Kamekio Lewis


for a woman who seized the
opportunity to use her talents and created her own future:

Kamekio Lewis

Intimate partner violence is a phrase social services and law enforcement use to talk about the abuse perpetrated in marriage or “romantic relationships.” More often it’s covered by the phrase domestic violence.

Yet most victims of that violence do not think of themselves as victims or as having anything to do with domestic or intimate partner violence. They are just coping with a volatile or difficult or chaotic boyfriend, husband, girlfriend or partner.

Kamekio Lewis survived a two-year abusive relationship, moved to Memphis and then realized as she saw news reports that she in fact was a survivor of domestic violence.

She says, “I never knew the word domestic violence before. I left a violent relationship and didn’t want to talk about it again. Here, I saw it on TV and happening in Memphis and I saw I needed to tell my story.”

Kamekio has published a book – “Looking4Love…In All the Wrong Places”– and written and produced a play based on her experience. And she is taking the initiative to develop services for women who have been damaged by vicious relationships and require housing, shelter, clothes and employment to recover and renew their lives.

Kamekio grew up in Camden, Ark., in a low income household where she became the first generation college student. She joined the Army because she wanted to do more, see more and be more.

She served for about 8 years and was based in Kansas when she experienced violence with a boyfriend. She moved to Memphis 12 years ago to be closer to family, intending to just not think or talk about the abuse.

But she seemed to hear about domestic violence all around Memphis. She says, “I saw the opportunity for me to share my story. There is a great need in the community. Women are broken. Many are dealing with depression and PTSD and I want to help them set goals for themselves. Once you set personal and professional goals and empower us as women, we are ready to leave. I want to empower women and give them the tools they need to transition out.”
Trained as a certified rehabilitation counselor, Kamekio launched A New Day Rehabilitation and Counseling Services, a non-profit agency. She volunteered with clients of Agape Child & Family Services in Hickory Hill Community Center and Autumn Ridge Complex – helping with homework, job readiness and financial aid information.

Her nominator, Bettye Boone, with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Memphis Chapter, says, “Ms. Lewis has gone beyond simply providing referrals to other places for women in transition and/or trying to leave domestic violence relationships. She literally takes the next steps with them and gets others involved with her and her organization to help the women out.”

For example, a few years ago a couple with four school age children were living in their car. Someone directed them to Kamekio who paid for a hotel room for the family and then called on the Coalition and some other groups to assist as well. She helped the parents get work and to continue to live at the hotel for several months until they were back on their feet.

Knowing how crucial housing is to women and families in transition, Kamekio is striving to renovate and open a shelter in a house that was donated to her organization. Share Life Community Network is her program that is seeking partnerships and sponsors to repair the house, operate a clothes closet, offer resume coaching and career planning.

Kamekio is raising three sons and working full time providing job readiness training and job placement services at Case Management Inc., one of the largest mental health facilities in West Tennessee.

Yet her passion to help others succeed is demonstrated through her countless volunteer hours and outreach ministries. Kamekio Lewis’s initiative is bringing solace and encouragement to women beaten down by physical and emotional abuse, offering hope and a brighter future to them and their children.

Mary Magdalene Solari


for a woman whose achievements still enrich our lives:

Mary Magdalene Solari

Less than a year after her birth near Genoa, Italy, in 1849, Mary Magdalene Solari was brought to Memphis by her parents. She went on to leave a legacy of artistic, civic and philanthropic achievements that still enrich our lives here and abroad – more than 150 years later.

Mary’s first art teacher was Mrs. Morgan at the Memphis Female Institute. Mary studied with her until 1882 when she left for Florence, Italy, for her health and to study under Casioli. Traveling abroad as a young woman was extremely uncommon during this time, but Mary knew the importance of this transition. The opportunity to study under a well-known artist would prove to be of personal as well as historical significance.

After only a short period of study, Casioli took notice of Mary’s undeniable talent and encouraged her to enter her works to the Academia de Belle Arte. During this era, however, the Academy would never accept the work of a female artist. The Academy was worried that women in the program would be distracting to the males studying there. Casioli insisted that Mary’s work be shown, and he submitted a few pieces anonymously. One of her black-and-white drawings won first prize while a drawing of the heads of peasants also took a prize.

When the Academy learned of the artist’s true identity, they wanted to cancel the prize but the press took up the subject. Historian J. P. Young wrote: “It ended by the young girl receiving her fairly earned prizes and honor and opened the door of the academy to women.”

Solari was an American woman artist making Italian art history and changing art education for all women. As Young wrote: “(I)t was found that men and women stimulated one another to their best. So the Academy remained co-educational, made so by a young Memphis woman through the real merit of her work.”

In 1890, she received her Master of Arts degree and entered the Beatrice Exposition, which was open to women and had 1,000 entrants. Solari won the highest awards in watercolor. The diploma and letters of merit entitled her to teach art in the government schools – fulfilling another of her goals.

After receiving her Academy degree, Mary returned to Memphis in 1892 and she continued to be a face of change for gender equality. In 1893, she broke another barrier – she was the only woman and Southerner on the Chicago World Fair’s Board of Judges for the Fine Art Department.

In 1897, at the Tennessee Centennial Exhibition in Nashville, she was in charge of the art exhibit in the pyramid-shaped building Memphis built to exhibit its wares. She also won prizes for oil painting, watercolor, crayon, landscape and antique collection. Her pictures hung in both the Memphis pyramid and the Parthenon built by Nashville to house general arts exhibition.

Mary opened a school of fine arts in the Randolph Building where she taught oil, water color, pastel and tapestry painting.
She began a series of Lenten Art Salons “with a view to gather the different choice flowers in literature, music and art…in Memphis.”

She became an advocate for those without a voice. She lectured on prison reform, juvenile offenders and industrial training in schools. She became an outspoken critic of horrid conditions at the City Hospital, erected for steamboat transients. She lectured on “If Christ Should Come to Memphis and Visit the Hospital What Would He See?” She sparked the interest of city officials and the press – a new hospital building was the result.

During World War I she lectured to sell war bonds to Memphis’ Italian community.

In her last years, she spent much of her time on her 176-acre farm on the Wolf River on the Raleigh Road east of National Cemetery. She raised Berkshire and Poland China hogs, chickens and Kentucky horses. There she was surrounded by her collection of treasures: antique tapestries including one of Abraham sacrificing Isaac; 14th century gold candelabra, Florentine lace, Etruscan curiosities and a set of silver from India.

In 1928, a year before she died, Mary made yet another contribution to the future of Memphis. She donated her home, art collection, and land, valued around $150,000, to Christian Brothers College. To this day, the school houses her art collection, and the sale of her home and land provided funds to purchase the land upon which Christian Brothers University sits today on Central Avenue in Midtown Memphis. Tennessee Gov. Malcolm Patterson called her gesture “a permanent investment in the interest of good citizenship.”

Mary Magdalene Solari changed the narrative of women’s contributions to society. She paved the way for women in the world of art, and she was a voice for change in the Memphis community.

Rebecca Terrell


for a woman whose heroic spirit was tested and
shown as a model to all in Shelby County and beyond:

Rebecca Terrell

As the executive director of CHOICES: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Rebecca Terrell daily faces the ever-present danger that accompanies leadership of an agency that, in addition to its other activities, offers abortion counseling and services.

Despite great opposition, she has campaigned to make conversations about women’s health, teen pregnancy, comprehensive and evidenced-based sex education, and the rights of women to safe abortion care a reality in our community. To an already challenging list, she has added providing services to the LGBTQ community including transgender people. Rebecca consistently works here and nationally to make her vision of open discussion and effective delivery of reproductive healthcare a reality

With a Masters in Public Administration and after years as a dancer, Rebecca spent 15 years as executive director of the Florida Dance Association. Her husband’s work brought them to Memphis in 1998. Here she spent the first five years at home with their twins. When she was ready to reenter the workforce, she talked her way into a part-time job at the Center for Research on Women at the University of Memphis. She was there 6 years then started looking for fulltime work. A friend mentioned that the position of executive director for what was then Memphis Center for Reproductive Health was open. Her first thoughts: “No way! Too intense! Who’d want to do that?” But she kept thinking about the job. Finally she called the director at that time and was told that what MCRH did was abortions. Out of an old house in Midtown.

Rebecca had a vision about sustaining and widening this long-standing feminist women’s center and almost before she knew it, she’d applied and been hired. The job came with both local and national opponents but Rebecca was up to the challenge.

Rebecca’s long-range vision was to transform MCRH into a healthcare facility providing a broad range of services from fertility assistance to a birthing center, STI tests, PAP tests, and breast exams to very specialized services for people living with HIV, the lesbian and gay community and transgender patients. She oversaw the move from the old house to an updated clinic space. MCRH became CHOICES. In 2011, the agency celebrated the new name at the new clinic located at 1726 Poplar. The location has a large, pleasant waiting room filled with information on reproductive health and jars of free condoms. CHOICES now serves more than 3,000 women, men and teens each year and is already outgrowing the space.

Rebecca knows that CHOICES changes peoples’ lives. This is obvious in notes sent thanking staff for kind, competent, non-judgmental care. Many are hand-written and include hearts. Some are from mothers saying they are glad their daughters have been able to make choices different from their own. One young man in transition said, “Each one of your jobs is changing lives, from the receptionist that tells me to sign in, the nurse that walks me to my room and even the lady who always greets me with a warm hello and says ‘I’m going to need you to pee in a cup today.’ ”

Rebecca knows that reproductive rights are always in danger. With that in mind, she is constantly looking for ways to bring allies to the fight.

In 2009 Rebecca served as chair and founding member of Memphis Teen Vision (MemTV). This coalition of 250 local agencies is dedicated to being comprehensive and inclusive of all members’ perspectives. The shared intention is to create a future where all teens are taught comprehensive sex education, teens’ onset of sexual intercourse is delayed, teen pregnancies are reduced/eliminated and teen parents are provided assistance. Rebecca’s confident voice leads the way.

In 2012, Rebecca became the founding member and chair of a statewide coalition: Healthy and Free Tennessee. The group now has over 40 member organizations statewide working together to promote and protect sexual health and reproductive freedom. The Coalition includes individual members and has regional and national partners. In her leadership role, Rebecca speaks out on legislation, leads rallies, and stands up for full and accessible reproductive health care for all.

Today Rebecca is leading the charge to raise $4 million to build a new clinic for CHOICES. The next expansion includes three birthing suites for midwife-assisted births. The facility will be the only non-profit in America to offer a full range of reproductive services.

Rebecca shared this idea of full-service comprehensive reproductive care at a recent national conference of the Abortion Care Network. She believes expanding reproductive services beyond abortion is the way forward.

We know that those who speak out and take action around reproductive rights have been harassed, stalked, even killed, yet Rebecca says that she is not frightened. She purposefully has an office with windows looking out on a busy street. She refuses to be afraid, she refuses to sit down and she refuses to be quiet.

Her heroic spirit is a model for all.

Ruby O’Gray and Karen Moore

Ruby O’Gray
Karen Moore

for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Ruby O’Gray and Karen Moore

Did you know that 63% of theatre audiences are women or that Broadway shows written by women are 18% more profitable than shows written by men? Yet only 20% of professional theatre artists are women. Only 17% of produced plays are written by women. And only 16% of produced plays are directed by women.

Ruby O’Gray and Karen Moore knew all this and they did something about it. In 2012, due to their vision and hard work, the first biennial Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis (WTFM) was held. One of only two women’s theatre festivals in the country, it is the only one in the South.

The path leading to WTFM was long.

Ruby’s career in theatre began in Beale Street kindergarten’s talent show and never stopped. By sixth grade after seeing Front Street Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she was totally hooked. She dropped out of school in 11th grade to care for her mother. At age 17, after her mother’s death, she got her GED and headed to New York. She came back at age 18, started her family, and then became active in local theatre. She says, “Memphis is my Hollywood.”

Karen says that she was pushed into theatre. By age 14 she was deeply involved in music. It became her major in college. She auditioned for a touring choir and didn’t get in but not from lack of talent. The college was concerned that white board members who housed students on the tour would not welcome her. The good news for us is that a theatre professor who taught her in an Introduction to Theatre class told her that she showed great promise and encouraged her to give theatre a try. She did and she liked it. After graduation, she worked for a television affiliate in Little Rock before moving to Memphis in 1977. While working at the local CBS affiliate by day, she was soon hired to direct a play for Beale Street Repertory Company.

These two forces first met after Karen saw Ruby’s performance at the former Shelby State Community College. They made an instant connection and Karen asked Ruby to audition for a play she was directing at Beale Street Rep. Of course she got the role and they’ve been friends and collaborators ever since.

Their list of individual accomplishments is huge.

Ruby has written 63 plays – 63! She has acted, directed and produced many plays and is the recipient of an Ostrander Award, the Oscar of the local theatre world. Co-founder of Bluff City Tri-Art Theatre Company, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Production from the University of Memphis, which she completed after raising six children.

Karen holds a Bachelor in Theatre Arts from Hendrix College. She spent eleven years living in Italy. While there, she made 9 films as an actress, recorded 8 albums as a recording artist and produced, directed and acted in numerous plays for the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet Naples, Italy and NATO. She is creator and executive producer of “This House is Cooking!” an innovative television show that combines real estate and the culinary arts. She creates the show with one of her daughters and it has aired monthly since its debut in July 2008. She has produced, directed and acted in more than 70 theatrical productions. Currently she works as the Director of Marketing Strategies for Sweet Potato Baby, her daughter’s catering and baked goods company.

Women are underrepresented in the theatre and media and face enormous employment challenges in the arts. This led Ruby to the idea for the Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis. She called Karen who immediately signed on. Weekly meetings started in 2011. The first festival was held in 2012. With two more produced in 2014 and 2016, the festival is now well-established.

They believe the festival allows exploration of the female experience in theatre and attracts significant visitors to Memphis. They are right. The third festival brought women from all over the United States and even some from outside the country.

The Women’s Festival showcases performances about women, performances directed by women, plays and musicals written by women, and a range of workshops. The group established the Gyneka Awards. “Gyneka” is Greek for woman. Greek women were denied the right to perform in theatre and this award represents strong women who have broken barriers and never allowed their talent to be denied.

One of the amazing things about the Women’s Theatre Festival Memphis is that, like Women of Achievement, it has no paid staff. All the work is done by volunteers. Planning has already started for WTFM 2018. Ruby and Karen hope to reach out to girls, letting them know about careers in theatre including not only acting and directing but lighting and set building. They also hope to inspire more women to become theatre critics.

We thank Ruby O’Gray and Karen Moore for bringing the vision of the Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis to life!

Local Treasures: Ruby O’Gray” – by Jon W. Sparks, 3 January 2024. Memphis Magazine.

Joyce Springfield-Collins


for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Joyce Springfield-Collins

Joyce Springfield-Collins won her first award for community service 40 years ago – and she just keeps going.

Growing up in Midtown, she saw her grandparents and parents always helping people. Her father often housed people in the back room of his barber shop. Her mother shared holiday meals with homeless people. She had family members in churches across the city in many denominations instilling in her a strong faith and passion for doing community service.

After graduation from Booker T. Washington High School in 1951, Joyce went to Washington D.C. to study at Howard University and work for the Department of Labor. Returning to Memphis, she worked for Judge Odell Horton, married Leon Springfield in 1952 and had her daughter Denise.

In 1966 she began what became a 25-year career with the US Postal Service in personnel and human resources administration and management with responsibilities in 11 states.

And always she was engaged in civic and social organizations, especially those in support of women and girls. She was chair of the personnel committee for the Orange Mound Day Care board and for the Girls Inc. board; she was secretary of the Memphis chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, board member and president of the advisory council at Goodwill Homes Senior Center; and trustee at St. John Baptist Church – Vance.

She was so thoroughly involved that in March 1975 the Chamber of Commerce gave her its Woman of the Year Award for community service.
In 1986 she was on the Girls Club – later to become Girls Inc. – board and brought Oprah Winfrey to Memphis for the initial Lecture Endowment Series – An Evening with Oprah.

When Joyce retired from the postal service, she set out to travel and relax – but her old passion tracked her down. She was asked to join Habitat for Humanity and reorganize the Memphis affiliate. She said, “I didn’t want to do it, but I prayed and asked God if this is what he wants me to do, then give a sign.” After a “third sign,” she said, “Lord, I hear you. I’m on board.”

That began her seven-year stint as executive director for Habitat – work that she loved because she could see directly the results for people who needed help.

Her next opportunity let her finally realize a childhood dream of being a journalist. From her days as editor of her elementary school newspaper, she had wanted to write. For five years she was vice president/Memphis editor of Contempora Magazine and Tennessee Tribune. Then she joined Grace Magazine, eventually becoming editorial director. She authored stories on many local Memphis women for more than 15 years.

During this time she also helped Veronica Coleman create Mothers of the NILE, a membership group with a mission “to reduce the number of children entering the juvenile and criminal justice system.”

Accolades include the Coalition of 100 Black Women Woman of Wisdom (WOW) award; Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow Award, the highest given by the Rotary Foundation; 2008 Mothers of the NILE Founders award.
A colleague from Habitat said, “Joyce puts her money and her time into making our community a better place. She is a role model for all women to follow.”

Joyce Springfield-Collins at 84 is still serving: board secretary for the YWCA of Greater Memphis, active member Midtown Rotary Club, Sunday school teacher, church trustee, grandmother to three Eagle Scout grandsons, mother to daughter and son-in-law who are both ministers, faithful seller of seats for annual luncheons to support Girls Inc. and YWCA. And she and second husband Albert Collins have been married for 24 years!

For a lifetime of service to her community, for sharing her time, talent, leadership and personal funds to build and sustain organizations and agencies that make our community stronger – we salute Joyce Springfield-Collins as Woman of Achievement for Steadfastness 2017.

Ines Negrette


for a woman who solved a glaring problem despite
widespread inertia, apathy or ignorance around her:

Ines Negrette

Ines Negrette immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 1999 and settled in Memphis in 2000 with her husband and two sons. An attorney with experience in Venezuela as a public defender, in private criminal practice and as legal counsel for a U.S.-based organization, Ines soon began volunteering as a bilingual legal advocate for Spanish-speaking victims of domestic violence in Memphis. She eventually joined the agency’s staff and then became program director.

When Ines’ position as an advocate at that agency suddenly ended, Ines rallied her spirits, support and funding to create a new non-profit dedicated to Latina survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking. Casa Luz opened in May 2016 with the first Spanish crisis line in Memphis. With a staff of two bilingual/bicultural advocates and trauma-informed care, Casa Luz has already served 87 clients, aiding 264 children who are United States citizens.

Immigrant Hispanic women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence face countless barriers to services and to justice. Many are unaware that in the United States, the type of violence their partners have used against them for years is considered criminal. They do not know that they have the right to stop the abuse.

They might have no family in the country, speak no English, fear police and authority figures, know nothing about community resources, fear losing their children or being deported, be unable to work or drive. Leaving the abuser for a safer environment might mean losing not only his financial support and her possessions, but also the extended family who often are unsupportive, obstructive and resistant of her plans to leave or involve police.

Casa Luz provides civil and criminal legal advocacy, immigration legal advocacy, support groups and individual counseling in Spanish, outreach and community education, crisis counseling, case management, safety planning, danger assessment and support through all steps to move forward from violence.

Ines is known as a tireless, fearless and dedicated advocate. An immigration attorney who works with her wrote, “Serving a client population that is largely invisible in our society and that has such complex needs can be demanding and even disheartening, but Ms. Negrette maintained her relentlessly positive attitude; she taught me to celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Her focus always was on empowering each client to rise above her past so that she could be the author of the next chapter in her life.”

In October 2016, Casa Luz was awarded a federal grant of $600,000 to provide comprehensive services to women victims of domestic and sexual violence – strong evidence of the local need for these services and Ines’ determination to provide help to our most severely underserved victims.

Ines says her father Dr. Americo Negrette empowered her. He was a ground-breaking researcher into Huntington’s disease who recognized that his fourth child was different. When she took the unusual step of leaving her parents’ home before she completed law school, he told her, “Well, I will die happy because you fight for your dreams.”

Ines works closely with the Memphis Police Department to build a bridge of trust and open lines of communications with the Hispanic community. She is a founding member of the Voice of the Community, a group formed to assist and advocate on behalf of the entire Spanish speaking community in the greater Memphis area on quality of life issues including safety and education. In 2015 her work was saluted with the Ruby L. Wharton Outstanding Woman Award for race relations.

One of Ines’s mottos is: “We cannot solve every problem, but every day we solve more than one, no matter how tired we are.”

With Casa Luz, Ines is determined alleviate the suffering of women’s experiences, guiding them toward a path of healing and bringing hope to future generations, the future of our Hispanic community and our entire city.

Lisa Anderson


for a woman who, facing active opposition,
backed an unpopular cause in which she deeply believed:

Rev. Lisa Anderson

In 2010, Lisa Anderson, pastor of Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church, asked the congregation if they would open their doors to shelter the homeless. They said “yes” and Room in the Inn-Memphis was born. The program has grown from one church open one night per week to thirty-six churches, offering at least one location for shelter seven nights a week, November through April.

Lisa comes from a family of pastors, married a pastor and is a pastor herself. She was participating in a Bible study group that wanted to take their study from the page into an active service ministry. Due to her connection to the Burrito Ministry and the Urban Bicycle Ministry, she recognized the need for a free shelter for the homeless. She asked her church members to open the doors one night a week during the winter to those less fortunate, to feed them a home-cooked meal and to provide a safe place to sleep in unused classrooms upstairs. Based on a program in Nashville, visitors were to be treated as honored guests with congregation members preparing and sharing the meal and spending the night.

After two successful seasons, Lisa and the Colonial congregation decided they needed to recruit more faith communities to be a part of this important ministry. Peace Lutheran joined the effort in 2012. Five more congregations became Room in the Inn-Memphis sites in 2013.

Among those was Trinity United Methodist. Due to its location, the City Council ruled that opening the doors to the homeless would be a code violation.

According to Peace and Justice Center archives, “The City Planning Office is helping Trinity UMC to craft language to change the size of the property requirement in the code. It will go to the Land Use Board and then to the City Council and County Commission for three readings each, giving the public chances to object. However, this process begins in December and will last at least a couple of months. Our immediate need is to get started in November without the fear of a church being cited for this violation. This code is ignored for all other groups, the only reason it is coming up for Trinity now is the prejudice against the guests being homeless.”

Lisa went into action, giving many interviews standing on the steps of the church, speaking at a town hall meeting and appearing before the City Council. Her passionate explanations were heard and the program at Trinity went ahead.

Since that time, over twenty more congregations have joined.

Rev. Lisa, as she is affectionately known to her congregation, says that the biggest barrier to expanding the program is combating the many stereotypes surrounding homelessness: They’re lazy and don’t want to work. They’re crazy and not taking their medication. They’re drug addicts and not to be trusted. And, they’re dangerous. It’s not safe to be around them.

Some congregations have to be convinced that the homeless are people just like us and deserve to be recognized as such. Lisa Anderson’s explanations help allay these fears and bring support to the program.

Room in the Inn is not an attempt to resolve all the issues of homelessness. It is not a social service agency. Room in the Inn-Memphis is about changing people, guests and hosts alike. It creates an environment and an opportunity for the guests to learn that there are people who care and for the hosts to come to understand that the faceless figure on the street corner is more than a statistic. It is about serving without prejudice or pride. It is about accepting everyone. Room in the Inn-Memphis is about people of religion putting the tenets of their faith into practice. It is a ministry of love.

To quote her nominator, “Though small in stature, Rev. Lisa is tall in spirit.” She fearlessly fights to improve the lives of the homeless and to change the lives of those who help.