Mural story telling the narratives of poverty.

In the words of one storyteller, Tanesha Bates, “There is not one way to be a perfect mother but there are a hundred ways to be a good mother.” This depiction of a mother reading to her child in her belly is a celebration of motherhood in all of its forms. 

Here, monarch butterflies are a symbol of migration, transformation, and change. Like migration for butterflies, the movement of people across borders and over seasons is natural and beautiful.

Family—both biological and chosen—are a constant source of support and strength for these storytellers. The bond of siblinghood is depicted here.

The lotus is a symbol of resilience and perseverance. It grows in the water, emerging from the mud and blooming bright and strong. 

These are the outlines of Memphis neighborhoods. They fit together like a puzzle, symbolizing union and solidarity across geography, but also reflect the strong sense of pride and community that Memphians feel for their own neighborhood. 

For too long, the voices of Black and Brown communities in Memphis and across the US have been silenced. It’s time to hear the choir of voices demanding a new narrative.

About The mural

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The stories we tell

Picture of a magnifying glass.

Narratives shape the way we see the world

We’re shifting harmful narratives about poverty and uplifting authentic voices from Memphis communities.

Story Archive

We worked with local organizations and community members from Memphis to co-create a campaign focused on changing harmful narratives by sharing authentic, community-driven stories. We invite you to listen to these stories and celebrate the often-overlooked narratives about Memphis communities that are rooted in community care, generosity, and pride.

Image of a man telling his story of poverty.

Stories move people, and people move policy

Interpreting the world around us is difficult, so people often rely on narratives—collections of stories representing a central idea or belief—to make sense of it. Narratives are powerful. They drive public imagination and attitudes toward people who live in poverty. Because narratives are a lens through which we view and judge the world, narratives also shape how we interact with the world: what positions we take on policy, how we vote, and how we treat other people in our communities. False narratives around poverty are some of the strongest held in the United States, which have led to misunderstandings about poverty and its causes and often result in misguided social policy. But this also presents an opportunity: changing false poverty narratives has the potential to create support for effective social policies and programs that actually address poverty’s root causes. The Stories We Tell is a campaign that centers stories from Memphis community members to reimagine narratives about poverty. We are uplifting narratives of collective care, solidarity, and generosity using behavioral science.

What narratives do you hold about poverty?

Narratives are collections of stories that communicate a central idea. We use narratives to make sense of the world, including how we understand poverty. This 5-minute quiz will assess your beliefs and attitudes about five common poverty narratives and show you how you compare to others. Ready to see where you land? 

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Curious to learn more? Have a story to share? Want to partner with us to continue shifting harmful narratives about poverty? Drop us a note.

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