I am currently in Memphis on the education beat for Chalkbeat Tennessee.
My first few years in Memphis were with The Commercial Appeal, covering education and other general news.
View select clips below.
My writing has appeared in both newspapers and magazines: The New York Times, The Commercial Appeal, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, Tuscaloosa News, and The Crimson White; Catapult, Teen Vogue, This Old House, Martha Stewart Weddings, Atlanta magazine, and Tuscaloosa magazine.
You can also find me on Shoeleather.
Feature Justice for Tyre Nichols began at historic pace. US is watching what Memphis does next // Four months before Tyre Nichols was fatally beaten by police, the nation had its eyes turned to Memphis during a week of high-profile killings, the city and nation both adopting a narrative that violent crime was out of control and needed to be stopped. The city and nation are now reckoning with how badly those crime-stopping efforts can go wrong. This feature was the front page story for The Commercial Appeal and USA Today in January 2023 in the immediate wake of the release of video footage days before Nichols’ funeral.
Investigation MSCS standardized teacher salaries. Former Superintendent Joris Ray got a raise // Out of line with the leader’s contract, the Memphis schools superintendent received a 5% pay raise even when teachers did not receive a raise. The additional pay was included in the salary used to calculate the leader’s termination pay and set the salary of the new interim superintendent. The story, told with public records, prompted new policy mandating board members be made aware of changes to superintendent pay. This story was published by The Commercial Appeal in September 2022.
Investigation Collierville Schools took 300 books with LGBTQ+, Black characters off shelves while Tennessee lawmakers considered ban // Community sources, public records told the story of a “chilling effect” of proposed legislation restricting classroom discussion of race and sex for this suburban Memphis school: More than 300 books were removed from high school shelves because of the state bills, which ultimately never became law. The story prompted response from PEN America and is featured in the organization’s banned books report. This story was published by The Commercial Appeal in August 2022.
Investigation Joris Ray left MSCS. His sister remains a high-ranking director // Continued reporting on the termination of a Memphis school superintendent revealed through public records and interviews that the former leader’s sister was hired, promoted to a top position and provided a raise 50% higher than her predecessor during the superintendent’s three-year tenure. The story was published by The Commercial Appeal in November 2022.
Human rights At Memphis’ queer prom, balancing tragedy and joy amid ‘alarming’ Supreme Court implications // This story asks the question: What is it like to celebrate pride between the day LGBTQ+ rights are called into question by a Supreme Court Justice and the seventh anniversary of the day the same court recognized same sex marriage? It was published by The Commercial Appeal in July 2022.
Education Memphis schools may be in-person, but amid omicron, it’s no ‘return to normal’ // This story captures information from public records, contracts and data from school board meetings of multiple districts, plus interviews with a teacher union president, a top school district official, a university school director, a community advocate, and a high school student to give a picture of COVID-19 logistical challenges despite districts refusing attendance records. It was published by The Commercial Appeal in January 2022.
Culture What South Memphis ‘neighborhood hero’ Young Dolph means to Hamilton High’s legacy // In the wake of his death, this community-based feature is about the rap star’s ascendance within his home high school, which since his departure fought to stay open and was the only school he attended that hadn’t closed. This story features education and community sources, including a student, on interactions with Dolph at various stages of his education and stardom. It was published by The Commercial Appeal in November 2021.
Education How Tennessee’s new education plan is changing the share of the pie for school districts // Collaborating with a statewide reporter at The Tennessean, we ran analyses on several data sets and co-wrote a story inquiring into the equity of the new K-12 funding formula, revealing that most school districts would receive a smaller share of state dollars under the new formula compared to the old one. To access the graph in the story, click here. The story was published by USA Today newspapers across Tennessee in April 2022.
Human rights These Black teens are turning 18 in Tamir Rice’s America // For what would have been Tamir Rice’s 18th birthday, I wrote about a Black Memphis teen celebrating his 18th birthday the same year. A musician, he planned to attend Grambling State University. His uncle celebrated his high school graduation after his mother advocated for his release from prison. This was published among other vignettes in USA Today in June 2020.
Politics Teacher or lawyer? At Rhodes College, Amy Coney Barrett made a pro-con list for her future // Rhodes College in Memphis is the undergraduate alma mater of Amy Coney Barrett. Leading up to her appointment to the Supreme Court, this story captured interviews with a former professor in this profile, which ties in reporting critical of the alumna by other Rhodes graduates. It was published by The Commercial Appeal in October 2020.
Breaking news Before storm hit Mayfield, Kentucky, it tore roof off Arkansas nursing home 100 miles away // This story was reported from northeast Arkansas as a tornado collapsed a nursing home before, 100 miles later, the storm devastated Mayfield, Kentucky. This disaster coverage includes interviews with officials and from the scene. It was published across USA Today newspapers in the area in December 2021.
Human rights What do you do when your child gets shot at school? A father’s faith points him to mercy // The education beat in Memphis can include community gun violence and youth. This time, that struck in the hallways of a school. The father of the victim expressed a distinct tone of forgiveness, shared in this profile written after a handful of interviews leading up to his teen son’s return to school. This story was published in The Commercial Appeal in October 2021.
Culture ‘The baddest biker girls in the world:’ Meet New Orleans’ Caramel Curves // Hear more from the all-female motorcycle club in New Orleans. Members discuss why they love the sisterhood, and the price of national fame (including the cost of their famous pink burnouts). This story was published with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune in March 2019.
Culture Trace the Saints ski mask craze back to this local designer // When Saints players Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram dawned ski masks in a playoff game press conference, they were really just supporting their friend and local designer, who also had NFL hopes. This story was published with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune in February 2019.
News Changing the Narrative Around Black Poverty // Writers Jesmyn Ward and Baratunde Thurston spoke with Ginia Bellafante, Big City Columnist for The New York Times at the newspaper’s Cities for Tomorrow event in New Orleans in December 2018. The coverage was co-published in both The New York Times and NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
News The Allure of Vertical Forests // In Milan, Italy, architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri constructed a Vertical Forest: a skyscraper full of trees and several thousand species of birds. He spoke about the benefits at The New York Times’ Cities for Tomorrow event in New Orleans in December 2018. The coverage was co-published in both The New York Times and NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
Culture Mayfair Lounge owner, turning 89, celebrates 40th anniversary of owning dive bar // Miss Gertie is the star of this profile on a local favorite written for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune in October 2018.
Human rights What Has Changed Since Megan Rondini’s Death // This 2,000-word feature was published for Teen Vogue in October 2017.
Culture 15 Minutes with Exodus, Wig-Maker to the Drag Queen Stars // For Catapult in November 2018, I profiled George Berry and Exodus of Wigs by Exodus, a custom wig company that creates for an international clientele (RuPaul stars included) out of a headquarters in Alabama.
Profile Generation Next: Meet the Apprentices // For the July/August 2017 issue of This Old House magazine, I wrote three profiles about apprentices selected to be on the PBS television show.
Culture Can I Get a Roll Tide? // For an issue of The Crimson White in September 2016, I spoke with linguistics professors at The University of Alabama to categorize and define the uses of the phrase “Roll Tide.”