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Honoring All Voices in Community Transformation - Community Happens Organically in South Memphis

When all voices carry equal weight in the rebuilding of community, and everyone’s assets are valued, remarkable things can happen.

For more than two years, a groundswell of community-building efforts has been building in the streets of South Memphis, led by a team of dedicated volunteers who choose to look at the abundant gifts on offer in the neighborhood beyond the many challenges there. The team is driven by faith and the concept of Shalom, which says the path to well being and peace is paved in efforts to create a better life for one’s neighbor. South Memphis is one of eight Shalom Zones under the Communities of Shalom initiative, a major focus of the Center for Transforming Communities (CTC). Pastor Marlon Foster of the Christ Quest Community Church influences efforts in the South Memphis Shalom Zone, and says what drew him to the effort was belief in the transformative power possible in taking the heart of ministry beyond the walls of a building and into the streets and neighborhoods. They don’t impose their sense of what’s needed in the community. Instead they invite everyone to be a part of this transformation, and Marlon testifies to seeing people of all walks of life coming together in the past two years in ways he never imagined before. So what is the strategy behind the success? “In many regards it’s being open to not having a strategy,” Marlon says. “It becomes more of a process or a way of being and I think along those lines. It’s the spirit of humility, the spirit of openness, the spirit of being willing to learn — a spirit of wanting to come alongside.” He’s seen firsthand the wealthy coming alongside the poor to work towards a common purpose of asset-based community development that is beyond monetary economics. “This type of diversity, of socio-economics and many times of race and class that we’re able to experience — this I think really makes it an awesome place,” Marlon says. “Everyone has voice. Everyone is seen as an asset and has something to contribute. Your voice gives you a sense of power and belonging and place and when that part happens, I think you really begin to start seeing community form. “It becomes what I feel is a communal gathering of mutual belief, and when you get to that place of mutuality then you’re really at a point where community organically happens.”

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