One of the first questions posed to the gathering of 300 community members in Memphis on Nov. 14 urged attendees to consider the gifts they have to offer of themselves, and that introspective concept sits in Carl Awsumb’s mind as he looks back at what inspired him most during the event.
“I thought that was a very, very powerful way to bring you to the present moment,” Carl says.
“I’m as guilty as a lot of people are of thinking in terms of what I’ve done to help me define myself, and I think this conference helped me realize that there were lots of strings attached to that.”
A week later, he attended a meeting hosted by Latino Memphis, and though he knew nobody in the room he found he was able to instantly connect with people by using the same question of gifts to begin conversations.
Carl, a retired architect, spearheaded the creation of a community garden network in Binghampton, and through this work he has become entwined with community development and the Center for Transforming Communities (CTC).
Carl Awsumb (left) at Farmers Market
The CTC organized the Nov. 14 event and invited guests from across the Memphis area to hear from three community development thought leaders, and learn from each other.
People “maybe overlook the main gifts that they’ve got,” Carl says, but those gifts took center stage and the energy he felt, especially from within the young people in the room, was exciting.
“The thing that really knocked me off my comfort seat was the number of teenagers who were able to stand up and articulate so clearly,” he says.
“It was amazing to listen to these young people.”
It can be easy for people to become isolated, Carl adds, and the meeting was “the best forum that I can think of to allow people to really interact across age and ethnicity and income.”
It was a pleasant new conversation, far outside the traditional views of conventional Memphis media and the many citizens there who are all too eager to highlight the city’s shortcomings.
The crossroads the city is at today, and has been at for some time, is the choice of a new dialogue of possibility.
I left that conference thinking, ‘You know, I don’t have the financial support, but I’ve got the emotional support of all these people,” he says. “We came together and there was a collective force there that gave me the strength to carry on.
“I’m excited by what’s going on in this city.”