Jenna Yates brings a heart-warming story of a man who is working to help hives of bees along in their journey, to help them thrive and give them a home. His name is Brian Workman, and he says that bees are very important. He says, “one of every three bites you take is made possible by the bees,” as they pollinate 80% of the world’s crops and plants. Workman prides his work in being a helping hand to these bees to do what they were put on earth to do, which is to protect the hive, feed the hive, and make honey for the hive. He sees them through times when food is scarce, and gives them medicine when they need it. One summer, Workman took care of 30 hives that have roughly 50-60,000 bees per hive. As numbers decrease through the fall and winter, he patiently and steadfastly sees them through next spring, while the bees slowly triple their numbers in size. He says, “If we did not have them, life would be completely different as we see it today.”
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.
The Ancient Greek comedians Aristophanes and Plautus were known for their focus on satire and farce. In modern times, comedians have developed into a budding community of satirists and artists of the laugh. Of those in the Chattanooga community, Elijah Craan is the comedian’s comedian.
Craan’s attention to detail and affinity for satire began in early 2014, when he did a stint of three comedy open mic nights at an eccentric laundromat in San Francisco, CA. He says, “I bombed. I knew I always wanted to do something creative, but I never had the discipline to learn an instrument or how to draw. But, as soon as I tried comedy, even though I bombed, I loved it. Since then, my comedy has evolved into what it is now.”
Even though his jokes had a rocky beginning on stage, his style now has developed into a myriad of poetically structured misdirection and sarcastic “it’s funny, but…” material. As his material covers many topics he touches on like politics, racism, and popular culture; his best work comes in talking about the absurdity of everyday life in the modern world.
What makes Craan different from the rest, though, would have to be the response his jokes have on the other comedians within the Chattanooga community. As the audience roars with cackling and screams of affirmation at open mics at locally owned businesses like JJ’s Bohemia, it is easy to understand how much the community admires him. These mics, mind you, are populated almost entirely by fellow comedians — the hardest crowd to impress.
Craan says, “I have a whole bit solely focused on elevator brands that I did for the first time recently. I do a bit of crowd work and ask ‘which is better, Otis or Thyssenkrupp?’ and if they say ‘Otis’ I tell them they’re wrong. This community of comedians has always had a great response to me. Even in more mainstream venues like the Comedy Catch, they often have more southern crowds and I get a good response from them as well.”
So, of all the comedians in Chattanooga who are also hilarious, why is Craan the hero featured in this segment? Because, he is a comedian who hones his craft while also reaching audiences and breaking social boundaries for comedians and those who need to laugh. In a time like this, someone who can do this is a hero.
To laugh some more, follow @ElijahCraan on Twitter.
On the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Foster St. is a brewery that feels like a home-away-from-home to many Chattanooga locals. Oddstory Brewing Company opened its door to the city of Chattanooga after a son sparked up an idea to his father while drinking a beer.
Jay Boyd, co-owner of Oddstory, graduated from Covenant college and was determined on opening up a brewery. He then went on to work for four different breweries, and also went to a brewing school up in Vermont. After three years, his father Bryan Boyd, owner of Oddstory, felt like they were in a good place to open Oddstory Brewing Company.
“We started with six taps when we opened, and we now have 18 taps,” says Bryan. Oddstory is growing more and more with their variety of beers as the years progress.
Along with having an array of different brews, Bryan mentions that they intentionally made the brewery an environment for people to feel comfortable in. “We wanted to create an atmosphere where people talk,” says Bryan. “We kind of always felt like beer and talking went together, opposed to beer and isolation.”
In a place that encourages the comfort of having conversations with your friends and family, along with enjoying a beer that is unique, Oddstory has become a place that many have grown fond of.
“What Oddstory means to me is the ability to create this environment where family—my actual family is real important—but also I think we created an environment where at least our employees, and some of our customers, they feel like family,” says Bryan.
Oddstory not only started with family but grew the family with the Chattanooga community.
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.
“The revelation that exists within art is, to tell the truth. You have to be able to be expressive, to be able to project but also to be vulnerable. Good artists can’t be cagey and have walls up. Being vulnerable is the revolutionary heart of every art form, says Melissa.”
Melissa Miller is a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher at the dance studio located in Chattanooga Tennessee named “Ballet Esprit”. Growing up, Miller played soccer for some time, however, women do not have their own soccer league in Europe. That is when she decided to partake in something that women could have as their own, so she became a dancer at the age of 11. Miller danced all through middle and high school and traveled back to the states to earn her degree in dancing. She then moved to New York where she danced professionally for 5 years. After having her daughter, she came to the south where her husband’s family is from, thus landing her at Ballet Esprit.
“I grew up in a very artistic family.., so I always knew that my path would be in arts in some way,” says Miller. “ I think the reason I connect the most with dance is that it is an all-encompassing experience; it takes your mind, spirit, and body. It is also a relational experience, it requires an ability to project and communicate with people,” says Melissa. Miller says, “ I try less to share a message, but to ask a question, as honestly, humbly and with as much humanity as I can.”
History reveals that dance has always been a form of protest. “Dance is the only form of art that is directly tied to our bodies and physicality. This is important because as women, we can protest with our bodies against the social norms of how we are supposed to move and how our bodies are supposed to look,” says Miller. The studio Ballet Espirit’s, next appearance will be The ALTER- Nut, their annual winter benefit. All proceeds go to their “ Hold Our Space SPOT Venue Covid-19 relief campaign”. The event will be held on December 5, 2020, at 5:30 P.M. at Lookout Lake, 3408 Elder Mt. Rd.
Whenever I get a new tattoo, I get a feeling that I was always supposed to have that piece of art on my body, as if the tattooing process is uncovering the pictures hidden underneath my skin, rather than putting them there.
My tattoos serve many purposes aside from looking cool, although that is a bonus. I like to think that my tattoos are marks on a timeline that just happens to be my body. Even though most of the dates hold no significance, I can recite the days that I got each of my tattoos. My goal is to get at least one new tattoo each year, and for that tattoo to serve as a mental anchor, reminding me of what my life looked like at that point in time.
Monday, December 12, 2016, my eighteenth birthday had arrived and I was finally able to get a tattoo. My mother had a friend that owned a tattoo shop that was normally closed on Mondays, but he opened it that night for the sole purpose of giving me a tattoo, and allowing four of my closest friends to come watch. I sat on the table, dressed in my Batman shirt and socks in preparation for my “Dark Knight” tattoo. My friends lined the wall that ran parallel to the table and giggled as the machine made that familiar buzzing sound, and then the words “are you ready?” filled the air. I nodded and then the needle met my skin as a uniquely exhilarating and painful sensation made itself at home in my left arm for the next 45 minutes. That feeling is one that I’ve grown to crave, as it is unlike any other, it hurts but it’s never to the point where it’s unbearable, making it something that I want to experience over and over.
My 2020 tattoo is a skull with a candle coming out of the head that was designed by Dick Cutter at Standard Ink Tattoo Co. Originally, I chose this design for the spooky aesthetic that came with it, but it evolved into a physical adaptation of one of my personal mantras, “be your own light.” That’s the fun part about tattoos, even the ones that aren’t initially full of meaning, can grow into something incredibly meaningful for the owner.
All tattoos share one commonality – Each one has a story. From a simple design to more intricate art, every piece bears significance.
For years, tattoos have been viewed as unprofessional and rebellious, but in reality, that is far from the truth—tattoos are a form of self expression. Dick Cutter, a tattoo artist at Standard Ink, feels that a very important part of his job is to help people express themselves. Cutter got his first tattoo when he was 26 years old and is still adding tattoos to this day.
He believes tattoos are becoming the norm now. “It’s unusual if you do not have tattoos now. You have seen lawyers with sleeves. I have tattooed preachers here.”
Cutter says there are two types of tattoos that the shop sees – the niche tattoos and the story-telling tattoos. Cutter described niche tattoos as tattoos that are primarily for aesthetic purposes. Story-telling tattoos tend to have a deeper meaning to the individual bearing them. Story-telling tattoos can be anything from a cherished memory, to a design that honors a lost loved one.
Tattoos are becoming more accepted in traditionally professional jobs now more than ever. For example, UTC professor of Psychology, Dr. Ruth Walker, has a tattoo in remembrance of a dear friend who passed.
“For some people, they will say it is a form of healing. Other forms of healing are not working for them, like going to a counselor or a medical professional in the wake of trauma … but reliving the pain of getting a tattoo and taking ownership over their body and reclaiming this identity is helpful. It is a form of healing to them. It is just a nontraditional form of healing.”
Dr. Walker adds that tattoos can be anecdotally helpful for people who suffer from a traumatic event. Sometimes a group of people will get similar tattoos to feel as if they are supporting each other or show support to a certain individual. For example, several NBA players got similar tattoos after Kobe Bryant’s death.
In today’s society, this form of expression is more prevalent in workplaces now than in the past. Tattoos are much less of a taboo in today’s society and more an extension of ourselves.
WUTC’s Scenic Roots has recently collaborated with Rising Rock Media to create Rising Rock Radio. Rising Rock Media, a UTC course taught by Billy Weeks, unites students with a variety of creative talents under one goal – storytelling. The radio show will include stories from Rising Rock’s ‘Art as Protest’ and ‘Ordinary Heroes’ segments with features from Photojournalism students. We invite you to share local stories that UTC students have produced, directed, and edited.
As Ray Bassett, editorial director and host of Scenic Roots, states “They know how to tell stories. Stories with heart; stories about life here in Chattanooga and stories off the beaten path,” he said. “These are examples of storytelling of this generation, by this generation but not only for this generation but for everybody.”
With the help of Scenic Roots, Rising Rock Radio is eager to share stories that are not only waiting to be told, but stories that need to be told.
Rising Rock will share their audio stories of documenting Chattanooga starting December 3, 2020 and running through January 2021.
Tune into Scenic Roots on WUTC 88.1 FM on Thursdays from 3-4pm and again at 8pm.
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.