Over the last week, the biggest news story in Memphis hasn’t been our poverty, what’s happening in our schools, or what’s happening in our neighborhoods. It’s been tweets I made about a decade ago. I bet you’ve seen some of them by now and, if not, I bet more will come out. So far, they’ve made for good news.
I’ll admit: I’d forgotten many of those tweets. When I saw them again, I cringed. I want to talk about them, but moreso, I want to talk about the woman I was when I sent them, and the woman I am now.
A decade ago, I was a twenty-something living in DC. In many ways, I’m proud of the woman I was then. But, in many ways, I’m proud to have evolved from her. There was still a lot of me back then that was pretty selfish, and though I was striving for a career making a difference for others, I was also preoccupied with myself, my own story, and having fun with friends. It was a time of exploration, a time of growth, some real trauma, and like I’ve said — it was a time in some ways I am embarrassed by, but I’m also proud of because it was a time of evolution and it helped make me into the woman I am right now.
The tweets you see from that time are buried. Some of them, I’m not going to apologize for: they were jokes that didn’t land, or things that, right now, are being taken wildly out of context to make me seem like I’m a drunk, or a drunk driver, or somebody that I wasn’t — even then.
There are other tweets there, though, that I definitely will apologize for. There are tweets that show a woman who, at that point, still hadn’t come to terms with her homophobia, who still wasn’t standing up and being a voice for all, regardless of ability. I am, not just deeply ashamed, but deeply sorry for those tweets, the harm they caused at the time, and the harm that seeing them now will still bring up, especially for members of those communities, and for all of us.
I’m not sorry for the story, though, of how I got from there to here.
I left DC for a reason. I knew that while I was there, I was going to continue to be focused on myself and my own career. I didn’t know what was going to happen after I moved home to Memphis, but I knew I needed to move home. So, I did.
I came home to Memphis and that started me on a powerful journey. A journey of activism, a journey of public service, and a journey that led me to care less about myself and more about the people around me. And not just my friends and family, but the voices that we often leave behind.
They are who led me to become an activist, who led me to become an elected official, and who led me into the race to be mayor.
So, while I’m embarrassed for who I was a decade ago in many ways, I’m also deeply proud of the woman I’ve become. I’m deeply proud right now, to stand as a candidate who cares first and foremost, not about Tami Sawyer, but about the Memphis we so frequently leave behind: Black Memphis. Latinx Memphis. LGBTQ Memphis. Asian Memphis. Muslim Memphis. Disabled Memphis. Homeless Memphis. Poor Memphis.
This is why I’m running for mayor. This is who I am right now. I want a Memphis where all of us can thrive. Where our voices are at the decision-making table to ensure our neighborhoods and communities are served.
Since returning home, I’ve consistently stood for two things. Firstly, standing up to and saying the hard truths about the systems that oppress and marginalize people and secondly, learning, growing, and evolving as a leader so I can better stand for and alongside people fighting for their liberation.
It is clear that I have not always been the person that I am today. I have said things on public platforms that are hurtful, offensive, and just wrong. As someone who works every day in the fight for justice, I am sorry I ever thought these things, said these things, and amplified these things. I am embarrassed by my past self and I am grateful to have had the space, the teachers, and the desire to grow beyond that version of me.
To those my words and actions from my past hurt: I am sorry.
To everyone: I hope that who I’ve become since moving home, taking on service, and being in public leadership roles has started to show you the person I am today and the person who is asking for your vote to be the next mayor.
I will continue to learn, grow, and evolve alongside you. It is required to change the systems that conspire to keep us oppressed.