Planning for the Future
Michalyn Easter-Thomas currently serves as the Memphis City Councilwoman for District 7, which comprises of historic North Memphis neighborhoods like Douglass, Voluntine-Evergreen, Hyde Park, Klondike, Smokey City, Nutbush and more. These are areas she is very familiar with as she has spent most of years in North Memphis. As someone who describes herself as introverted, Michalyn knew she had to step out of her comfort zone and use her voice to let her community know that she was fighting for them. Prior to running for elected office, Earter-Thomas, founded a non-profit organization called Our Grass, Our Roots. The organization allowed her to build trusting relationships within her community. Without doing the community work and gaining that trust and support of people through her organization, she recognized that there was no
way she would have even been able to win.
From her research, she found that the people who are really going out to vote were not necessarily the ones on social media. Instead, she insisted on the tried and true knocking on doors and making direct phone calls to reach her constituency. Easter-Thomas fondly recalls personally reaching 6,500 people in her district and found this to be a winning approach. She came out victorious to win in a nine-way race and breezed through a runoff election to become the youngest African American to be elected to the city council to date.
Michaelyn also reminds us that she is “North Memphis all day, everyday.” Many people have their own idea of what it means to be from [North Memphis], but what Michalyn remembers most about her experience is that of a spirit of “family cohesiveness and knowing who your neighbors are’ that made her growing up their so special. She also points out that many of the issues plaguing these communities, such as housing inequalities and economic development, fall on the lack of planning on the part of the city. According to Easter-Thomas, he city controls a lot of what happens in our neighborhoods, such as permits to build developments or whether an environmental factory goes in the middle of the neighborhood or not. When thinking about factors like this, you also have to think how these decisions and ordinances affect the livelihood and the health of residents in these communities, such as how communities like South Memphis and North Memphis have high asthma rates and how there are more factories in those neighborhoods.
Since she has the experience of growing up in North Memphis, she believes she can help change the neighborhood’s trajectory, starting with some of the environmental issues she witnessed in her growing up there.