We are Rising Rock Media, a dedicated and curious team of multi media content creators, journalists, audio engineers, and photographers. We have found that when we listen and look towards our community, that there is a seemingly never ending spring of stories, unique experiences, and important people who call Chattanooga home. We have collected and compiled a series of stories throughout the semester that remind us that we need one another. To learn from one another, to feel seen and represented by one another. Heroes. Those that we look to in times of grief and uncertainty to laugh with, be inspired and supported by. The year is coming to a close, and the devastation that 2020 has held causes us to peer inward, and pour outward toward our community — towards artists, dancers, local business owners, and creators of the like. One thing is for certain — people are fascinating, and these stories, we hope, will fascinate you too. Please enjoy these stories as we explore the heroes of our beautiful home, Chattanooga.
Click the story buttons in the next section of this page to learn about the hometown heroes that you may not know about.
How can a man use his disability to inspire others to be a better version of themselves in a world filled with so many obstacles?
Lyndon “Linny” Stamper, a Chattanooga local, has cerebral palsy but that does not stop him from working out every day. Stamper has become a local celebrity at the YMCA for his dedication to fitness. Nearly every member that he comes across greets him warmly as he makes his way to the gym floor. Stamper is a beacon of inspiration for many of the other gym members, as he does not allow anything to get in his way.
Stamper says that he does not feel like he has a disability, “People look at a disability as something that brings them down, but I look at Cerebral Palsy as like God has given me this ability to shine the light on people with disabilities and show what we can do.”
Local gym members now know Stamper as “Mr. No Excuses” because he drives 15 minutes everyday to work out despite the obstacles that stand in his way. He says that he stays motivated by seeing how his actions are impacting others. “When I first started working out, people told me that I inspire them, or I motivated them to be here.”
When COVID-19 hit, Stamper had no source of income, so he started his own clothing brand called Grind Over Disability. His brand quickly became popular when the YMCA reopened and the members saw his new merchandise. Since the start of his operation, he has sold between 200 and 300 shirts. “What can I do to inspire other people, so I came up with this brand, Grind Over Disability. Something that people can wear and look themselves in the mirror and see no excuses on the shirt. Hopefully it pushes people a little harder,” Stamper says.
Stamper has no plans to slow down. He wants to expand his merchandise beyond just shirts. His hoodies and stickers will be available later this year. You can buy his merchandise and support his journey through Instagram @Lyndonmrnoexcusesstamper.
You’re walking through the streets of downtown Chattanooga, mask on, sweat dripping down your head from the summer’s intense humidity. You have passion in your heart and a sign in your hands, fighting for something much larger than yourself. You are protesting.
Local rapper Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams uses his music as another way to protest. His songs Live Together and Glimmer of Hope play at protests around Chattanooga. Williams started making music about 15 years ago and specializes in writing his own lyrics. His inspiration comes from his own life experiences as well as experiences from people in the community, current events and most importantly, real life situations. Grimey says music is an easier way to convey a message rather than speaking on it.
C-Grimey speaks about what it will take for the community to influence change once these messages have been heard. “It’s going to take the community educating themselves on how they have power in this wonderful democracy.”
As far as what is next for C-Grimey, he released a Chattanooga Ted Talk on November 8th where he discusses racism in America before COVID. He also discusses how the movement has come together in Chattanooga. Grimey is working on an album as well.
Now put your headphones in or turn your radio up to max volume. You are protesting.
A mouthful of a pancake drenched in sweet maple rests on Brooklyn’s palate as her mother, Brittany Pickett, adjusts her earrings and prepares her for daycare. Brittany is a single African American mother, who has risen to the challenge of raising her child alone, due to the incarceration of her baby’s father, Shaun Theus. Shaun has been incarcerated for almost three years, which means that Brooklyn has suffered the damage of single parenthood for the majority of her life. Shaun was incarcerated after being convicted of drug charges, although there were no drugs found on him at the time of his arrest.
The mass imprisonment of Black males has been a proven statistic for decades. According to the “Sentencing Project,” Black males account for 38% of the imprisoned population, but only 12.7% of the United States population. The mass, and often unjust, imprisonment of Black fathers contributes to generational curses, where children are raised in these single parent households from one generation to the next.
Without the presence of a father figure, these African American children are brought up not knowing how to be a parent of their own one day or accept genuine love from a stable male figure. This has impacted Brittany and Brooklyn, as well as many other Black mothers and children in their community. Brittany stated, “Out of ten of my friends, seven of their babies’ fathers are imprisoned. Some of these arrests were justified, but others of them were victims of targeting and were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
A challenge that Brittany faces is that Brooklyn does not genuinely know her father and may later struggle with growing in a relationship with him. Brittany explained that the lack of a father in these children’s lives causes detrimental effects, unless there are others who actively intervene and aid in the growth of these children—such as Brittany’s father.
Brittany rejoices in the fact that Brooklyn has been shown the love of a male figure in her life by her grandfather, Larry Pickett. It is individuals like Larry that help shape the futures and minds of children raised by a single parent, but without positive figures like him, these curses are much more likely to pass from generation to generation.
Meet the Storyteller
Lorenzo Pickett is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who majors in Communication. He has experience in guest services and has been a camp counselor for the past 4 years. Lorenzo’s passion is storytelling, creating art, and showing genuine love and loyalty to those around him. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friendship can look very different than you would expect it to. Though similarities draw many people together, differences between us can do the same. People who are different from one another can be just as close as those who are incredibly similar. Today, divisiveness is prevalent since we must physically be apart to protect those we love and ourselves. It is important to remind ourselves of the love and connections we have in these trying times. Strength in Differences is a ten-part project featuring portraits and interviews with friends who are close despite their differences. In it, we at Rising Rock Media, aim to look at togetherness while staying six feet apart.
Sandi Bledsoe and Julie Dennis have an unbreakable friendship that will last the rest of their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has separated many loved ones, but not Julie and Sandi.
The unbreakable friendship between Julie and Sandi has lasted for over 15 years. Through the years Julie has faced adversity in her fight with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), but through it she has maintained a mindset that makes her invincible. Julie’s strength comes from her faith in God and striving for better health through her diet intake.
A little over a year ago Sandi gave up her quick and easy commute to work to move in with Julie. Julie’s husband, a truck driver, is often gone for weeks at a time. Sandi holds Julie accountable in her positivity and drive to increase the movement in her legs. They spend their weekends in their pool doing intense leg and core strength training in hopes that Julie will walk with a walker soon. Their love for each other and their ability to keep each other uplifted is truly inspiring and heartwarming.
It just goes to show, when you give someone kindness and constant positive support, they feel like they are special and strong. Julie never lets her disability change the way she loves and shows kindness to everyone she comes in contact with. Sandi is the ultimate giver of love and time. Together their friendship can bring tears to anyone’s eyes.
Next time you think about helping someone you see struggling, don’t think about it. Be more like Julie and Sandi, and do everything out of love—especially caring for others.
There are approximately 7.5 billion people that exist in the world. Of those 7.5 billion people there are no two people on this planet that are exactly the same.
There is something distinctively unique about every individual that walks this earth that sets them apart from their peers. For Alexis Hodge and Moriyah Wimbley this distinct characteristic happens to be the shade of their skin.
Walking through life together for almost a whole decade, Alexis and Moriyah have lived through some of the same life experiences. Although the experience was the same, the impact it had on each of their lives was completely different.
For Alexis growing up as a biracial female in the heart of the south, discrimination based on her gender and the color of her skin has had a huge impact on the person she is today.
At the age of five Alexis had her first encounter with the cruel act of racism. She was told by an uneducated little girl that because her skin was dark there was no way her mother could be white. As a five-year-old little girl this encounter left Alexis feeling confused and she was constantly second-guessing why the color of her skin set her apart.
Hodge said, “If I could go back and give my younger self any piece of advice, I would encourage her to love the skin that she is in and that the discrimination would only get worse as she got older.”
Moriyah Wimbley had a similar experience in the first grade, but she was discriminated against by her elementary school teacher. At six years old Moriyah, along with several of her African-American peers, was told that she would never make it anywhere in life. The same teacher would constantly make fun of Moriyah because of how big her lips were.
Wimbley said, “Hearing such derogatory things about yourself at six years old really has an impact on the way you view yourself in life.”
Unfortunately for both Moriyah and Alexis this would not be their first encounter with racism and discrimination.
Wembley sail,“Being discriminated against made me feel like I had something to prove. I wanted to prove to my first grade teacher that regardless of the color of my skin I will be something great in life.”
Although discrimination is something that these friends have experience most of their lives, The impact discrimination has had in both of their lives has resonated in a different way.
Two life-long friends prove that no matter what you share in common, the uniqueness of one another is what truly strengthens friendships.
Hannah Dammann and Summer Ghaffari, a sophomore and junior in college respectively, have been friends for as long as they can remember, and both share a bond that truly exemplifies the word “friendship”.
Hannah and Summer first met when they were in elementary school, as they both attended the same church.
By simply observing these two “peas in a pod,” you might conclude that they have everything in common, but that is far from the truth.“Our friendship makes no sense,” Hannah proclaims, “But differences make our friendship what it is. But it just feels like we really needed to be together and connected and we’ve stayed connected through everything. I couldn’t see it any other way”.
The difference in the backgrounds of these two young women alone is striking, with Hannah being raised in Tennessee her whole life, and Summer being from a different country entirely.
Summer is originally from Russia and was adopted when she was five years old, living in Memphis for a while, until finally ending up in Chattanooga.
“Everyone’s always wondering how that was for me, because I lived in Russia until I was five”, Summer says, explaining her experiences and the adoption process, “It’s still part of me you know, I still have memories of Russia. I remember a lot of snow and the orphanage I stayed at and friends I made there”.
Another big difference between the two are their hobbies and interests, with Summer being very athletic and Hannah being a more artistic type.
“I would call myself creative. I’d rather create things than do anything else really”, says Hannah, who is majoring in art education at Tennessee Tech University.
Summer grew up as an incredibly athletic girl, playing soccer and basketball throughout middle and high school. While she majors in physical education at UTC, Summer still engages in sports with an intramural flag football team.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two young women is their unique experiences in school.
Hannah was homeschooled until arriving at college, growing up with three other siblings who were all taught by their mother.
Summer attended Loftis Middle School and Soddy Daisy High School which is where she played most of her sports.
When asked why she thinks they make such good friends, Summer’s answer was almost identical to Hannah’s, saying, “You get to learn new things. The differences are what make you grow close and connect. We’ve connected through different life experiences and have supported each other through everything.”
Hannah and Summer’s relationship is a story of true friendship despite many differences in their lives. Their hobbies, passions, backgrounds, and schooling could not be more opposite of each other, but their willingness to learn, grow respect, and support one another is always on full display.
After today, my college experience will be over. One last zoom meeting and a brief ten minute presentation are all that stand in front of me graduating from UTC. College has been the absolute best time of my life so far and I’m uncertain how to feel about leaving.
Two to fourteen days. That is all the virus is supposed to live for, but the inability to stop our fast pace capitalist society from going keeps the COVID-19 going. Small businesses hurting, stock market crashing, unemployment rate increasing, people social-distancing, colleges closing. Not just the nation, but the world is having to learn new ways to live their day to day lives. The digital age has taken a whole new level of meaning. Every person is affected by the coronavirus in different ways. Rising Rock, a group of students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seek to tell their stories on how this pandemic shapes their experience, and what this extraordinary moment in history looks like from their perspectives.
A New Normal: A Quarantine Commentary is a creative and documentative project by the students of Rising Rock. Step foot into the perspective of college students as they share what their world now looks like in this rapidly changing society because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scroll to the bottom of this page to click on individual stories.
By clicking one of the names below, you’ll see a glimpse of how this global pandemic has now shaped each of our lives.
“As the days blur together and the heavy weight of isolation builds, it’s easy to dwell on the negative emotions brought out by the current situation: boredom, loneliness, depression. These emotions are certainly overwhelming at times but there’s also a brighter side to this too.
I’ve recently realized that the pandemic has also brought at least one positive outcome during this strange time; the opportunity to spend time with one of my favorite people in the world, my little sister Waverly.”
To continue viewing more of this post, visit A New Normal by Elian Richter.
Moise Babptiste has always been focused on helping young adults succeed. Once the executive director of student affairs for UTC, Dr. Babptiste now leads a trail running group called Wakandan Trailblazers (WTB).