Darren and Michalyn Thomas, staples in the North Memphis, Tennessee community, are working to make positive change for everyone around them. Michalyn is a city councilwoman for District 7 of Memphis; Founder and Executive Director of Our Grass Our Roots (OGOR), a local nonprofit that operates as a movement to inform the community of resources and opportunities, resist gentrification, assist progressive developments, and advance individuals in the Memphis area; and an instructional facilitator with Shelby County Schools. Darren is a development officer with Porter-Leath, a family development resource in Memphis, and a board member for OGOR.
Darren, Development Manager with Communities in Schools of Memphis, works to build awareness of the work OGOR and Porter-Leath do by connecting with individuals, corporations, private foundations, and city and county government officials to contribute financially to their efforts while advocating for others in their networks to do the same.
Michalyn, Executive Director of OGOR of five years and city councilwoman for one, works to build and sustain partnerships and relationships with community stakeholders, political officials, and business owners, knowing these relationships will benefit her district as a whole. Once her service is complete, she hopes for District 7 to look vastly different from when she began by way of new homeowners, businesses, investments, opportunities, and youth engagement throughout the majority Black community.
Michalyn and Darren are fortunate in the tremendous support they’ve received from the community. Residents have kept them informed of needed improvements and helped them find ways to stay encouraged and involved through participation in various events and activities. Members and stakeholders keep them accountable, which strengthens their mutual connection.
Their greatest challenge is the vastness of their geographical location. Attempting to work with all residents, businesses, and organizations of the northern section of Memphis is difficult, yet, they hope to build and maintain as many relationships as possible to expand the scope of their accessibility.
The couple agrees that their greatest success came with Michalyn’s election to the Memphis City Council. “Her winning was like I won because when she won, our community won. We gained one of the biggest advocates and partners in their work to transform our community,” says Darren. Michalyn says that she decided to run at the urging of many people around her to do so because of a lack of representation and connection to the district from her predecessor.
“After praying and fasting, God revealed to me that it was time to run,” she says.
She announced her candidacy later than the others with a small fundraising base, no prior political experience, and an all-volunteer campaign team, but with the drive to knock on doors and share her vision, meetings with businesses and organizations, and a focused team, after a tight race that culminated in a run-off, Michalyn won.
She became the youngest African-American to win the elected position on the Memphis City Council and still feels honored and privileged to serve in her role. She took the position out of a love of the community, and she and Darren always remember the community above all things in all that they do. “Just like Jesus, we always say we came to serve and not be served,” Michalyn asserts.
Please follow Michalyn and Darren on the following social media handles.
Darren: FB: Darren Thomas II; Instagram: DarrenThomas2; Twitter: @DLTII
Michalyn: FB: Michalyn Easter-Thomas; Instagram: metdistrict7; Twitter: @MEasterThomas; Website: www.michalynformemphis.com
www.ogormemphis.org; FB: Our Grass Our Roots; Instagram: @OurGrassOurRoots