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The Antidote to Isolation in Memphis

There is something to be said for a community where neighbors know each other and wave from their front porches to passersby as twilight invites post-supper strolls.It makes for a comfortable place to call home, and it is part of the reason why Anthony Gilbert was drawn to the Memphis neighborhood of Binghampton, where he’s lived for about a year now.

“In Binghampton, as opposed to other parts of the city, there’s much more of a feeling of knowing your neighbors,” Anthony says, pointing to the diversity of the neighborhood as part of its charm.

In the neighborhood where he grew up, “people have forgotten that cultural knowledge of what it means to be part of a community,” he adds. “It has disappeared over the last generation or two.” Anthony is a classically-trained musician specializing in violin and viola who finds in Memphis the freedom to pursue his art within a well-established underground music scene where people aren’t looking for or expecting fame, just a place to explore their passion. After moving to Binghampton, he entered The Commons on Merton with no knowledge of The Center for Transforming Communities (CTC) and its quest to foster connections among partners and their work building a stronger community. He needed a space to work other than his house, which holds far too many distractions to tempt him away from focusing entirely on his music, and The Commons had space. He also supplements his income teaching eager music students, so it helps to be connected to the network The Commons offers. Today, almost a year after joining The Commons, the sound of Anthony’s viola or violin is often heard echoing off the walls of the old church building — a sound he hopes is welcomed by his neighbors. He teaches a steady stream of students, which pay on a sliding scale depending on what they can afford, and he’s part of the larger Commons, if only as one person amidst many adding to the mosaic of change in the neighborhood. There’s a lot of work to do in a city where more than a quarter of the population live at the poverty line, but at The Commons and through the work of its partners, change is happening one step at a time. “I’m not saying that Binghampton is a paradise,” Anthony says. “People are still suspicious of each other on some level, and I think that’s just an ingrained habit, but I think certainly what’s happening in Binghampton is the antidote; it’s the start of something.” Anthony’s hope is that his contribution and the gift of his music is a welcomed part of the transformation taking place in Memphis.

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