Spillit Memphis brings storytelling event to Binghampton

On Friday, April 12, Binghampton will welcome neighbors from across the city for Spillit & CTC Present: My Binghampton. Four residents will share stories of their lives in Binghampton, what they love about the Memphis neighborhood, how it has changed and where they hope it is heading.

The event, which runs from 7 to 10 p.m., is hosted by Memphis-based storytelling venture Spillit Memphis and Binghampton-based neighborhood development nonprofit Center for Transforming Communities. The free event is sponsored by High Ground News and will be held in the sanctuary of The Commons on Merton, 258 North Merton.

Audience members can expect to hear personal stories from a group of diverse Binghampton residents.

Magaly Cruz is a recent college graduate who moved to Binghampton in high school. At the Spillit event, she will share a story about her family’s struggle to find belonging and community as they moved from California to the Memphis area before finding a rental property in Binghampton.

Magaly Cruz stands on the porch of a home in Binghampton. (Ziggy Mack)“You progress towards what you assume is the ideal dream of living out there in the suburbs, living in a gated community, but at the end of the day, what actually became home, what actually felt a lot more comfortable for us was living in Binghampton,” said Cruz, whose family briefly lived in Cordova and the Heights before they settled in Binghampton.

Now, her family is worried they’ll be pushed out of their home by swiftly rising property values. Cruz said she hopes her story brings light to the changes in Binghampton housing and the risk that gentrification poses to low and moderate-income families.

Readers can learn more about the Cruz family's story in Bing-Boom III: A land trust seeks to preserve housing affordability in booming Binghampton”.

Chris Hanser’s story centers on his early childhood in Binghampton during World War II.

He remembers how the community facilitated rationing and supply drives to support the war effort. He also recalls how they came together to support each other in the darkest moments.

“I had the experience of sitting up all night with a kid that lost his dad,” Hanser said. “Here I am, four or five years old with him. I experienced some of that.”

He hopes his story makes the history of the neighborhood more tangible, especially for younger audiences.

“I hope they get an understanding of the sacrifice these people made,” said Hanser.

Spillit Memphis has been a popular storytelling venture since 2012. Founded by Leah Keys and led now by Creative Director Josh Campbell, it hosts storytelling competitions and events. For most of its tenure, Spillit events been held at the Amurica Studio at 410 North Cleveland Street, which was co-owned by Keys and Jamie Harmon.

Amurica announced the studio’s closure in November 2018, but Spillit is still going strong and seeking new iterations for continued growth. Part of that growth includes bringing the events into different Memphis neighborhoods — starting with Binghampton.

“Even after years of successful shows, I still run into people from all over Memphis who tell me they never heard of us,” said Campbell. “If we want to hear everyone's stories we have to meet them where they live.”

The Binghampton Spillit will also feature a Binghampton-centered story by Campbell and Spillit’s storyteller in residence, Sean Mosley.

Neighborhood-based Spillit events also help the narrative of Memphis represent more than Spillit’s typical performer and audience who, for the majority, are white professionals under the age of 45.

“Spillit is about getting Memphis talking. Our neighborhood program is about making sure everyone is involved in the conversation,” said Campbell.

Justin Merrick is the executive director of CTC and said they signed on to the event because CTC has recently begun looking for new ways to incorporate the arts and ethical storytelling into strategies for social change and more inclusive and authentic narratives of Memphis. 

"Stories of resilience and hope are the very things that make Memphis so Memphis," said Merrick. "Creating opportunities for the narrative of a neighborhood to be shaped by the people who live there is a missing ingredient all too often in our Memphis ecosystem of neighborhoods."  
CTC hopes that this event can be a spark for our Binghampton residents to continue to shape their neighborhood identity in the image that they co-create! 

High Ground News is sponsoring the event as part of its On the Ground embedded neighborhood-based journalism program. In August through November of 2016, On The Ground journalists worked with residents of Binghampton to tell the stories of the challenges and strengths of this diverse neighborhood.

"Neighborhood stories are at the heart of almost everything we do at High Ground. The voices of residents, entrepreneurs and organizations guide the stories we tell and how we tell them,” said Emily Trenholm, High Ground News' publisher and community engagement manager.

Spillit Memphis' executive director, Josh Campbell (left), and storyteller in residence, Sean Mosley. (Submitted)
“We've been doing in-depth coverage of Binghampton for the past several years, and this storytelling event will build on that work," she added.

Cruz said she hopes the event showcases Binghampton and its many strengths and challenges and inspires Binghampton residents and other Memphians to help maintain the area’s rich economic and cultural diversity.

“[I hope] the next generation is still carrying that ideal of welcoming cultural diversity, pushing for social justice and this warm sense of community," she said.

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.