Britney Thornton is a native of historic Orange Mound, a neighborhood in Memphis which, in 1890 when it was founded, was one of the first in the country built by and for African Americans. She traveled to Texas and Pennsylvania to complete her undergraduate and graduate education. Teach for America brought her back home; “that’s where the magic and connections…started to happen,” she says. And that was when Britney began implementing ideas that she had started formulating while getting her master’s in social work at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2016, Britney founded JUICE Orange Mound, which is currently executing an exciting community mobilization strategy that uses 4% of the total population of the community to evoke change. Their technique is simple: four times a year they canvass the neighborhood collecting spare change from residents. They then use the money collected to pay for an project idea conceptualized by members of the community. In doing so, they promote innovation within and the self-sufficiency of the neighborhood. Every funded project represents something the community has interest, investment, and ownership in and is a testament to the community that it can better itself. Some of the past, current, and planned projects include providing funds for uniforms to neighborhood schools; sponsoring the neighborhood’s first 5K race, Round the Mound, to be held for the second year this fall; hosting a community baby shower for new moms; and purchasing banners to beautify the community.
In this film we join Britney and her neighbors as they live out their mission to unite, empower, and support each resident in Orange Mound, a community ripe with history and pride. Watch as they canvass their neighborhood in intergenerational teams, meeting the residents of their community at their doorsteps, collecting spare change, and building relationships in order to work together for change to reclaim the prestige of their neighborhood. The day we were there they even recruited a new street representative who joined them to help canvass her street. We also visit Melrose High School for one of the regular monthly meetings of JUICE, now attended by community members and leaders, and partners outside of the community. Britney hopes these meetings will grow to include 117 representatives, one from each street in the neighborhood so everyone will have a voice and place at the table.
We end with Britney sharing her hope that her work through JUICE is in line with what Dr. King would have envisioned for an organization in 2018. She thinks of her actions as an offering to the ancestor and says to him, “there is still a piece of you that lingers on this earth, and we are still doing meaningful work.” We are grateful for the work of bright young people like Britney and believe in the collective power of JUICE to create change for the better in Orange Mound and beyond.