Memphian to Meet: Cary Brown

Posted on August 1, 2014

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By Kendra Lyons

car1Cary Brown’s family has lived in Memphis for “a long time.” Following in the footsteps of many of her family members, she was born and raised here and then decided to start her own family in the Bluff City.

Brown is heavily involved in the Memphis community in several ways, from business ventures such as opening the Lilly Pulitzer Signature shop, The Pink Door, to serving as President of the Memphis Garden Club, to volunteer work. Brown is dedicated to serving Memphis in whatever way she can and aims to bring positive change to the city. She encourages all Memphians to claim Memphis and do what they can to contribute in a helpful and productive way, instead of seeking opportunities elsewhere.

As President of the Memphis Garden Club, Brown was pleased with the way that the they prioritized not only gardening, but also giving back to the community and supporting other facets of the city, particularly the arts. A prime example of the collision between gardening and the arts is the flower show that the club puts on at Dixon Gardens every two years. The Memphis Garden Club interprets particular artists and styles in the form of plants, showing a broadened purpose for gardening, while simultaneously supporting the Memphis art culture.

Brown was eager to speak about her volunteer work at Binghampton Christian Academy. “I serve lunch there as often as I can. I love doing that and that’s something that everyone can call in and volunteer to do,” she explains.

Brown adds, “It’s a great service that they’re doing for the Binghampton community. They’re taking pretty at-risk kids and trying to help them morally and forming them in ways other than just academically.”

car2Brown considers improvement in the education system to be one of her biggest wishes for Memphis.

“Our educational system seems to not be producing the caliber of educated person that has the ability to move beyond their station…the lot in life that they were born into. I have no idea how to improve it but it seems like that and the broken families are the two things that worry me the most.”

The cycle of poverty, lack of access to opportunities, exposure to violence and drugs and alcohol, and the absence of a strong family life, Brown believes, all contribute to the bigger picture of the flaws within the public education system in Memphis. Brown realizes the gravity of these issues and believes in tackling them one at a time to bring long-term change to schools, utilizing a holistic approach to the challenges Memphis schools face.

When asked why she felt Memphis was a great place to start and raise a family, Brown expressed sadness about Memphians leaving the city she calls home.

“I think that Memphis, with its history of race problems and poverty problems and all of that, I hate to think that people who have the opportunity to leave here and do something else would do that. It just bothers me when I hear about my kids’ friends who want to go to NY or Nashville or Charlotte. If everyone that has the brains and the know-how and is financially fortunate, I hate to think that they leave. They need to stay here to make it [Memphis] a better place.”

Brown has a deep love for Memphis and is determined to face the adversities within the city head-on and with a true Memphian to spirit. To Brown, being a Memphian is largely about hope. Being a Memphian means, “maintaining a lot of hope and always accentuating the positive things and not letting the negative things overwhelm you.”

Brown sums up her thoughts nicely with a connection to the heart and soul of the city; music:

“When i think of Memphis I think of music and music is non-denominational. It has no color and no bias and I think that’s kind of a symbol of Memphis that everyone here enjoys the same kinds of music even when that music comes from all different aspects of our community, the good the bad and the ugly. I kind of think of Memphis as music.”

Women like Cary Brown are a strong reminder of the tradition and history of our city, as she holds tightly to her family history and the roots of Memphis that offer hope and optimism as we move forward and address deep issues, from racial divides, to the education system, to the retention of talent in the city. Brown’s belief in the city is refreshing and inspiring, and it is the spirit of Memphians like herself that will be able to make the biggest and most meaningful impact, regardless of the challenges we may face ahead.

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