical and long-lasting relationship ensues. Read More »
  • Giving Thanks: the Rotary Family and Youth Initiative (FYI)

    • Tuesday, November 21, 2017
    This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the work the leaders of Rotary organizations are doing in our communities; I am thankful for their examples of compassion and unwavering faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. I am thankful for their persistence in making a difference. Read More »
  • Indie Memphis Film Fest: It's a (record-breaking) Wrap

    • Tuesday, November 14, 2017
    The Indie Memphis Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and River City Rising is covering the event with a three part series themed "Giving When the Living Gets Tough”. Read More »
  • Good Grief Documentary

    • Monday, November 06, 2017
    The Indie Memphis Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and River City Rising is covering the event with a three part series themed "Giving When the Living Gets Tough”. Here, in part two, we discuss the documentary film Good Grief by directors Melissa Sweazy and Laura Jean Hock Read More »
  • Indie Memphis Film Fest - Lawrence Matthews

    • Thursday, November 02, 2017
    The Indie Memphis Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In the first of a three-part series covering the event, themed "Giving When the Living Gets Tough", we feature local artist Lawrence Matthews who has three projects showing at this year's festival. Read More »
  • NAWBO: Entrepreneurial Success and Sisterhood

    • Friday, October 27, 2017
    Before we became wives and mothers, girlfriends and godmothers, we were women with the capacity to dream big. And though at times these dreams were deferred because of the responsibilities which accompanied our various titles, they never disappeared and instead rested within us... Read More »
  • Remembering Mr. Bob

    • Friday, October 20, 2017
    When I drove past him that busy morning, rushing to get to my destination, he smiled and waved at me. I looked around, figuring he’d mistaken me for someone else, and kept driving without returning the gesture. About a week later I again drove that route on Southern Avenue, past the University of Me Read More »
  • Best Memphis Burger Fest 2017

    • Thursday, October 12, 2017
    The threat of thunderstorms which loomed all day didn’t keep away the thousands of burger enthusiasts and aficionados who came to Tiger Lane to test their talents and taste buds. Read More »
  • A No Mo Chemo Celebration

    • Friday, September 29, 2017
    This month is ending but our fight to end childhood cancer never will. Read More »
  • The Hero We Need

    • Wednesday, September 20, 2017
    “We have core values. We use teamwork. We show grace and we teach each other.”- James Lancaster Read More »
  • Indie Youth Film Fest 2017

    • Monday, September 11, 2017
    Indie Memphis held its second annual Youth Film Fest this past weekend at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts and Education, naturally. Read More »
  • Silence is Golden

    • Monday, September 04, 2017
    Today, Labor Day, many of us are celebrating a rare day off and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, enjoying the fruits of our own labor. Yet let’s also take a moment to celebrate those who silently, and often anonymously, work to keep the fruit accessible and whose names we may no Read More »
  • Richard Overton Memphis Ties

    • Tuesday, August 29, 2017
    Six degrees of separation is what they say connects us all but I believe it’s closer to three degrees, really. And I also believe, reflective of this three degrees, a bonus benefit in us striving to consciously be kind to everyone who crosses our path is that we sometimes have no idea who exactly we Read More »
  • Crosstown Concourse; What's in a Name?

    • Monday, August 21, 2017
    There is incomparable strength in a name that has survived near defeat, only to rise up and become more powerful than it ever was. Read More »
  • They Came, They Went, They Left an Imprint

    • Friday, August 11, 2017
    This year the Memphis Film Prize had over 700 attendees who contributed in some way to the fruition of dreams and goals for all of the film festival’s participants. Read More »
  • Memphis Film Prize 2017 This Weekend

    • Thursday, August 03, 2017
    “The first truth you have to understand about creative endeavors: the spark comes to life at the expense of the grind.” Read More »
  • Family and Philanthropy

    • Friday, July 21, 2017
    Reentering the workforce after having my son had its challenges, primarily because of the limitations on how many hours I could work and how much time I could- or could not- physically be at my place of employment. Read More »
  • William Hawkins - Memphis Model in New York

    • Friday, July 14, 2017
    He is a successful model whose face and body has graced countless magazine pages; he has walked the high fashion runway more times than many of his industry peers. I’d planned to sit down with him while here in New York but current projects have him overseas (as is to be expected!) Read More »
  • Elvis Flies Icelandair

    • Thursday, July 06, 2017
    On my way to Iceland last week I saw a reference made in a brochure aboard that country’s national airline, Icelandair, which made me first smile then contemplate: contemplate about the impact our words and the legacies we form from those words have, beyond the borders of our own lives. Read More »
  • Memphis Hearts Bloom in Holland

    • Thursday, June 29, 2017
    During my recent trip to The Netherlands I connected with Memphian Marisa Wittmann who is currently residing in this small, character-rich country that is bordered by Germany, Belgium and the North Sea. Read More »
  • Talk of Memphis in Paris

    • Monday, June 19, 2017
    On a recent trip to Paris, CJ Kirkland discovers a fellow American who traveled to Memphis years prior and strikes up a conversation which aptly turns into a Memphis love fest. Read More »
  • Outage Leads to Lines of Hope

    • Monday, June 12, 2017
    During the recent storm-related power outage in Memphis (the area’s third worst in history) more than 188,000 of us lost power. Read More »
  • Bodine Reflection of Growth

    • Tuesday, June 06, 2017
    So as we parents enjoy our summer days and reflect on what this past year meant for our children and students, we can take comfort in knowing there are teachers such as Sara Hill, administrators such as John Murphy and educational environments such as the Bodine School providing our children the tim Read More »
  • BBQ Fest and Friendship 2017

    • Friday, May 19, 2017
    After the tents have been taken down we will go our separate ways, knowing that we have our nostalgia to carry us until next year’s contest where we will once again convene on the river to make memories that don’t have to be romanticized. Read More »
  • Knowledge Quest Farm and Culinary Academy

    • Friday, May 12, 2017
    Located in South Memphis, Knowledge Quest offers after-school programs to over 450 children in grades Pre-K through 12. Read More »
  • Team Tennessee Service Day

    • Monday, May 08, 2017
    During the recent Team Tennessee Service Day held here in Memphis, thanks to a collaborative effort between Volunteer Memphis and Volunteer Tennessee, it was clear to me that the sources of joy at each recipient site were not the gifts but the givers. Read More »
  • Memphis Athletic Ministries and The Memphis Suit Project

    • Friday, April 28, 2017
    A friend recently shared that her least favorite line of work had been retail. When asked why, she said partly because it was challenging to work with customers who became frustrated when clothing they tried on did not fit them well. They’d walk into the dressing rooms happy but leave feeling angry, Read More »
  • Socktober and Samaritan's Feet

    • Friday, April 14, 2017
    Passover began for those who are part of our Jewish community, the state’s largest, as did commemoration of the days leading up to Easter observance, beginning with Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday as it is sometimes called). Read More »
  • Memphis Shelby PAL | River City Rising

    • Friday, April 07, 2017
    The recently launched Memphis and Shelby County PAL (Police Activities League) is expected to serve over 7,000 children in ways that will nurture their innate talents and provide safe spaces for them in which to grow, under the guidance of law enforcement officers who will “serve as coaches, referee Read More »
  • Southaven VIPs Honored

    • Friday, March 31, 2017
    Last year alone, the Southaven Police Department was gifted with 9,250 volunteer hours by members of the city’s Volunteer in Policing (VIP) program. Read More »
  • The Bridge

    • Friday, March 24, 2017
    This month The Bridge celebrates its fourth anniversary and this week students commemorated Bridge Week on the Rhodes College campus. Read More »
  • Helping Hands of Porter-Leath

    • Friday, March 17, 2017
    During a recent visit to the American Way Head Start and Early Head Start center run by non-profit Porter-Leath, I was reminded of the power placed and found in our hands. Read More »
  • Ballet On Wheels: Tutus in Transit

    • Tuesday, March 07, 2017
    What the New Deal and movie theaters provided in their respective times of need, Ballet on Wheels Dance School & Company is now providing for many in our Memphis community. Read More »
  • Mid-South Mission of Mercy

    • Monday, February 27, 2017
    This year over $1,000,000 in dental treatment and services was given by area professionals, including Dr. Chris Getman who closed his office (Getman Orthodontics) for a day so that he and his staff could be present to help. Read More »
  • Volunteer Odyssey Launches VolunteerCompass

    • Tuesday, February 21, 2017
    The creation and launch of VolunteerCompass means that starting today, the way we approach volunteerism in Memphis will change and it will change in such a way as to infinitely increase the good that takes place within our communities and, maybe more importantly, within ourselves. VolunteerCompass Read More »
  • The School of Greatness: Lewis Howes

    • Monday, February 13, 2017
    A former All-American football player, it was during the year and a half he spent recovering from a career-ending broken wrist that Howes began talking to and learning from leaders about their paths to greatness. Read More »
  • Rainbows and Hope

    • Friday, February 03, 2017
    Recently, on an unusually warm January day in Memphis, I found myself at Rainbow Lake Playground in Overton Park surrounded by fellow Memphians who represented this goodness, peace, pride and diversity, leaving no doubt that the space was fully deserving of and living up to its name. Read More »
  • Bedrock Market & Café

    • Monday, January 30, 2017
    Bedrock is the brainchild of owner and chef Brandi Marter. Opened in 2015, Brandi has taken the “healthy eating” concept to a level of its- and her- own. There is not a single dish I’ve eaten at the restaurant that I would not recommend Read More »
  • "Les Passees Cabaret" | River City Rising

    • Friday, January 20, 2017
    There are several sections of sidewalk along East Parkway that are cracked and broken. It was only recently that I learned part of the reason for this is that massive tree roots have spread so widely, and are so strong, they are breaking through the concrete. When looking at trees I rarely think of Read More »
  • What Are You Doing For Others? | #MLKDay

    • Monday, January 16, 2017
    As we celebrate the work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend we are reminded that even as much as there might be darkness, so there is also much light. Read More »
  • Lessons from StoryBrand

    • Tuesday, January 10, 2017
    We have now entered the second week of the New Year and I am ready to put into action the resolutions I created for myself during the first week. Technically, the process could have begun on January 1 but I am a creative person... Read More »
  • Believe

    • Sunday, December 25, 2016
    Every year, as part of our Christmas traditions, we watch the same series of holiday movies. This includes the original 1947 version of “Miracle on 34th Street”.... Read More »
  • The Principle of Giving - Principle Toyota

    • Friday, December 16, 2016
    50 children from Winridge Elementary School were being granted their Christmas wishes a bit early this holiday season thanks to a collaborative effort between Principle Toyota, Walmart and Chick-fil-A. Read More »
  • Honest Hamilton's

    • Thursday, December 08, 2016
    If you’ve wondered whether a company can be profit-based yet people-focused, Hamilton’s has given you the answer: yes. When someone truly sees and believes that you care about them more so than what you can get out of them, not only will they patronize your business... Read More »
  • #GritGrindGive

    • Thursday, November 17, 2016
    Be part of the movement this year. As Jaclyn stated, it doesn’t matter what nonprofit you give to, or even how much; in fact, you can split your gift amongst several of them. Whatever choice you make, know that your act of giving is honored, no matter the amount. Read More »
  • Veterans Day

    • Friday, November 11, 2016
    Today, I celebrate that God saw fit to change my heart and my life through the words and actions of a man, a Marine, who loves his country, defended his country, fought for his country and honors his country. Read More »
  • Thinking About Tinker

    • Friday, November 04, 2016
    Every so often I walk away after having watched a film and find myself remarkably impacted, unable to get the narrative out of my consciousness. Whether it was a full-length fictional or documentary short, I find myself replaying scenes and reflecting on how the filmmakers have gotten me to see thin Read More »
  • IKEA Memphis Coming Soon!

    • Monday, October 31, 2016
    A dear friend brought to my attention via social media that the Memphis-area IKEA’s opening day was announced, along with the side note that customers can begin lining up two days in advance to be part of the lucky first to enter its sliding glass doors. Read More »
  • Spooky Science Spectacular

    • Friday, October 21, 2016
    ARMS (Autism Resources of the Mid-South), in collaboration with The Pink Palace Museum and sponsorship by the White Station Optimist Club, is determined to change engagement opportunities for autistic kids with their Spooky Science Spectacular. Read More »
  • Williams Tanzania Mission

    • Monday, October 17, 2016
    After having called Memphis home for the past 25 years, Ralph and Twyla left on October 4 to build a new home in Tanzania. Read More »
  • Les Passees

    • Thursday, October 06, 2016
    In preparation for my meeting with members of Les Passees to discuss the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Stock Exchange, I was directed to this year’s “storefront” in Bartlett. Storefront, in this case, is worth enclosing in quotation marks because after arriving I learn that the Stock Exchang Read More »
  • South Main Artspace Lofts

    • Friday, September 30, 2016
    One of the biggest stressors that artists face is figuring out how to maintain stability while cultivating their craft without compromising their gifts. Thanks to Artspace, now Memphis will have a place for artists to focus on their craft. Read More »
  • Operation Feed's Success

    • Friday, September 16, 2016
    Operation Feed is the largest annual donation drive for the Mid-South Food Bank. Read More »
  • Tupelo to Memphis

    • Friday, September 09, 2016
    Like many I embarked on a road trip over the Labor Day Weekend. Our trip took us about three hours outside of Memphis, to a friend’s beautiful lakeside property in Alabama. Following a fun weekend with two boys who love like brothers (and thus sometimes bicker like brothers!) we headed west on U.S. Read More »
  • New Name Same People

    • Friday, September 02, 2016
    The name cityCURRENT is new but the people behind the name are exactly the same. They are a small group of individuals whose desire to give back is so deeply ingrained it has taken root and infiltrated almost every aspect of the Memphis community. Read More »
  • Living By Example | River City Rising

    • Friday, August 19, 2016
    Our words in the form of lectures and books can teach children what they want to be but it is in our actions they learn who they want to be. We aren’t always aware when they are watching us and it is in even the most common of circumstances that our treatment of others is setting an example. Read More »
  • National Night Out | River City Rising

    • Friday, August 05, 2016
    There is power in sitting silently on our sofa with a neighbor whose husband has just been deployed for eight months. We sit next to her, void of words for this mother of three young children who has just said “see you soon” to their father, suppressing her fears in their presence but allowing them Read More »
  • Memphis Film Prize | River City Rising

    • Monday, July 18, 2016
    This past Thursday, on what is usually a quiet evening for The Cove on Broad Avenue in Memphis, it was standing room only. Hopeful artists from every part of the film-making spectrum waited to hear the names of the top ten films vying to be winner of the 2016 Memphis Film Prize and its accompanying Read More »
  • The Big Onion | River City Rising

    • Wednesday, July 06, 2016
    Last week, under the guidance of Memphis educator Lauren Boccia, four students from St. Agnes Academy visited New York City. Their focus was not to take a bite out of The Big Apple but to be part of The Big Onion project, during which they would “peel back the layers of New York” through service pro Read More »
  • MempHistory: Pinch District | River City Rising

    • Friday, June 24, 2016
    There has been a renewed sense of hope for concrete plans to revitalize the area of downtown Memphis known as the Pinch District. Read More »
  • The Greatest Gift

    • Friday, December 18, 2015
    Two Memphians once only familiar with each other by six degrees of separation are now bonded for life, through a life. They each arrived at a place of complete surrender by publicly facing private fears and it is through that surrender that they will give to our world one of mankind’s greatest gifts Read More »
  • "Back to School" | River City Rising

    • Thursday, August 20, 2015
    Mid-South schools are officially back in session. For many teachers this means the beginning of another year during Mid-South schools are officially back in session. For many teachers this means the beginning of another year during Mid-South schools are officially back in session. For many teacher Read More »
  • Roxie's 365

    • Wednesday, October 01, 2014
    Besides Barbecue, my husband’s favorite food is burgers. He’s so fond of them, in fact, that during our years touring the country he would seek out the best burger spots in each city. Most were forgettable, many were good, none were perfect. Then came Roxie’s. Read More »

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