Orange Mound

The Orange Mound Street Assembly uses the neighborhood grapevine for community improvement

JUICE Orange Mound is using the power of the grapevine to hear residents' dreams and concerns and spread information from house to house, street to street, and block to block across the entire Orange Mound community. 

JUICE is a nonprofit aiming to reclaim the self-sufficiency and prestige of historic Orange Mound.

As the new owner of the historic Evensky’s building in Orange Mound, JUICE will soon have an official base of operations. JUICE member Salahuddin Muhammad said he sees the organization as a powerhouse of community development in the next five to 10 years.

“We can make our neighborhood better. Give us the resources, don’t bring us no programs,” added Muhammad.

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JUICE Orange Mound uses a zoned approach to grassroots communications. It has divided the neighborhood into seven zones with zone captains and street captains for each. (JUICE Orange Mound)
The nonprofit's Orange Mound Street Assembly divides the neighborhood into seven zones with two co-captains each. The captains recruit street captains for each street throughout their zones. Information moves from zone to street to each household through the assemble's volunteers. 

JUICE recently received its largest single donation for $10,000. Its street assembly teams are now proposing ideas for neighborhood improvement projects in their zones.

Related: "The Unreachables: Memphis nonprofit meets its no-tech neighbors at their doorsteps (Quick Read)"

Muhammad is co-captain of Zone One along with Cheryl Henderson. Their idea for their zone is to have all crosswalks and intersections freshly painted to help with safety. They also want to have pathway lighting installed in each resident’s driveway.

“This isn’t just what one person wants to see, it’s what our community wants to see,” Muhammad said.

JUICE decided to use grapevine communication in the neighborhood because there are many senior citizens living in the Mound, as well as younger people with limited internet access and people experiencing homelessness. 

By working together, neighbors are better able to communicate their concerns, whether it's absentee landlords or residents who are not complying with community standards. JUICE can also spread news about community events, developments, and threats. 

When coming to negotiating tables to obtain more grants and donations or to demand a voice in development projects, JUICE wants to be able to present a list of residents who have committed to positive changes in Orange Mound. 

The street assembly members and other residents in Zone One met recently to discuss next steps to ensure landscaping and safety. Zone and street captains connect with residents by going door to door, on Facebook, and most recently through Zoom. 

“When discussing prospective plans with our neighbors, I liked to use that time to ask them to sign up as a representative for their street with JUICE,” said Muhammad.

JUICE is still in need of street representatives in each zone. Representatives can help with building relationships with Memphis’ code enforcement department for quicker trash and debris pickup and faster response time for cleanup of vacant and overgrown lots. Street representatives can also help with building connections with the Memphis Police Department for safety improvements within and around the Orange Mound community.

“We want to also make sure we don’t leave our historical places out of [the conversation]," said Muhammad of improvement efforts in Memphis.

Over in Zone Six, co-captain Warren Swift has been a member of JUICE Orange Mound for four years. Swift was brought into JUICE by founder Britney Thornton. He's also a staff worker at the Orange Mound Community Center and founding member of the community organization Guns Down in Orange Mound. 

Swift and his zone members have been distributing care packages throughout the area in response to COVID-19 and the economic recession. They're also working on organizing and spearheading neighborhood cleanup projects.

“We are motivated to not only have our community be one that we love, we also want to see it be safe and clean,” said Swift.

In the next five to 10 years, Swift hopes to see JUICE as the blueprint for other neighborhoods in the city to look to for uplifting their community.

“I want to see JUICE helping those in Orange Mound to find and have jobs, find and have a place to stay, and not only a place to stay but a good quality home,” Swift said.

Read more articles by Alexandria Moore.

Alexandria Moore is a healthcare worker and freelance writer. She graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in psychology and minor in English. Moore is a graduate of the first High Ground News Community Correspondents program, which trains everyday Memphians from underserved communities in the basics of community-based reporting.
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