What is Freedom? (The Move part 6)…2 min. read

Early morning walks at the Historical Martin Luther King Center is an experience that most do not have the privilege.  This day is cool, slightly breezy with an overcast. It’s beautiful out here. I can feel the cool air caressing my skin making me feel alive. I am taking deep breaths, clearing my mind, and rejuvenating my body. I can feel my body increasing with life and energy. My mind is thinking of new opportunities. 

However, as I continued to walk and look at the different plaques that spelled out famous quotes and historical information about Dr. King, I began to think “What is freedom?”.  I thought about some of the many definitions of freedom from the past and the present. But I could not kick the thought of what freedom meant to me at this period of my life.

Transparency is something that I have had and still continue to struggle with in my life. Never really felt anyone could fix any part of my life other than myself. I even went through a period in my life when I questioned if God really cared enough to guide me through. So I often ask myself is “freedom” when you have gotten everything right? Is “freedom” when all the mixed up missing pieces have fallen in place? Is “freedom” when all your love ones have finally gotten it right and you do not have to worry and cry as much? None of these could possibly be the answer because if it was…we would all be in bondage.

This move has allowed me the opportunity to experience history every day. Not just the history of the past but the opportunity to make history in the present. A history that no matter my current situations I will make a difference in someone’s life even if it is not the ones I thought I would make the biggest impact on. So often we feel the greatest impact should be on those that we are closest to. Those that we have given the most attention and support to. But I am learning that “freedom” means more than any of the things I mentioned. I will not attempt to define freedom for anyone but I do know that I must stand for something in this life and each day that I am working toward that goal “freedom” is what I have. 

I leave you with this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d died for.              -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So if I die tomorrow I will know that I lived to make a positive impact on those around me regardless of their responses, achievements, or failures.


Living Your Life Out Loud (The Move part 5)

Crossing the Bridge Into a New Year (The Move part 4)

The Move (Blog – Part 3)

© 2017 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.

Living Your Life Out Loud (The Move part 5)…2 min. read

Michelle Obama Farewell Speech with Oprah was on my list of shows to watch in the new year. As I sat watching the interview on YouTube, I knew that I would be inspired. There was no way that inspiration would bypass me while sitting watching two of the most powerful and influential women in the world. But I wanted to be more than inspired to watch and feel hopeful, I wanted to be inspired enough to change. Inspired enough to live my life in a way that would evoke change in others.

This statement from the First Lady moved me.

“Let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and then judge for themselves. Live it out loud. Don’t dial it back. Don’t dilute it. Don’t apologize for it.”

So how do I “live my life out loud”? How do I say exactly what needs to be said? How do I take advantage of those special teachable moments without actually saying a word? My actions are speaking with such authority my lips need not move. My life is speaking out loud with…no dialing back…no diluting…no apologizing. All without losing the effectiveness of the message I am trying to convey. The answer sadly is “I do not know”. I am learning.

I began to think…Can this be done with an assertiveness that makes people watch and listen? A way that does not offend but creates a desire to look within. A way that will impact the people that I see every day. Or even a couple times a month.

This historical area is ever changing but hurting. Buildings and homes are being renovated. New businesses are moving in. People are coming into town to enjoy the eclectic venues, good food, and spirits. But, in between all of this, we have a group of people that are lost. Consumed with the use of drugs, the selling of drugs, prostitution, panhandling, disease, and hunger. It is not only my responsibility to live in a way that provokes hope but to also provoke a different way of thinking and living.

Yes. I know sometimes the way I talk you would think I moved to an entirely different country rather than just a different city less than an hour away. Although the distance is not so great, the world that I have been divinely appointed to be a part of is quite different than that I have lived for my forty plus years. Some days I pray with a vengeance that it is divine and not of my own will, because if not, this may go horribly wrong.

Since the temperature in Atlanta was well below freezing the last couple of days, we had quite a few homeless people that continued to come in and out of the store trying to stay warm. This calls for heightened security, awareness, a special level of sympathy and a whole lot of patience. So often I struggle to balance business and outreach. But in order for me to be effective; I need to be able to present and represent my business goals and my limits of outreach. I believe the most effective and successful people can do this unapologetically, without dialing it back, without diluting their life down to a “message” that appeals to everyone but impacts no one.

I know this can be very difficult to comprehend. But I think if we all take some time to really think about whether we are “living out loud” and living an impactful life, we would start making some changes. That statement made by the First Lady probably meant something totally different for her just as it will mean something totally different to me and you but we all can decide to live in a way that will positively impact our individual “worlds”.

Please feel free to share.


Crossing the Bridge Into a New Year (The Move part 4)

The Move (Blog – Part 3)

The Move (Blog – Part 2)

The Move (Blog)

© 2017 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.

The Move (Blog – Part 3)…2 min. read

I’ve had a few request from some of my readers to see the inside of our house. Some parts are a little scary looking but we are making great progress. These pictures are actually better than when we first came in. We have moved trash from the inside, swept and mopped throughout the house so it didn’t seem so scary to move around in. Remember this is a small house so there isn’t a lot of pictures. I think the people and the neighborhood are more interesting than the house anyway.


Living Room

This first picture is our living room. It is the first room you see when you come into the house. It feels so weird to walk directly into your living area. I am so used to having a foyer. The room is quite small. We can barely fit our sofa, loveseat, and coffee table in the room comfortably and still have room to dance around.


The Disgusting Ceiling

I know you probably have that disgusting frown on your face with your little voice screaming “I would never live there! Look at that ceiling!” Well, my usual little calm & reasoning voice was screaming “What am I getting myself into?!” And guess what, this wasn’t the only room with water stains.  But you should know, we got it under control. We had roofers come out to patch up the leaks on the outside then we painted the ceiling. You wouldn’t even know there was a ceiling leak.


The Overly Green Bathroom

Now I am not a hater of the color green but I do hate the green in our bathroom. Although I am the last to talk, since I just leased out a house with some really horrible paint color in the bathroom (but that is what you get when you trust someone else to pick out the colors). This bathroom has an interesting combination of green, teal blue and black. If you take a peek into the mirror, you can see what I am talking about. Look close you will see it. Every part of this bathroom must be painted and the toilet is cracked so it must go as well.


The Plain Kitchen

Okay. Here is the kitchen. Nothing extravagant but I really like it. The floors are going to be cleaned. They remind me of the floors in some of the Spanish style homes. A little hot water and bleach go a long way to brighten up the cabinets so they bring a clean look and fresh air into the room. Some decorations and new chandelier make for a great little kitchen.

Needless to say, I am loving this neighborhood so it makes up for the work we have to do in the house. Most of our time is spent outside of the house preparing and speaking about issues in our community, feeding, and clothing the homeless as best we can, and running our neighborhood store and ministry.

Like I have said this historical neighborhood on the eastside of Atlanta with its mixed-use developments, ever increasing Beltline developments, and the mixture of races and lifestyles is more interesting and more exciting to explore.

But I do think you will like the after pictures a lot better.

As I continue discovering “what I am doing & why”, I look forward to talking about the new and the familiar people and experiences that I will and have encountered.

To read more about THE MOVE please follow my blog. Don’t forget to go back and read.

The Move (Blog – Part 2)

The Move (Blog)

© 2016 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.


The Move (Blog – Part 2)…2 min. read

The shingles continue to hang from the roof and the pale yellow color of the house continues to fade in the hot sun, time does not stop. I finally finished a busy day at our convenience store which is just about 2 minutes away from our new residence. As I approach, I cannot help but continue to stare at the overgrown weeds that occupy a vacant lot that sits next door to our fixer-upper. On the other side of the vacant lot, a white family lives in a newly built home with a country style porch, a cute german shepherd, and a picket fence surrounding the home.

(I will be mentioning race, lifestyles, and beliefs throughout my post to show as I write that diversity in a neighborhood comes both positive and negative with many learning experiences.)

The overgrown weeds are reminding me that this neighborhood has been neglected. The people that once lived here and the few that still remain from the years past has in some circumstance…some thought process…in some spoken way  neglected the community.

The reasons for the lack of care are not always known although the excuses come both distressing and at times understandably reasonable.


Overgrown Lot of the Missing Owner (Photo by Tanya Graham)

As I move items from our car to the house, I notice a familiar face. A face that makes me uneasy. Here comes Paul (not sure if that is his real name or not) but that is what we call him at the store. That or either Preacher Man. He is a frequent store customer who has been homeless and an active addict for over twenty years and frankly he doesn’t care to change his living status. Paul is a slim black man maybe in his 70’s. He walks with a consistent odor; mix-match clothes; and sluggish walk of feet dragging. His unkempt  gray and black hair always lives under some type of hat at least 90% of the time. Nothing about him is shy or meek. He is outspoken and doesn’t care what he says at any time. His conversation has often embarrassed me as we take orders from customers visiting outside of the so-called “hood”.

My thoughts “Oh my God. He knows where I live!”

Paul’s first question while standing outside our house goes like this “Did ya’ll buy this house for me?!” He is yelling as if we are two blocks away instead of right in front of him. My husband and I looked at him with a slight grin of amusement and terror all mixed together.


Our Friend Paul (Photo by Tanya Graham)

To read more about THE MOVE please follow my blog. Don’t forget to go back and read my first blog on THE MOVE.

The Move (Original Post)

© 2016 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.


The Move (Blog)…1 min. read

Leaving my 3600 square foot spacious suburban home to live in an 800 square foot shotgun house in the inner city of Atlanta could be one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. I stress “could be”. 

Many people would say I am crazy leaving the safety of my well-manicured yard and a neighborhood safeguarded by an overzealous homeowners association. 

Well. I just might be “crazy” but I’m leaving anyway. This very thought of craziness is exactly what got me to thinking. What am doing and why?

As we are in one of the most ridiculous election years that I can remember in my lifetime. Racial issues continue to escalate as people protest police brutality. Same-sex marriage battles. And now who should use what bathroom. 

Wow. This little shotgun house that sits in one of the most historical neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia; rich with history; and overflowing with pain has started looking good. I know that little voice in your head is saying “Didn’t she just say this place is overflowing with pain”?

Yes. I did. Now let me tell you a little more.

There are two houses of “questionable intentions” just around the corner sitting directly across the street and alongside beautiful craftsman style homes.  This mixture of the well-off and the poor is what everyone is calling gentrification.

For those of you who do not know what gentrification means –

Gentrification is a process of renovation and revival of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the influx of more affluent residents, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. This is a common and controversial topic in urban planning.

Believe me, I definitely can see the advantages and disadvantages of gentrification.  I have lived in what some have described as a beautiful upper-middle-class neighborhood filled with lush greenery and trees flowing along the street. I have commuted some horrible miles to run my small business in a low-income high drug use community. And now I am becoming a resident in this very community. 

The answer to “what I am doing & why?” Well, hopefully, this will be exposed as I blog

“THE MOVE”  in the next coming weeks and months. ~TanyaG


© 2016 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.