We want our work to tell the stories of Memphis and the people who live here. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

With every story, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism strives to reveal a bit of Memphis — who lives here, how you live, what you care about, what troubles you, what you’d like to see city leaders do. We want our stories to aid in making changes in policies, in the everyday lives of Memphians, and perhaps, in how we understand our world.

So as we head into 2022, we wanted to highlight some of the 2021 stories we’re particularly proud of. We encourage you to take some time to read those on the list you missed and share them with others. (And if you haven’t missed any, thank you.) And thank you to everyone who shared their stories. 


  • When the Shelby County Health Department first got the vaccine from the state, residents with internet access were prioritized when it came to getting appointments. In our January story, we pointed out this inequity, which affected those most vulnerable to the virus. The health department director acknowledged the misstep in an interview and the department later reserved appointments for people without internet access. 
  • In February, we reported on another inequity — that the first round of vaccines was going to those 75 and older, despite the fact that most Black people in Shelby County don’t live that long. 
We tracked the inequity that occurred as the county’s vaccination initiatives rolled out. A woman receives a shot at the Southwest Tennessee Community College vaccination site.  Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50
 Even as many sought access to vaccines, we reported why others were reluctant to take the shots.  Photo by Brad Vest for MLK50.

  • In Black communities, well-earned distrust of the medical field and misinformation, as reported in this story, fueled hesitancy. When we checked back later, some doubters had gotten the vaccine and convinced relatives to get it, too. 


  • Despite millions in federal Emergency Rental Assistance dollars available, people eligible for the help were slipping through the cracks and evictions were picking up. Our story in August examined the flaws in the program and looked at possible fixes. We followed up with a story in November that examined the improvements and fixes that still need to be made. 
We featured Susie Mitchell and her family’s story in our coverage about the problems with the Emergency Rental Assistance program. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50
  • In September, we spoke to residents in South City about whether the development project had lived up to the promise by city leaders to change South Memphis. Residents gave us real-life and meaningful perspectives on what the massive development has and hasn’t delivered. 

Environmental Justice

  • Our award-winning stories on the Byhalia Pipeline prompted the formation and growth of a local environmental justice movement, led to new local legislation and garnered national attention from the media and major figures. In January, we were the first to report on how eminent domain was being used by the oil company to take land from Black property owners in Memphis. 
  • In February, we broke the story about the possibility of the pipeline company purchasing tax-delinquent properties. It was pretty much a done deal, until public pressure changed things. 
  • We found a deeply sad and personal story in April of a woman who said she was tricked into selling her property rights to the pipeline company while she was ill. National media also found the story interesting. 
  • Later in April, we got the community talking with this story on nonprofit organizations accepting donations from the pipeline company, including the local NAACP. 
Our stories highlighted the Black property owners affected by and fighting the Byhalia Pipeline, including Clyde Robinson of Southwest Memphis. Photo by Brandon Dill for MLK50

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.

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