Two weeks ago, business consultants Doug Carpenter and Anna Holtzclaw took a three-word phrase they liked and decided to share it with the rest of the world. The resulting "Memphian By Choice" movement, anchored by a Facebook page, has garnered more than 800 followers.
"It's for people who want to express that they choose to live here, whether they were born here or not," Carpenter says. He and Holtzclaw agreed that the project should be free-form, encouraging people to react to the phrase however they choose.
And react they have. Contributors range in age, profession, and economic and geographical background, but most agree that Memphians should be more vocal about their city pride.
"I think that our city has suffered from a lack of self-esteem to the point that it is important to voice our pride in any way we can," says Kathy Ferguson, who posted to the page early on.
Carpenter says that negative national press — Memphis was recently named one of Forbes magazine's most miserable cities — was a big motivator for asking Memphians to explain why they choose to stay here. "With all that's going on, the power of people just getting engaged, standing up and being happy with this city will do us all a world of good," he says.
Those who have posted on the Memphian By Choice page have made it clear that the reasons to be happy here are plentiful.
"People are, for the most part, honorable, spiritual, and ethical, three qualities that make for great people and an outstanding community," says Jimpsie Ayres, another contributor. "With our new mayor and our new attitude ... I believe we are poised to enter a new era in Memphis."
Carpenter notes how pleased he is that the project has gotten such a response with a simple Facebook page. "What I really like is that it's not fabricated in order to be commercial," he says. "It's just part of the culture." And the goal Carpenter and Holtzclaw had for the project has already been accomplished: People are talking.
"I want people to run with it," Carpenter says, encouraged by the innovative uses of the catchphrase that he's already seen, such as temporary tattoos. "You don't have to check with us."