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Leading the city to Choose901

John Carroll emphasizes the beauty in our own backyard

    John Carroll, founder and CEO of City Leadership, is sure that the answer to flipping Memphis’s trajectory is support. 

    “Let’s go help the good guys do more good,” said Carroll. “Instead of us creating things, we should just go help the people who are already doing it.” 

    Carroll founded City Leadership with a goal to “recruit, develop, and catalyze leaders to create a growing, improving, and more loving Memphis.” In practice, City Leadership works with the leaders of the city to improve their efforts to help make Memphis a better place. 

    But City Leadership is not in Memphis by accident. Carroll, a native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., started his nonprofit in the Bluff City because he immediately fell in love with Memphis once he experienced its community. 

    To him, Memphis is the perfect mix between a small town and a larger city. While it is not quite the size of a city like Atlanta or Dallas, Carroll argues that Memphis provides the same opportunities in addition to a sense of belonging. 

    “Memphis ended up being that community that had the big city amenities, …but everywhere I went, I was bumping into people,” he said. “You can be in community in a big city, but in Memphis, you can be in community and be connected to the whole city… You can be totally engaged.”

    For Carroll, the community provides economic, racial and religious diversity creating opportunity to interact with Memphians of different backgrounds. 

    “In Memphis, you can be a bridge between those two worlds and really interact [with people] all across the spectrum and be true friends with everyone,” Carroll said. 

    Carroll said he was also drawn to Memphis because of its potential for improvement.

    “I really fell in love with Memphis because it has a lot of frontline space to make a difference in someone else’s life,” he said. “It’s hard to live in Memphis and be oblivious to the needs and prosperity of your neighbors, [and] it creates an opportunity to confront the differences in the socio-economic classes.”

    it creates an opportunity to confront the differences in the socio-economic classes.”

    — John Carroll

    As Carroll emphasized, Memphis’s challenges are not a secret. 21.4% of the population lives below the poverty line and the crime rate rose 6% in 2023 compared to 2022. 

    As a result, some young people are hesitant to return to Memphis after college because of the potential danger of living in this city.  

    Carroll emphasizes that he isn’t trying to convince people that Memphis is the best city or the right place for them, but to make sure that if people decide to leave, they are leaving for the right reasons. 

    “Don’t run away from something, run to something. If you’re going to pick some other community… you better have a reason greater than ‘I don’t want to live [in the community I came from],” Carroll said. “I think it’s more like ‘what community am I picking, why am I picking it and what can I contribute to that community?’”

    Don’t run away from something, run to something. If you’re going to pick some other community… you better have a reason greater than ‘I don’t want to live [in the community I came from].”

    — John Carroll


    Branching off of City Leadership is one of their well-known programs called Choose901. This project works to highlight the beauty of Memphis to the people to encourage them to invest their lives in the city.

    Although Choose901 aims to help people make those decisions by highlighting the good in Memphis, Carroll stresses that the city’s challenges should not be ignored. 

    “We want to use our platform as a spotlight or megaphone for the good and the optimism in Memphis… It’s not that the hard things in Memphis don’t need to [be] seriously looked at,” Carroll said. “If you’re just looking at Choose901 for all the information you know about Memphis, then I don’t think you can be a great citizen…You’re not going to get the full picture.”

    For those who do choose 901, they are choosing a community where thousands of Memphians actively work to improve the city’s challenges and create a better future. 

    12,271 non-profit organizations scattered throughout the city provide aid to various communities all around Memphis. Combined, these organizations generate over $15 billion in revenue per year, much of it from the people and businesses of Memphis. In fact, Memphis ranked the most charitable city in the United States in 2017.  

    When put in the broader context, crime is only a small part of Memphis’s richer story of diversity, community and generosity.   

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    About the Contributor
    Wallis Rogin
    Wallis Rogin, Co Editor-in-Chief
    Wallis Rogin is a junior who is excited to be spending her third year on Tatler as co Editor-in-chief. You may know Wallis as a quiet person, but once you get to know her you will find that she is a super fun person to be around. She’s always wanted a pet turtle, and once even had one for 12 hours before it disappeared. She is also a bold person and she shows her boldness by mixing her jewelry metals. She likes peanuts, but dislikes peanut butter and hates wooden utensils even more. She understands that wooden utensils are better for the environment, but just can't get behind them. Because of this, whenever she goes to Ben and Jerry’s, she always gets a cone instead of a cup because the Ben and Jerry’s spoons are wooden. She loves their Phish Food ice cream and would love it even more with a plastic spoon. One final fact about Wallis is that she loves New Girl and is still upset that it was taken off Netflix. 

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