Stacy Spencer and Rhonda Spencer

Recorded March 5, 2020 Archived March 5, 2020 37:09 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddb002571


Stacy Spencer (51) and his wife Rhonda Spencer (50) discuss their childhoods, a passion for social justice, the establishment of an interfaith organization designed to balance the equity in Memphis [MICAH], mutual community contributions, and the impact of the Civil Rights Museum.

Subject Log / Time Code

SS describes his birthplace; shares about his family, relationship with the church, and what he is most proud of.
SS explains task force set to address most pressing concerns in the city of Memphis; shares the work of multiple organizations in the city.
RS shares place of birth; how she met SS; RS and SS share first encounters with racism.
RS shares what she's most proud of; shares role of church in her life; her role at the beginning of the congregation's formation; shares what it was like to transition out the corporate world to focus on support the start of SS's ministry.
RS and SS share favorite teachers; RS shares about first being introduced to poetry; shares an early school experience; shares concerns for the future; SS shares thoughts about the coronavirus.


  • Stacy Spencer
  • Rhonda Spencer

Recording Location

National Civil Rights Museum

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service



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00:05 My name is Rhonda Faye Spencer. I am 50 years old. Today's date is March 5th in the year of 2020. I'm presently in the Civil Rights Museum and the name of the person that I had. My interview partner is Stacy Lynn Spencer and he is my husband.

00:26 I am Stacy Spencer Stacy Lynne Spencer. I'm 51 years old. Today's date is March 5th 2020. I'm in the National Civil Rights Museum and the name of my interview partner is run the face Spencer and she is my wife.

00:49 Okay, so we have these questions. We need to ask one another so we're just going to go into it and just have some fun with it. So Stacy tell me where were you born in Russellville, Kentucky? 1968 and Cyril town in South West part of Kentucky by 30 minutes from Bowling Green Kentucky on main industry was tobacco. I remember growing up as a kid helping my granddaddy pick up tobacco leaves and then when I was old enough I had to go out there and cut it to put it in the barn and that's how we made our school money, you know how to get some school clothes and my tennis shoes in my blue jeans my Levi's my mama told me if I wanted more than what she could Supply had to get out of work till farming was very important Hunting Fishing Uncle babies to take us hunting and fishing and my grandma

01:47 Help to raise us after Mom and Dad got a divorce and eight 7 and that helped me to grow up real fast and be responsible for my brothers and sisters and growing up in a row Kentucky area with primarily white people around us that racial tensions grew up with that but my mom always instilled within me a sense of Pride and let me know that I was destined for great things. And so Russellville Kentucky was my place of birth was does not place my destination. So Mama make sure that and that's why she encouraged me to go on to go to school at Western Tech University.

02:31 So how many siblings do you have by your mom with your mom and dad for where my Mom and Dad it was me my younger brother who is two years younger than me. And then Samantha Sean is a middle child. Samantha was the youngest and I was a three of us, but Dad he had a lot of children outside of the marriage probably about two other brothers and three sisters and so that a big extended family and one of the things that my mom always emphasizes even though they had, you know, might have stepped out of the marriage. She always make sure we knew our brothers and sisters and Sheet show love to each and every one of them so family was always important for us.

03:19 Alright

03:22 So what was it like growing up in rural Kentucky? It was a very humbling experience that I thank God for it because it really gave me the values that I have today. There's something so genuine about people from the country. They are without pretense and as you've seen before when you going home with me people like the wave at you when you driving down the street nothing still trying to convince you to wave at people when you said the people are very genuine authentic a hard-working full of faith, and they looked out for one another, you know, there was a sense of community similar to what we see when we go to Africa and visit Africa in the hospitality and the love and community. That was what I received when I was a young man, so that would follow me all the days of my life the work ethic the sense of family since of Faith always said that when I was

04:22 Mom gave me a drug problem. She drugged me to send the school. She drugged me to Bible study choir practice church was everything for us. And so that experience growing up really shape my worldview gave me a solid foundation in which to go out and explore the world. I had roots and I had wings so that growing up experience gave me that awesome. So what are you most proud of what I'm most proud about is that I am your husband and I am a father of three wonderful boys that you bless me with Amari Jordan and Jaden and to be able to give them what I didn't have you know, and that is a solid family email a mama and a daddy in the house love each other and I'm hoping that through them they will be able to break the cycle of what I experienced from the trauma of domestic abuse of broken families of divorce.

05:22 So I am very proud of that. I'm also proud that God has called me into Ministry to help people to change The Narrative of Injustice. I'm proud of the work that we've been able to do together in Memphis, Tennessee to make sure that people have the right the doctor King die for in this city that people have the right to pursue life and Liberty and in that they might experience does Abundant Life to Jesus Christ talked about so I'm proud of being able to be a part of the work in the Legacy. Dr. King in.

06:00 Just extend the values that I was raised with by my mom and my grandma and even later on my dad when he came back in the picture.

06:07 Loving your wife for now. This is 27 years right this year, Okay, so

06:16 I've been able to witness you kind of grow up we grew up together and some of those passions over the years have changed at this phase in your life. What are you most passionate about this phase for the most passionate about is social justice changing the narrative with all of the xenophobia and racism that has been stirred up. It's like there's a been a big backlash from 50 years ago when dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, and then we have a black president and now this backlash of xenophobia and racism in fear and division. It just awakened within me a sense of urgency that we have to realize the dream that dr. King died for the year that. Came. I was born and so now it's like this a real wakening within me to

07:16 Actualize his dream before know my time on this Earth is up. I want to be able to try to change the narrative in Memphis. I didn't think we were going to be in Memphis this long we came here in 1995. Pastor as youth pastors, but now having started a church in this city and seen all of the things that people deal with economically educationally spiritually. I want to make a difference. I want to change the narrative before, you know, I leave to make sure that this city is a city of equity in a city of go to bowl for everybody. I remember a number of times when we talked and you said when it's my time to go I want to

08:02 Die empty explain that to me a little bit before then, you know when she dies she wants to die after she said like the old song says whatever you do use me till you use me up. So many people go to the Grave with the best of their resources still inside of them. I want to go empty. I want to write all the books. I want to do all the work. I want to help as many people as I can and leave it all on the floor. And so when I go home to meet my maker I want to be able to say that I made a difference in this world made a difference in Memphis more than that that I made a deposit in my son so that they can carry on the Legacy said please give me a little bit about Micah tell me about the concept of Micah the Inception of Michael. What does it stand for all that good stuff.

09:02 3 years ago there was a group out of Nashville that came to Memphis to talk to about 6 pastors about social justice work that they were doing in Nashville and Noah stand for Nashville organized around action and hope and they were working around poverty and economic equity and Housing Opportunity Equal Housing opportunities in Nashville. And when I heard about the work that Camellia was doing with them I wanted to do that in Memphis. Memphis has been so traumatized with the death of dr. King in there people who are angry about the inequity in the poverty. But really there was nobody really coming together to draw Coalition of people together to work towards that and so when I heard about the training that was available to get people organized I said, I can come off the wall as busy as I am with New Direction Christian Church, you know, have you started this mega church ministry. There's so many responsibilities with that.

10:02 The one I heard about the possibility of working with other like-minded people that Drew my interest and so we got back together and decided that we were going to start a organization that would speak to the social injustice issues in Memphis and it had to be a coalition of diverse people. And so we came up with the name Memphis Interfaith Coalition for action and hope so with that. We also had a task force meeting where we came together to talk about the issues. We did one-on-ones it over 3,000 people in Memphis to ask them what were their concerns about the city and we narrowed down those concerns to three things that we will be working on and that was an economic equity into cultural activity and educational equity and we now have 70 organizations black white Christian Jew Muslim.

11:01 All kind of parrot Church organizations working together to change the narrative in the city. And so I'm excited about the traction that we're getting we recently held First Tennessee near First Horizon Bank accountable for them redlining poor black communities and the judge found them guilty and they were supposed to redistribute 1.5 billion dollars in West Memphis. We have held them to task to divide that money up of Monk 7 communities. We've been able to secure funding for our public transit system because of poor people can't get on the bus. They can't get to work. And so we were doing that kind of work. We're trying to get money towards school system the city of Memphis. This is really not putting any money into our Public School System. They've been somewhat abandoned. We've been talking to the mayor about getting more funding for our Public School System. We're talkin to a police chief about

12:01 Moore police accountability body cameras to make sure that we cut down on the incident of police violence against his citizens particular black citizens and this work is amazing because there's a tapestry of people coming together that I haven't seen come together since we've been in Memphis is 1995. Just black for white folks Latino folk Asian folk Christian Muslim Jews all coming together different organizations and about last public meeting that was at Westwood Malvern and Westwood Pastor James netters who work with dr. King when he will come to Memphis. He was turning 90 that day and we were able to have a massive meeting of two thousand people a Doctor James Methodist Church and even honor his birthday the man who marched with dr. King, so mica.

12:56 Is an extension of the work to dr. King did in Memphis and to be able to be a Pioneer and help to start that it's pretty exciting organization operating in silos. But when the masses came together more could be accomplished more force was behind it as opposed to 10 people over here 20 people over there. So let me ask you about you sweetheart. All right now, I don't know everything. So where were you born? I was born in Louisville Kentucky. I am the youngest child of seven. I have three older brothers and three older sisters propolis of Louisville, Kentucky. And you married a man from rural Kentucky in the world that a city girl in the country boy meet up when

13:57 But mischley when I was coming for my orientation for the undergrad at Western Kentucky University, and that was in the fall of 88 and my two girlfriends and I we are dad dropped us off to go register get our classes meet with our advisors and you were pretending to work and you came out from the computer lab install a SIM lock.

14:24 You don't like college. I thought the same thing.

14:29 So what was it like growing up in Lewisville? Did Louisville they have a lot of racism and a lot of poverty. What was it like growing up in the movie waiting at the hands that you experienced in Russellville. It wasn't like that and Louisville. It was a little more in the city. You have more little I lived in kind of a supper, but that was still valence downtown.

14:57 Kids coming up missing I can remember the white van whenever we would see a white man being a child. We would automatically run out cuz during the time it was considered this wife and grab a little kids rapping in Atlanta. Right? But we adopted it. We thought it was happening all over the world being a small child. But we we were pretty safe in our area at this time. No cell phones, of course, so we would go from house to house and somehow I parents always knew what we were and we had to be back home before the streetlights. Come you groping. What was the name of the section in Louisville Newburgh Newburgh was a predominately black families that live there. When was your first encounter with racism growing up my first encounter with racism?

15:49 It probably was when I went away to college ruler. Yes. So it's almost like we were sheltered from a we were in like a little bubble. I don't remember experience seen any in elementary middle or High School.

16:07 Thinking back to high school none that I can remember. But yeah college for some reason. I just saw opposite. So when I was like in the third or fourth grade, I remember getting on the school bus with a white school bus driver who said I need all your little niggahs to come up front so I can watch you.

16:24 And my auntie who had a afro in the 70s came out and stealing from the school bus after after school and had a makeshift protest. Let him know she didn't appreciate what he said to me. So you didn't experience anything until you got the college example is I'm a bad kids from the neighborhood fighting in the back of the bus. I was one of those kids that always set in the front regardless as also sitting in the front of the class and my daddy following the bus all the way to school to make sure he got on the bus told them to sit down and followed it all the way to school to make sure that that was not fighting your hair to stay with family or do you have a Dad or Mom and Dad? Yes, and how many siblings 67 baby? I'm the youngest and I'm the oldest.

17:17 So what are you most proud of my most proud of being a mom of three boys and being married to this handsome man? I'm sitting in front of and being able to support our church that was playing it from the Pacific Boulevard how we've been in existence now for 18 years where we started out with 60 members and we didn't know what the heck we were doing all we took classes people volunteer to do things we continue to grow and we continue to girl talk to a part about the growth of the church that we planted together. So we started with 60 people and they grew to what oh my gosh in the last 18 years. It was like

18:14 What's a 22 and 28000 on the role that we we grew too before we kind of tapered off a bit? I'm not really sure what the numbers are that we're seeing now and our two locations. I know it's not 28,000 because I think some of these people are coming to church once every other month. That's all but that's all right, because now we have the streaming system where we have a number of people that are watching our 10:30 service and they're streaming that are not even in the city. So we're not only reaching those inside the city. We're reaching some outside of the city of Memphis to talk about being proud to talk about the mention the start of the church. How did the start of this church impact you and what role did you play? Well when we start the church, I was in Corporate America. I work for a company called in roads and within roads, we would help high school and college students trying them.

19:15 Throughout the Summers when they were in what we started their junior year of high school and all through college and gave them soft skills hard skills. We partnered with different companies here in the city that offer internships for them based upon what they thought they wanted to major in in college and some of those young adults today are still working for those companies here in the city. The whole purpose of that was so that we could keep Talent here in Memphis as opposed to our students are children going off to school and taking their talent elsewhere. We had the opportunity to invest in them so they can come back after they graduated and stay in the city. So I work for them for a number of years and I knew I was so involved with emeralds that I couldn't do that and help with the ministry. So we thought it over and talked it over and I came out of corporate to help you with.

20:15 Directions and how was how was that transition for you in terms of leaving corporate and then coming supporting being a mom of full-time because I thought I was missing out cuz I've got two degrees and I was like don't want to be a housewife but it's a joy. It's a lot harder than people think I even attempted to go back to work. I one point at and I was working at WKU know and I ask Jaden something he was up. I miss coming home and seeing your car in the garage and that just kind of broke my heart. Oh mama. I can remember every time I came home from school. She was there offering a snack in the hug, you know want to know about my day. So I was like, okay, let me get myself together. Let me get my life, right Ministry was our family Foundation. I think like a pastor.

21:15 That I first Ministry was a family and without you we wouldn't have that solid foundation. So I'm grateful for the sacrifice that you took and making sure that I first Ministry with solid. What is your passion?

21:29 My passion is what what my passions.

21:33 I want to help.

21:36 Couple stay married, we have a very strong and thriving marriage Ministry a lot of times men and women get married and they think they get divorced so quick for something very trivial as

21:53 Keys on the floor not the major not a deal-breaker that I would think but you know that if we made getting married as as hard as I think it's easy to get divorced, but at any rate we can counseling couples and sometimes singles that's very rewarding aware of currently working on the you and I remember we need to finish our our degrees on our extended.

22:25 Counseling sessions. I'm also I'm passionate about just being there to help and being able to do what I need to do to make sure that you stay saying they saying boys they say what is your connection to the Civil Rights Movement connection is

22:47 A year or two ago. There was a big March where a whole bunch of balance and shootings were going on in the city. And so the church has decided that we wanted to all come together to show solidarity and we marched from what was it the the courthouse I believe the city hall City Hall actually down to the Civil Rights Museum and it was on the news and in the paper and we were all dressed in white. And as far as you could just look back and just see this Banner a white from White churches and black churches and brown all of us coming together to show the city. Hey, we really need to get a hold on.

23:36 This balance here in the city and shortly after that is when you that's when Michael came about how would you describe our community where our church is located in Hickory Hill the community is changing when we lived in Hickory Hill. It was it was a little dive bars, but now it's not so diverse, but it's there is about 13 or 12% unemployment in in in our communities 9% poverty. And so it's

24:17 You don't know if the person that's living next to you with her struggle is off. They have a job. And so I know where our neighbors and our old neighborhood when I gave birth to think it was Heavy Jordan. Remember they all came over and then we would share meals or have different things going on. So I think some of the communities are missing that Community Link of looking out for one another for your volunteer in your community volunteer. I'm active in my sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority Incorporated. So we do a lot of things in the community and then we can I volunteer with Church community activities as well.

25:00 Anything else you want to ask me in terms of?

25:04 My involvement

25:13 So we're sitting here in the National Civil Rights Museum and when we first moved here to Memphis and we had the opportunity to visit and we've been through this Museum and number of times. What is it most that you see that you liked about our national Civil Rights Museum institution. Nationally. This is the place where dr. King was martyred gave his life up for all people particularly poor people poor people poor blacks poor whites. It stopped. It seemed to stop here, but it didn't it ignited something within me and others and to come back to this sacred ground and to visit the place where he

26:05 Breathe his last it reminds me of what needs to be done yet. And the way that they have put this Museum together interactive reflective is a Mecca where people from all around the world should come and not just see where he died. But why he died and to see why we still yet have to continue the fight for justice. And so this is one of the most important institution in our nation and I think the whole world needs to know about it. What about you the Civil Rights Museum, especially the new interactive piece or you can go through in a listen to what happened. Then you can read on the wall. What's happening. Just kind of take your time going through

26:59 It's more than just doing it Monday cuz you could never really digested in one day. It's so much information in it. But I absolutely love I Museum here. You know, I asked you about what you do in the community. I remember you also work with some young people in Reading internal Lily is a program where we go into different elementary schools and read to 2nd graders will teach them how to read the fry words on forgets how many flowers are I think it's a thousand or so but they keep getting a little more difficult to enunciate and spell the we help the second graders read Because if a second grader doesn't learn to read I learn to read then they won't be able to read to learn normally by third fourth.

27:59 Read the statistics State that's when they start building prisons for children during the third grade based upon the reading level of some of those kids. I absolutely love that. Just wanted to take them all home with me. I used to have so many colorful kids that colorful meaning funny as just able to love on them every week and talk to them start out asking them about know what were they learn in their classes and then we would get down to work cuz you just can't sit down with a second grader and try to pay tell these words are so we will play games but just learning about them and the things that they experience in their little lives at the age of 6 & 7 told me once about a little girl that was despondent in class first. She's very bright and cheerful the one that you know that she was very sad and you found out something what happened?

28:59 With

29:01 A number of relatives and I used to bring her books and she was like, well, can I just leave them at school because I can't read them at home because my cousin will tear him up and so I began to probe a little bit and then I even had a little conversation with her teacher about it but one day in particular she came and she was kind of sad and she told me that him in the middle of the school year wasn't the end of the semester the beginning of the semester that they were moving to Texas that she was going to go live with her father.

29:34 And that was just like uprooting this baby in the middle of a school year going to a different state where she's already to a different school where she's already made some connections with the teachers and classmates. So she's got to start all over again. The story seems to be a lot of stories similar stories for love of children that we experience in our community and Hickory Hill that's so transitory, you know, you get used to seeing the kids and then they're gone to another neighborhood either their parent lost her job or got evicted and then we have to start all over again, but the whole purpose of us doing that was to help cut that pipeline to prison they have those kids reading. So again that made me proud to see you as a role model going over and reading to those kids every week and I think they made a huge difference.

30:27 Why loved it so much because I would read to our boys and

30:32 That just made it easier to be able to read to other children.

30:45 So when you were a kid, who's your favorite teacher?

30:54 It probably was.

30:58 I think her name is Miss Logan. She's an English teacher as a black female English teacher. She's the one who introduced me to 43 on a different level and

31:14 Whatever reason I thought I was going to be a port in high school. I used to write poems. I still have my journals and me writing poems and then we had some of the literary Scholars that will come in what we would have to.

31:30 You know write sonnets or and it said it was it was it was asking and I loved her as a teacher and when I learned from her favorite teacher was Miss Jane. She was a white lady that took special interest in me when I was in elementary school and I was among those kids. They were put in the middle of the Lost trailers behind the school cuz I was so insecure so traumatized by in a work when I'm with my family my daddy coming back from Vietnam abusive to my mom divorced left us and so I would try to come home early every day. And then finally they put me in about five of the kids in a little trailer. But Miss Jane took special interest in me and when she did she ask mom, can she take me home with her one night. She took me home and she's picking out. She's trying to fix my hair. I had a afro she calls my mom on the phone. She says, I don't know what to do with his hair. So mama said you have a kitchen for

32:27 She said yes to get the biggest kitchen Fork you have and just began to pick out his afro, but it wasn't so much her picking out. My Afro, is that she pick me out to show me love and she encouraged me to the point where I got back on my reading track. I got back in the regular classroom and now here I am later now a doctor earn doctorate because that woman took the time I need more teachers right took the time off of kids who are traumatized and kids who have been through so many things that we can't even imagine if we had more teachers to take the time like your teacher dead and my teacher did I believe that we can save a lot more kids.

33:10 I agree to what scares you the most about where we are as a country right now.

33:17 What's ears mean?

33:20 Let's see. It's right now we're trying to get a handle on this coronavirus. That's seemingly spreading all over the country. It's in the United States as well. So everybody's kind of on alert cuz we don't know what's this superbug is and then also who are leaders are in the White House or the lack thereof in my perspective who's going to take over in the next year in the in the white house? That was just a lot of uncertainties in our country that as a child. I never would have thought I would be so concerned about as an adult.

34:09 You know, I'm concerned too about a virus but not the coronavirus but the virus of hate that's been spread since Trump took office and it's very disconcerting and hurtful to me to see how country spiral downward and likely taking 50 steps back to 50 years ago. And it's amazing. I was in my devotion time this morning. I was reading about when Jesus told his disciples. He said in the last days will be great anguish. None, like we've ever seen before he said false leaders will come up and deceive the masses to the point where even the elect are deceived and I saw that and I said great anguish.

34:53 And I remember the slogan make America great again. He said it would be great anguish like you've never experienced before and and so we made America great. Alright greatly angered people have been stirred up in their fear and their prejudices and I just hope and pray and and and really believe that if we get out and vote in 2020 that we can change this nation back to the trajectory towards hope and unity, but if not, I fear that we are going to see greater Anglers like we've never seen before until we just see ourselves in the Civil War and if we don't if we don't change the trajectory, I just feel like the way headed toward a very ugly.

35:42 Piece of history that none of us want to experience so I'm hoping that I young people the Millennials. I'm hoping that black folk women. Everybody would get out and vote their conscience and come together and stop this insanity. But this is really troubling to me right now. But yesterday when Jaden and I were in the car, he asked me he said Mama we in the last days.

36:12 Revelation last day sweetheart. He was I said, we've been on last days for a while and so was so we started talking a little bit about the Book of Revelation and I was telling him about some of the things in it about the children turn it against their parents and he was like that that's not happening. I said not in our household.

36:35 You know, there's a proverb that says that the ruin of a Nation begins in the homes of his people and again, I thank you for making sure our home was a safe place in a sacred place so that we could change the narrative from the inside out. You've been a part of that Journey with me and I'm grateful that you've been my partner and I'm looking forward to us continuing to change the narrative on this city, and hopefully this country, so thank you. Thank you. Love you. Love you more.