CJ Kirkland

C.J. Kirkland was born in New York to an Italian American mother and a Bahamian father. Raised in the Bahamas and having lived for three years in The Netherlands, she considers herself truly multicultural!

C.J. attended Spelman College on a full academic scholarship. She initially chose to major in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. However, her desire to study and better understand the human psyche (because of events that transpired during her childhood) led her to transfer to the psychology program during her sophomore year. She was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and subsequently enrolled at Morgan State University to pursue a Master of Arts in International Relations. C.J. planned to embark on a career in journalism and, at the advice of her best friend, moved to Los Angeles during her second year of studies. She completed her requirements for her MA in International Relations at UCLA, during which time she had a short internship at CNN. It was during this internship that C.J. met her mentor who believed she should open herself up to opportunities in mainstream television, not just news broadcasting. After booking a national commercial on her very first audition, C.J. worked as a commercial and voice-over actress for four years before returning to her first love: writing.

While working as a freelance writer C.J. embraced her psychology background and began a creative writing group at a Los Angeles residential home for at-risk youth. She also volunteered at a Memphis non-profit organization, helping students build their writing and English skills in preparation for the GED exam. In 2011, C.J. was the graduation keynote speaker at BRIDGES in Memphis, Tennessee.
 
Currently, C.J. is writer of the River City Rising blog for cityCURRENT. She is also a contributing writer for Executive Speakers Bureau and the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.

C.J. recently completed her first Contemporary Fiction novel, FOR TRUE. She lives in Memphis with her husband, young son, and two dogs.

Posted Blogs

  • Best Memphis Burger Fest 2017

    Best Memphis Burger Fest 2017

    • October 12, 2017
    The threat of thunderstorms which loomed all day didn’t keep away the thousands of burger enthusiasts and aficionados who came to Tiger Lane to test their talents and taste buds.
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  • A No Mo Chemo Celebration

    A No Mo Chemo Celebration

    • September 29, 2017
    This month is ending but our fight to end childhood cancer never will.
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  • The Hero We Need

    The Hero We Need

    • September 20, 2017
    “We have core values. We use teamwork. We show grace and we teach each other.”- James Lancaster
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  • Indie Youth Film Fest 2017

    Indie Youth Film Fest 2017

    • September 11, 2017
    Indie Memphis held its second annual Youth Film Fest this past weekend at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts and Education, naturally.
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  • Silence is Golden

    Silence is Golden

    • September 04, 2017
    Today, Labor Day, many of us are celebrating a rare day off and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, enjoying the fruits of our own labor. Yet let’s also take a moment to celebrate those who silently, and often anonymously, work to keep the fruit accessible and whose names we may no
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  • Richard Overton Memphis Ties

    Richard Overton Memphis Ties

    • August 29, 2017
    Six degrees of separation is what they say connects us all but I believe it’s closer to three degrees, really. And I also believe, reflective of this three degrees, a bonus benefit in us striving to consciously be kind to everyone who crosses our path is that we sometimes have no idea who exactly we
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  • Crosstown Concourse; What's in a Name?

    Crosstown Concourse; What's in a Name?

    • August 21, 2017
    There is incomparable strength in a name that has survived near defeat, only to rise up and become more powerful than it ever was.
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  • They Came, They Went, They Left an Imprint

    They Came, They Went, They Left an Imprint

    • August 11, 2017
    This year the Memphis Film Prize had over 700 attendees who contributed in some way to the fruition of dreams and goals for all of the film festival’s participants.
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  • Memphis Film Prize 2017 This Weekend

    Memphis Film Prize 2017 This Weekend

    • August 03, 2017
    “The first truth you have to understand about creative endeavors: the spark comes to life at the expense of the grind.”
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  • Family and Philanthropy

    Family and Philanthropy

    • July 21, 2017
    Reentering the workforce after having my son had its challenges, primarily because of the limitations on how many hours I could work and how much time I could- or could not- physically be at my place of employment.
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  • William Hawkins - Memphis Model in New York

    William Hawkins - Memphis Model in New York

    • July 14, 2017
    He is a successful model whose face and body has graced countless magazine pages; he has walked the high fashion runway more times than many of his industry peers. I’d planned to sit down with him while here in New York but current projects have him overseas (as is to be expected!)
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  • Elvis Flies Icelandair

    Elvis Flies Icelandair

    • July 06, 2017
    On my way to Iceland last week I saw a reference made in a brochure aboard that country’s national airline, Icelandair, which made me first smile then contemplate: contemplate about the impact our words and the legacies we form from those words have, beyond the borders of our own lives.
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  • Memphis Hearts Bloom in Holland

    Memphis Hearts Bloom in Holland

    • June 29, 2017
    During my recent trip to The Netherlands I connected with Memphian Marisa Wittmann who is currently residing in this small, character-rich country that is bordered by Germany, Belgium and the North Sea.
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  • Talk of Memphis in Paris

    Talk of Memphis in Paris

    • June 19, 2017
    On a recent trip to Paris, CJ Kirkland discovers a fellow American who traveled to Memphis years prior and strikes up a conversation which aptly turns into a Memphis love fest.
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  • Outage Leads to Lines of Hope

    Outage Leads to Lines of Hope

    • June 12, 2017
    During the recent storm-related power outage in Memphis (the area’s third worst in history) more than 188,000 of us lost power.
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  • Bodine Reflection of Growth

    Bodine Reflection of Growth

    • June 06, 2017
    So as we parents enjoy our summer days and reflect on what this past year meant for our children and students, we can take comfort in knowing there are teachers such as Sara Hill, administrators such as John Murphy and educational environments such as the Bodine School providing our children the tim
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  • BBQ Fest and Friendship 2017

    BBQ Fest and Friendship 2017

    • May 19, 2017
    After the tents have been taken down we will go our separate ways, knowing that we have our nostalgia to carry us until next year’s contest where we will once again convene on the river to make memories that don’t have to be romanticized.
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  • Knowledge Quest Farm and Culinary Academy

    Knowledge Quest Farm and Culinary Academy

    • May 12, 2017
    Located in South Memphis, Knowledge Quest offers after-school programs to over 450 children in grades Pre-K through 12.
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  • Team Tennessee Service Day

    Team Tennessee Service Day

    • May 08, 2017
    During the recent Team Tennessee Service Day held here in Memphis, thanks to a collaborative effort between Volunteer Memphis and Volunteer Tennessee, it was clear to me that the sources of joy at each recipient site were not the gifts but the givers.
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  • Memphis Athletic Ministries and The Memphis Suit Project

    Memphis Athletic Ministries and The Memphis Suit Project

    • April 28, 2017
    A friend recently shared that her least favorite line of work had been retail. When asked why, she said partly because it was challenging to work with customers who became frustrated when clothing they tried on did not fit them well. They’d walk into the dressing rooms happy but leave feeling angry,
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  • Socktober and Samaritan's Feet

    Socktober and Samaritan's Feet

    • April 14, 2017
    Passover began for those who are part of our Jewish community, the state’s largest, as did commemoration of the days leading up to Easter observance, beginning with Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday as it is sometimes called).
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  • Memphis Shelby PAL | River City Rising

    Memphis Shelby PAL | River City Rising

    • April 07, 2017
    The recently launched Memphis and Shelby County PAL (Police Activities League) is expected to serve over 7,000 children in ways that will nurture their innate talents and provide safe spaces for them in which to grow, under the guidance of law enforcement officers who will “serve as coaches, referee
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  • Southaven VIPs Honored

    Southaven VIPs Honored

    • March 31, 2017
    Last year alone, the Southaven Police Department was gifted with 9,250 volunteer hours by members of the city’s Volunteer in Policing (VIP) program.
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  • The Bridge

    The Bridge

    • March 24, 2017
    This month The Bridge celebrates its fourth anniversary and this week students commemorated Bridge Week on the Rhodes College campus.
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  • Helping Hands of Porter-Leath

    Helping Hands of Porter-Leath

    • March 17, 2017
    During a recent visit to the American Way Head Start and Early Head Start center run by non-profit Porter-Leath, I was reminded of the power placed and found in our hands.
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  • Ballet On Wheels: Tutus in Transit

    Ballet On Wheels: Tutus in Transit

    • March 07, 2017
    What the New Deal and movie theaters provided in their respective times of need, Ballet on Wheels Dance School & Company is now providing for many in our Memphis community.
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  • Mid-South Mission of Mercy

    Mid-South Mission of Mercy

    • February 27, 2017
    This year over $1,000,000 in dental treatment and services was given by area professionals, including Dr. Chris Getman who closed his office (Getman Orthodontics) for a day so that he and his staff could be present to help.
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  • Volunteer Odyssey Launches VolunteerCompass

    Volunteer Odyssey Launches VolunteerCompass

    • February 21, 2017
    The creation and launch of VolunteerCompass means that starting today, the way we approach volunteerism in Memphis will change and it will change in such a way as to infinitely increase the good that takes place within our communities and, maybe more importantly, within ourselves. VolunteerCompass
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  • The School of Greatness: Lewis Howes

    The School of Greatness: Lewis Howes

    • February 13, 2017
    A former All-American football player, it was during the year and a half he spent recovering from a career-ending broken wrist that Howes began talking to and learning from leaders about their paths to greatness.
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  • Rainbows and Hope

    Rainbows and Hope

    • February 03, 2017
    Recently, on an unusually warm January day in Memphis, I found myself at Rainbow Lake Playground in Overton Park surrounded by fellow Memphians who represented this goodness, peace, pride and diversity, leaving no doubt that the space was fully deserving of and living up to its name.
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  • Bedrock Market & Café

    Bedrock Market & Café

    • January 30, 2017
    Bedrock is the brainchild of owner and chef Brandi Marter. Opened in 2015, Brandi has taken the “healthy eating” concept to a level of its- and her- own. There is not a single dish I’ve eaten at the restaurant that I would not recommend
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  • "Les Passees Cabaret" | River City Rising

    "Les Passees Cabaret" | River City Rising

    • January 20, 2017
    There are several sections of sidewalk along East Parkway that are cracked and broken. It was only recently that I learned part of the reason for this is that massive tree roots have spread so widely, and are so strong, they are breaking through the concrete. When looking at trees I rarely think of
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  • What Are You Doing For Others? | #MLKDay

    What Are You Doing For Others? | #MLKDay

    • January 16, 2017
    As we celebrate the work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend we are reminded that even as much as there might be darkness, so there is also much light.
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  • Lessons from StoryBrand

    Lessons from StoryBrand

    • January 10, 2017
    We have now entered the second week of the New Year and I am ready to put into action the resolutions I created for myself during the first week. Technically, the process could have begun on January 1 but I am a creative person...
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  • The Greatest Gift

    The Greatest Gift

    • December 18, 2015
    Two Memphians once only familiar with each other by six degrees of separation are now bonded for life, through a life. They each arrived at a place of complete surrender by publicly facing private fears and it is through that surrender that they will give to our world one of mankind’s greatest gifts
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  • Believe

    Believe

    • December 25, 2016
    Every year, as part of our Christmas traditions, we watch the same series of holiday movies. This includes the original 1947 version of “Miracle on 34th Street”....
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  • The Principle of Giving - Principle Toyota

    The Principle of Giving - Principle Toyota

    • December 16, 2016
    50 children from Winridge Elementary School were being granted their Christmas wishes a bit early this holiday season thanks to a collaborative effort between Principle Toyota, Walmart and Chick-fil-A.
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  • Honest Hamilton's

    Honest Hamilton's

    • December 08, 2016
    If you’ve wondered whether a company can be profit-based yet people-focused, Hamilton’s has given you the answer: yes. When someone truly sees and believes that you care about them more so than what you can get out of them, not only will they patronize your business...
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  • #GritGrindGive

    #GritGrindGive

    • November 17, 2016
    Be part of the movement this year. As Jaclyn stated, it doesn’t matter what nonprofit you give to, or even how much; in fact, you can split your gift amongst several of them. Whatever choice you make, know that your act of giving is honored, no matter the amount.
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  • Veterans Day

    Veterans Day

    • November 11, 2016
    Today, I celebrate that God saw fit to change my heart and my life through the words and actions of a man, a Marine, who loves his country, defended his country, fought for his country and honors his country.
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  • Thinking About Tinker

    Thinking About Tinker

    • November 04, 2016
    Every so often I walk away after having watched a film and find myself remarkably impacted, unable to get the narrative out of my consciousness. Whether it was a full-length fictional or documentary short, I find myself replaying scenes and reflecting on how the filmmakers have gotten me to see thin
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  • IKEA Memphis Coming Soon!

    IKEA Memphis Coming Soon!

    • October 31, 2016
    A dear friend brought to my attention via social media that the Memphis-area IKEA’s opening day was announced, along with the side note that customers can begin lining up two days in advance to be part of the lucky first to enter its sliding glass doors.
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  • Spooky Science Spectacular

    Spooky Science Spectacular

    • October 21, 2016
    ARMS (Autism Resources of the Mid-South), in collaboration with The Pink Palace Museum and sponsorship by the White Station Optimist Club, is determined to change engagement opportunities for autistic kids with their Spooky Science Spectacular.
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  • Roxie's 365

    Roxie's 365

    • October 01, 2014
    Besides Barbecue, my husband’s favorite food is burgers. He’s so fond of them, in fact, that during our years touring the country he would seek out the best burger spots in each city. Most were forgettable, many were good, none were perfect. Then came Roxie’s.
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  • Williams Tanzania Mission

    Williams Tanzania Mission

    • October 17, 2016
    After having called Memphis home for the past 25 years, Ralph and Twyla left on October 4 to build a new home in Tanzania.
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  • Les Passees

    Les Passees

    • October 06, 2016
    In preparation for my meeting with members of Les Passees to discuss the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Stock Exchange, I was directed to this year’s “storefront” in Bartlett. Storefront, in this case, is worth enclosing in quotation marks because after arriving I learn that the Stock Exchang
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  • South Main Artspace Lofts

    South Main Artspace Lofts

    • September 30, 2016
    One of the biggest stressors that artists face is figuring out how to maintain stability while cultivating their craft without compromising their gifts. Thanks to Artspace, now Memphis will have a place for artists to focus on their craft.
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  • Operation Feed's Success

    Operation Feed's Success

    • September 16, 2016
    Operation Feed is the largest annual donation drive for the Mid-South Food Bank.
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  • Tupelo to Memphis

    Tupelo to Memphis

    • September 09, 2016
    Like many I embarked on a road trip over the Labor Day Weekend. Our trip took us about three hours outside of Memphis, to a friend’s beautiful lakeside property in Alabama. Following a fun weekend with two boys who love like brothers (and thus sometimes bicker like brothers!) we headed west on U.S.
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  • New Name Same People

    New Name Same People

    • September 02, 2016
    The name cityCURRENT is new but the people behind the name are exactly the same. They are a small group of individuals whose desire to give back is so deeply ingrained it has taken root and infiltrated almost every aspect of the Memphis community.
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  • Living By Example | River City Rising

    Living By Example | River City Rising

    • August 19, 2016
    Our words in the form of lectures and books can teach children what they want to be but it is in our actions they learn who they want to be. We aren’t always aware when they are watching us and it is in even the most common of circumstances that our treatment of others is setting an example.
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  • National Night Out | River City Rising

    National Night Out | River City Rising

    • August 05, 2016
    There is power in sitting silently on our sofa with a neighbor whose husband has just been deployed for eight months. We sit next to her, void of words for this mother of three young children who has just said “see you soon” to their father, suppressing her fears in their presence but allowing them
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  • Memphis Film Prize | River City Rising

    Memphis Film Prize | River City Rising

    • July 18, 2016
    This past Thursday, on what is usually a quiet evening for The Cove on Broad Avenue in Memphis, it was standing room only. Hopeful artists from every part of the film-making spectrum waited to hear the names of the top ten films vying to be winner of the 2016 Memphis Film Prize and its accompanying
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  • The Big Onion | River City Rising

    The Big Onion | River City Rising

    • July 06, 2016
    Last week, under the guidance of Memphis educator Lauren Boccia, four students from St. Agnes Academy visited New York City. Their focus was not to take a bite out of The Big Apple but to be part of The Big Onion project, during which they would “peel back the layers of New York” through service pro
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  • MempHistory: Pinch District | River City Rising

    MempHistory: Pinch District | River City Rising

    • June 24, 2016
    There has been a renewed sense of hope for concrete plans to revitalize the area of downtown Memphis known as the Pinch District.
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  • "Back to School" | River City Rising

    "Back to School" | River City Rising

    • August 20, 2015
    Mid-South schools are officially back in session. For many teachers this means the beginning of another year during Mid-South schools are officially back in session. For many teachers this means the beginning of another year during Mid-South schools are officially back in session. For many teacher
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Testimonials

"It is actually hard to put into words the feeling I had meeting and joining with the Memphis 'giving' community at the LPBC Signature Breakfast hosted by Smith & Nephew and in partnership with The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence in August, 2014. To see living embodiments of real and true compassion and caring for others, all gathered in one place gave me some sense of the astounding range, depth and sustained good works the business community in Memphis is doing. It was clear to me
John Hunter, Award-Winning Educator , former guest speaker, and focus of the documentary, "World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements"
Thank you for taking the time to teach me some new ideas about storytelling in the digital world! I am excited to implement your tips and best practices. Thank you for all you do to support local nonprofits and their good words by providing this valuable training.
Glenda Gurley , Maddox Foundation
"It was very revealing. I had no idea of the broad range of community outreach initiatives involved by the sponsoring members. This is the most positive movement that I have seen in Memphis in a long time and is surely needed. I really enjoyed my visit."
Bill Morris , Former Memphis Mayor
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