Loving a city doesn’t stop at knowing where the top hangout spots are, buying locally made products, or supporting the local sports teams. Loving a city also means interacting with the day to day connections made within a community that leave an impact, which Cindy McMillon has sought to do with her Connecting Memphis project.
Connecting Memphis is a website and local campaign where McMillon shares pictures and interviews from various people she meets during daily strolls around town. After leaving the school system for early retirement in 2014, she wanted to put her interest in photography and writing to good use.
“I absolutely love hearing people’s stories, just the little snippets of their lives that they are willing to share,” McMillon said. “Over and over, these stories confirm how much we have in common as human beings. It’s been really interesting to go places I haven’t typically gone and have conversations with people I might not have run across if I hadn’t made the effort to cross some boundaries.”
Since the start of Connecting Memphis, over 600 interviews have been posted on the site. She posts anywhere from one to five interviews a day.
“I just try to keep my eyes open and look for people who seem willing to talk, ” McMillon said. “I really don’t have any specific criteria for choosing people to interview. If a person is breathing, he or she has stories to share.”
With the growth of her site, McMillan has gained a different perspective of Memphis and Memphians. After every interview, she has been left more open-minded than when she first stumbled upon each individual.
“We all matter, and sharing stories helps us see each other as people rather than as categories,” McMillon said. “I have so many favorites that it is really hard to choose. One that stands out to me though is an evening I spent with four women who were coming out of lives of prostitution and drug addiction. There was laughter, and there were tears. That one evening blew my assumptions to shreds. It was one of the most powerful, sacred moments of my life. I felt so honored that they would trust me with their stories and be willing to share them so that other women might have hope.”
Whether it is a passerby that she stumbles upon during daily activities, or someone who requests to be interviewed, McMillon wants to play a small part in bringing the city together.
“We need to know what a great city we really have; how rich our history is, how wonderfully diverse our community is, and how much we can accomplish if we pull together,” McMillon said. “I think conversation with those who appear to be different from us is a great place to start in bridging racial, religious, and generational divides.”
Be sure to follow Connecting Memphis on Facebook.
Thanks again Cindy for keeping us close to our city and even closer to our community!