Memphis and the Start

Recently, Ben and I packed up my van ("Colossus") and headed south for a few days. We'd been invited to share our documentary at a film festival in Memphis, Tennessee. Our friend Joe Sutphin joined us from Columbus for the whirlwind trip and we made a stop in Nashville on the way.

I've told you before about my love for Nashville, the people and food and creative spirit. I always experience a renewal there, and this brief visit was no different. We had dinner with my friend and editor Pete, and his wife Jennifer. We caught up on life over BBQ and discussed the book. It's coming along beautifully, by the way. Cover art is done and I just turned in final edits. I can't wait for you to read it!

The next morning, we picked up our friend Roman and finished the drive to Memphis. My brother Andrew lives in Memphis, so it was great to spend the afternoon with him. We went downtown and explored the Peabody Hotel. I was in my backpack for this, and Roman (a house of a man) carried me. From the rooftop of Peabody, you can see the whole city, and look out over the gritty, blues-filled streets to see the river too. In the lobby downstairs, we watched the traditional march of the ducks as they all waddled in line from their fountain to the elevator and back to their home upstairs. After this, we had dinner at the Kooky Canuck, complete with waffle sandwiches and poutine. My nephews and sister-in-law joined us, along with Daniel Harris, who had set up the film screening.

Daniel lives downtown in Memphis and is friends with everyone around there. The locals know him from seeing him regularly, a patron of the area, and they all love him because he loves them so well. I'm convinced he's never met a stranger. Daniel has cerebral palsy, so we talked about living on our own and pushing the limits on what's expected of us and our feeble bodies. It was encouraging to walk the streets with this kindred spirit, just two dudes living abnormally free lives despite our disabilities.

After dinner, we headed over to the film festival, at Clayborn Temple. The church had asked that we show the film and then hold a panel discussion. My brother would ask questions, to be answered by myself, Daniel, and another disabilities advocate named Kelsey. As it turns out, these two are pros at advocacy in Memphis! I was honored to sit with them after the film and discuss the disabled community, challenges to face, and opportunities to empower.

It was an honor, too, to share our story in the sanctuary of Clayborn Temple. This was the hub of the Memphis civil rights movement in 1968, where thousands marched from these steps to protest unfair treatment of sanitation workers in the city. It was in this sanctuary where hundreds returned after those marches, injured and scared, to be cared for by the ministers and members of the church. And it was on this stage where Dr. King rallied the people to carry on the fight just one week before he was killed in the same city.

This was the start of a new chapter in my life and the story of We Carry Kevan. Our visit to Memphis was the beginning of a season in which the guys and I travel to speak and spread our vision. Doors are opening to these opportunities, and we're excited to be stepping through them. In the coming months - and Lord willing, the coming years - we are meeting families with disabilities, speaking at schools, churches, and conferences, writing books, making movies, and continuing to explore the world unhindered by conventional accessibility. But to kick off all of this, we began at Clayborn Temple, where the value of human life has been protected and cherished since long before I came along; we sat in a room where men preached, bled, and even died for what they believed in; we were reminded at the outset of what really matters and why we're doing what we do.

So thank you, Daniel, for inviting us. Thank you, Clayborn Temple and Memphis, for welcoming us. Thank you, everyone who came to see the film and talk afterward. Hey, Los Angeles, we're coming to hang out next week. And to the rest of the world, we'll see you soon.

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