Challenge The Status Quo With Love
Michael J. Curtis is a proud South Memphis native, who went back and forth between Alcy Ball snd Castalia. Curtis is a Registered Nurse with a statuesque physique, charismatic cadence and winning smile which made the conversation even more interesting. I wanted to know what was beneath the surface of this debonair young man. Well, for starters he’s an avid book collector. He describes himself as a bibliophile and has a special affinity for collections of notable figures, like Barack Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Jr.John F. Kennedy. Maybe that explains it.
As it pertains to his South Memphis roots, this part of the city is a very special place for Curtis. He remembers being at his grandmother’s house after school and dragging his basketball goal down the street. He knew that as soon as people heard the noise, everyone would quickly come outside and join him to get to know each other and have fun with each other.
Curtis says he owes so much of who he is to his mother. He describes black women as the
“backbone” of many different sectors of society. His mother encouraged him to become a part of Kappa Leadership League, an organization targeted towards young men in high school and cultivating leadership skills and ways to be productive and active members of their communities. While a member of the Kappa Leadership League he learned skills such as how to change a tire, which may seem trivial, but “if you never had someone around to teach you, it’s important to find someone that will,” remarks Curtis.
When it comes to South Memphis and what it needs today, Michael believes that South Memphis is largely left out of the larger narrative of Memphis. There is an apparent lack of resources for things like grocery stores, banks, and healthcare providers. For some, it might not be a burden to drive to places like Midtown to get access to these things, but other factors come into play, such as what do you do if you do not own a car.
People need to identify what is going on in these communities, develop solutions to fix
them, and put them into action. As he puts it, “we need people to get on that boat and go against that current.” The current that he is speaking of is systemic racism and social injustice. Although segregation is no longer legal, there are still systems that deprive many black neighborhoods of basic necessities and resources. Although it’s not something that Michael can fix alone, he is optimistic that we as a community can come together and fix the larger problem. He acknowledges that he is privileged in many ways. He hopes to utilize his resources to provide other people with opportunities they might not have initially had.
Michael also stresses the importance of having positive role models to inspire our youth. He mentions former President Barack Obama. For many people, imagining a black president seemed almost impossible until he was able to do it.
He even acknowledges his own position of privilege as a nurse. Curtis stated that working as a nurse, who happens to be black and make inspires so many patients. It helps them see the possibilities around them because “if you see it, you can achieve it.” That’s something he’s very proud of and takes very seriously in representing his position and privilege at the highest level.