By Clint Confehr
MEMPHIS, TN — As the featured speaker for the 20th Annual YWCA Memphis Benefit Luncheon, singer songwriter Michel’le Toussaint spoke against domestic violence, a chief cause for the organization.
Michel’le’s debut album sold more than 1.5 million copies, but her “musical success was brought to a halt by years of substance abuse, financial struggles and physical assaults from N.W.A. founder Dr. Dre and Suge Knight, founder of Death Row Records,” the association reports.
More than a survivor, Michel’le told her March 8 audience, “You should enjoy your bad days so you know when the good ones come.” She likes Memphis “a lot” and has performed in conjunction with “Across the Tracks” in Nashville.
Nationally, one of every three women and one of every four men have been abused by a domestic partner, said luncheon speaker Amy Speropoulos, a Memphis TV show host, quoting the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. With YWCA Memphis Executive Director Jacquelyn Williams, Speropoulos said, “We can hope to make a dent in this issue and…save lives.”
Dr. Sylvia Richey, board chair of the YWCA of Greater Memphis, said this is a transitional year for the YWCA here.
“There’ve been so many programs the YWCA has been offering that we’ve tried to narrow our scope so we can make a greater impact,” Dr. Richey said. “We’re really focused on the abused women’s shelter…It’s an amazing facility. There’s full-time staff…Women come to us at all hours… We’re there with open arms.”
Refocusing was less dropping programs as “realizing where some of our services were overlapping with other organizations…so we thought there’s no reason to spread the resources so thin. Let everyone concentrate on what they’re best at… Our focus has always been abused women…so really, we want to put more time and effort into the shelter.
“And we’re constantly trying to raise funds,” Richey said, noting YWCA offices at 766 S. Highland St., Memphis, TN 38111, (901) 725-4277. “Human resources are needed for women coming in needing so many things. They don’t just need clothes and a place to sleep…They need tools to restart their lives. So often they come in their pajamas with their children in pajamas. That’s all they have, just trying to escape their situation.”
The YWCA’s luncheon was on the National Day Without Women, symbolically showing that women are significant.
“We’re significant not only as mothers and homemakers, but in the workforce and in people’s lives in ways they may not realize until we’re absent,” Richey said. “A lot of times, women get taken for granted… ‘Oh, she’ll be there. She’ll do it. Everything will get taken care of.’ People don’t think about it…If you remove us from the equation, you can realize what’s missing.
The Tennessee Tribune, Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss., Southern Heritage Classic Foundation, Coconut Restore, Nadinola, Nature’s Protein, Myron!, Graceland Guesthouse, Ignite Fellow Sundance Film Festival and Pepsi-Cola Memphis sponsored the event.
Brown Missionary Events Director Dana Mister asked, “What better way to support the community?”