Uptown & The Pinch

"Learning to love the soil" and other stories from Uptown and The Pinch

From May to August, the On The Ground team of High Ground News worked alongside residents to produce excellent coverage that uplifts the diversity and integrity of Uptown and The Pinch District. With that embedded reporting engagement at a close, we invited community members to the stage on August 2 to share their own stories in their own words. Residents, small business owners and young folks shared stories about the personal experiences and events that shaped their relationships with Uptown and The Pinch.

Over 50 folks from the neighborhood and beyond packed the upper floor of the Explore Bike Share warehouse at 61 Keel Avenue in Uptown. Below are recordings from our night's speakers, which we share with gratitude. Keep an eye out for coverage of our next On The Ground neighborhood, The Heights, which will begin in September.


Njeri Fombi is an Uptown resident who runs the neighborhood's community garden. She's learned that in Uptown things grow at their own pace, but with time and care, new life can thrive. 

Rick Farwell is the owner of Pyramid Wine and Spirits. He's been a small business owner in the neighborhood for more than twenty years and has a fascinating story of eminent domain and building his dream store. 

Tanja Mitchell is a long term resident, Uptown Coordinator, and unofficial "Mayor of Uptown." Hear her story of discovering Uptown and her own potential for living her best life. 

Isaiah Johnson is a fourteen-year-old resident of Uptown. As he prepares for his first year of high school, he reflects on his journey to face his fears and grow his faith through neighborhood programs like Oasis of Hope.

Aisha Raison is a storyteller at Uptown's Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum and local filmmaker. For years The Pinch has been an important and dynamic character in her life, art, and creative community.  

Shontell Free is fourteen years old and a lifelong resident of Uptown. Her stories of water balloon fights, favorite teachers, and her dreams for the future are a peak into Uptown's next generation.

Chris Davis is a writer and longtime residents who took a winding path to find his profession, his dream house, and the first place he's really felt at home. He found it in Uptown.

Roland Donnelly-Bullington has lived in the neighborhood since he was six years old. Now in college, he reflects on childhood memories and how Uptown has shaped him into the person he is today.


Read more articles by Madeline Faber.

Madeline Faber is an editor and award-winning reporter. Her experience as a development reporter complements High Ground's mission to write about what's next for Memphis.