The Memphis weather is schizophrenic. A blanket of chartreuse pollen covers the cars left in the elements overnight. The Bradford Pears, Dogwoods, and Daffodils are robustly blooming, while teeny green buds are peeking out from the branches of hardwoods across the city. These are sure signs that spring is near, but something else important is happening too.
March is National Women’s History Month.
In 1987, Congress enacted a perpetual declaration that March would be National Women’s History Month. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter recognized a week in the month as National Women’s History Week. In announcing the designation, Carter said this:
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
Carter was and is correct that women have made some of the most significant contributions to our nation with either delayed recognition or in some cases no recognition at all. But without minimizing the contributions of prominent women in our nation’s history, we should also remember that their achievements were built on a foundation laid by other women whose names, hard work, and dedication will never be known to the masses. These are “ordinary” women – mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, teachers, church leaders, nurses, and caretakers – who invested in girls, other women, and communities.
Orange Mound Women
We’ve often told you how extraordinary the My Cup of Tea women are. Each overcoming enormous personal tragedy and struggle to fight for a better future for themselves, their children, grandchildren, and neighborhood. One woman is presently caring for her life partner who is dying of cancer. Another is the primary caretaker for a special needs brother who is also diabetic. One of our grandmothers stepped-up to gain custody of her special needs granddaughter. Still others have overcome addiction and the streets believing there is a better way. Yet, despite the challenges, they are quick to reach into shallow pockets where they always find something to give a sister in need. They’re choosing to grow roots deeper in Orange Mound, rather than relocating to other parts of the city. They are invested in the success of My Cup of Tea, not only for what it can do for them, but for how it can help stabilize their beloved Orange Mound.
East Memphis Sisters
Serving beside the Orange Mound women are their East Memphis sisters. Most of these sisters have likely had an easier existence than their My Cup of Tea counterparts. They are better resourced and financially secure. They have a network of friends, acquaintances, and experiences that make navigating life simpler. Most have skills and education that have led them to succeed in homemaking, business, or community engagement. They could have remained in the relative safety and comfort of their East Memphis enclave, but instead they answered a call to serve people whose culture and experiences are vastly different than their own in a neighborhood they have most certainly been told is unsafe. Yet, they came anyway, and are still coming. They bring lunches, plant gardens, package tea, sew aprons, refinish furniture, and donate time and money. The most important things they do are listen, learn, and befriend their Orange Mound sisters without judgment.
If the Orange Mound women and their East Memphis sisters are the “hands and feet” of My Cup of Tea, then Debbie is the backbone. Debbie is the operations manager and resident tea expert. It is her knowledge, work ethic, and genuine love of the My Cup of Tea women that coalesce to make the operation successful. Debbie is accounting, human resources, supply chain and logistics, and sales and marketing combined in a single human. She is fiercely organized and committed to stellar customer service. However, Debbie’s most important roles are counselor, teacher, and friend. The My Cup of Tea women know that they can bring any problem or struggle to Debbie. She listens, guides, advises, and prays for and with them. Some even call her Momma D.
Many of the notable women in American History were visionaries. At My Cup of Tea, our visionary is our founder Carey Moore, though she never claims the vision as her own. Carey is quick to say that the idea for this social enterprise in Orange Mound came from the Lord. Through fervent prayer, biblical wisdom, and an indefatigable spirit, Carey leads and inspires all associated with My Cup of Tea. Carey is always reading, learning, and applying new information to the mission of the organization. When a problem presents itself, Carey in undeterred by its complexity or unsavoriness. Her goal is always to resolve it with the best interests of others in mind.
Women Making History
For all the sweat, toil, and prayer of the last eight years, it is all but certain that no woman in any role with My Cup of Tea will be lauded in the annals of American, Tennessee, or Memphis history. But it is almost equally certain that there will be women in the future who will rise to the level of historical figure because of the impact of My Cup of Tea and its women. Perhaps a granddaughter or great granddaughter will achieve scientific, business, or political success because their grandmother or great grandmother broke the cycle of generational poverty through her employment at My Cup of Tea. Or maybe a young woman, because her family moved into one of the new, affordable homes to be built on Semmes Street, will have her own room where she studies, excels in school, and becomes a great American author. Whoever she is, whatever the accomplishment, or whenever it occurs, the My Cup of Tea women are helping to make history everyday and for that we are grateful.