As we look ahead to a new year, I have asked some Memphians who care deeply about their city’s future for their resolutions or reflections for 2024. I am deeply grateful for their thoughtful submissions.   

Today’s commentary is by Marvin Stockwell, the host of the Champions of the Lost Causes podcast.  and David French, president of Memphis Brand.  Through his publicity practice, Champion the Cause Marvin’s goal is to shine a light on the good that his clients are doing and on the civic efforts of which he’s a part.  He is widely known as a driving force behind the Coliseum Coalition and a co-founder of Rock for Love. David heads up an organization that tells Memphis’ story in contemporary positive ways to attract talent, drive investment, and boost civic pride.  He previously was interim president and senior vice-president of the National Park Foundation and a vice-president at MTV Networks.  

Marvin Stockwell, Champions of the Lost Causes:

My wish for Memphis in 2024 is that we think bigger!

So much has been written about the maverick spirit of Memphis back in the day, so I will not unpack the litany of innovation that saw Memphis change the world again and again.

It is time to act out of that civic nature again! To do so will take courage and new voices around a wider table of civic input.

Memphis has developed a penchant for adaptive reuse that has slowed down a bit in recent years. Sure, we can blame the pandemic to a degree, but if we’re honest, we must also face the fact that we started pulling our punches and clinging to conventionality. Call it a “market correction” after we went on an unprecedented tear, but we need to put our foot on the gas pedal of innovation again, and press it to the floor.

We need to have the civic will to reactivate the Mid-South Coliseum, to reimagine Mud Island, and to find a new use for the soon-to-be-vacated Brooks building in Overton Park, among other things.

Our city is at an exciting and hopeful juncture point of possibility.

We have a new mayor, a new city council, and fairly new leadership at the chamber already calling gutsy plays. I hope that my friends Paul, Pearl, Jerri – and the other newly elected leaders – will keep their minds open, stay true to their ideals, and not settle for the conventional answers that have held us back.

Our go-to power players have a role to play, but they are not all-knowing and all-powerful. They could use some help. Hopefully, our newly electeds will draw from a wider set of input than in the past. Hopefully, there will be a new spirit of collegiality among governing bodies, and between elected leaders and grassroots leaders working throughout our city.

We’ve had some civic fights be resolved, and while we may disagree on how things panned out, let’s ask, Where might that freed up energy go? What can we do with it?

I host a podcast called Champions of the Lost Causes, which examines why people champion causes, what sustains them, and what helps them succeed.

One thing that I’ve seen at work in every episode is courage in the face of fear. People’s courage to act, paired with belief in goodness (mine, yours and in the inevitability of goodness winning out) unlocks superpowers and moves mountains!

We need that courage and belief – already present and at work – to seize the steering wheel of our city all the more!

Another belief that I’ve seen expressed across my interviews is a belief in collaboration.

As children, we met other kids at the park and did not hesitate to build the fort together with found materials. People who champion causes reconnect with that childlike sense of wonder in possibilities, and they “build the fort” of their civic innovation with those who are drawn to help them.

We must once again act out of a store of this courage that is deep in our Memphis DNA. We must not hide behind the timid answers of seeming inevitability that have been allowed to pass for prudence and wisdom.

Not for one second longer.

My podcast interviews have shown me that goodness is humanity’s predominant and enduring trait. It is unkillable, unsmotherable, indefatigable and eternal.

Like a buoy in water, the torrential storms of division and selfishness come, but goodness unfailingly pops back up to mark the way for those of us who persist. The love behind that goodness will always be stronger than anything that threatens it.


Inner doubt and wider societal pessimism are all that hold us back, and their threats, I’ve learned, are empty.

We must not be bullied any longer.

We have all the creativity and talent we need to move forward. Now, we stand at the precipice of a New Year and a fresh start. I’m excited to see what happens, and I’m even more excited to play my part.


David French, president, Memphis Brand:

My wife Melanie and I moved to Memphis in 2016 and we can unequivocally say – we love this place. We have collectively lived in seven other cities including Phoenix, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo, New York City, Los Angeles and Washington DC. None of those places speak to us like Memphis.

We’re not alone, when my organization Memphis Brand, surveys how people feel about Memphis in cities across the country, 60% on average are positive – that’s up nearly 13 percentage points in the last four years! Another 30% on average are neutral – or don’t really know what to think yet. That means 10% or less of people nationally have any negative opinion about our great city. What do they love about us most? Our unique culture, our people, our “soul” – with nearly 80% declaring Memphis is a “City that has Soul.”

Here at home? It’s a different story. As Memphians, we are hard on ourselves and in many cases, rightfully so. Our city has been plagued by crime, violence, poverty and the long-lasting effects of systemic racism. Other cities too. The good news? Inside every single one of those issues in every part of this city there is a changemaker making a difference.  I’ve had the privilege of not only meeting countless of them over the years, but to also share their story with national media, put them on billboards across our city and others, and profile them on which will be visited by over a million this year.

There is reason to be proud. Our days of creating change are not over. In fact, I adamantly think we are just getting started. Check out how Memphians are changing the world:

NPR: How Memphis Rap Charted a Passage From Delta Blues

BET: Memphis Mayor-Elect Paul Young Discusses how he wants Memphis to be the new “Black Metropolis.”

Forbes: Memphis company Hera Health’s founder makes Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list

Harpers Bazzar: Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson Believe Political Change Is Possible

Rolling Stone: How A Group of Memphis Drag Queens Fought The Law and Won

The world is taking notice and so should we. We have had a tough year, and we have work to do, and at the same time we can be proud of this great community. In fact, from Downtown to Germantown to Southaven and beyond, most of us believe Memphis is or is becoming a great place to live and work – up 12 percentage points in the last six years. More telling — over 80% of us believe “Memphis Is a City with Soul” – that’s up 15 percentage points in just five years! 

My hope and wish for Memphis in 2024 is simple – let our “soul” guide the way. In good times and in bad, there is no denying Memphis’ undeniable community, culture and creativity. We have work to do, but I could not be prouder to say this is my city, and my soul.

In 2024 and well beyond, my team of lifelong Memphians and I are determined to continue to elevate Memphis’ game changers, rule breakers, and world shakers. We know our rightful place is at the contemporary epicenter of culture, innovation and change. We hope you join us there.

#WeAreMemphis #MyCityMySoul