March 2018

Founder, Executive Director, Moves and Grooves

WORDS Paul Polycarpou

Photograph by Jerry Atnip

So are you a dreamer or a doer?

I am most definitely a doer. I have a vision and I go for it—sometimes before I have thought it through. I go on faith, impulse, and on the possibilities. I believe in myself. I don’t stop till the job’s done.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Moves and Grooves. This was an idea I had at eighteen years of age. The idea wouldn’t let me go. I was in banking; I taught in Metro Schools, but in the back of my mind Moves and Grooves was always there, where I felt my heart and my purpose were. So to look back fifteen years ago to when this started and today we serve over two hundred and fifty kids . . . I’m able to supply jobs to a staff of twelve. That has been my greatest achievement.

What’s your greatest fear?

I fear not fulfilling my purpose. That I might not be here long enough, or that I might drop the ball on taking this vision I have to its full conclusion. I want to live a life of purpose.

“I want to be remembered as a servant leader, a person who gave back and inspired the next generation. As a woman of color, I feel it’s my duty to be an example for those young individuals who look like me.”

If you weren’t doing Moves and Grooves, what would you be doing?

I’d want to be a background dancer for Janet Jackson. If I can’t do that I’d be a writer, a journalist. I love to travel; I’m a boat lover, a horse lover. So maybe vacationing somewhere on a boat, writing my book.

What’s your greatest extravagance?

Clothes for sure! I’m a shopaholic, a fashionista if you will, designer shoes, handbags, garments, I’m on it.

Who has influenced you the most?

My father is my greatest influence. He always treated me like a jewel. I was his only girl. Even though my parents divorced when I was very young he remained a consistent part of my life. He was at all my dance performances. He was the first male I ever loved, and he always encouraged me at my weakest point.

Who would you most like to have a long conversation with?

It’s Oprah, and it will also be Former First Lady Michelle Obama. I respect their intellect and the leadership they have provided. That’s who I want to be. A person who can influence and change a community.

What are you good at?

I’m good at telling others what to do. At motivating people, encouraging and leading others. And I’m really good at dancing.

So what are you bad at?

Time management, and organization sometimes. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but sometimes I’m bad at showing my emotions. I can be guarded because I don’t want to be hurt. But I’m working on that.

What music turns you on?

I love jazz, Neo soul, R&B, Hip Hop, and musicals. And I’m getting to know country music. I like Dan & Shay.

What would you tell the very young Emerald?

Continue to believe in yourself. Trust in who you are. Learn from mistakes, and press through no matter what.

What do you want to be remembered as?

I want to be remembered as a person who saw a need and was proactive about it. I want to be remembered as a person who overcame obstacles in life to achieve what I have. And I want to be remembered as a servant leader, a person who gave back and inspired the next generation. As a woman of color, I feel it’s my duty to be an example for those young individuals who look like me.

What keeps you in Nashville?

I like the diversity in Nashville. I love the energy here. People can come here with a dream and two dollars in their pocket and make that dream come true.

What does a typical day for you look like?

I call it beautiful chaos. I wake up at 3:30 a.m. and I attend a 4 a.m. kickboxing class. Then I go home and get my daughters ready for school. I have meetings throughout the day, grants to write. My day ends at six. I go home, fix dinner for the kids, and back at it the next morning.

What’s the most challenging aspect of Moves and Grooves?

Marketing ourselves. After fifteen years, I’d hope that the community knows who we are and what we do, but a lot of them don’t. Being visible is the hardest part. Sharing our story.

And what’s the greatest joy you get?

Seeing my students do something they didn’t think they could. A lot of our students come in with emotional damage; some are two or three grades behind. We use the arts to help excite our students and get them interested in academic areas.

Courtesy Trevecca Nazarene University

What’s your motto?

I live by the motto that is on my desk here. Get it done!

Is your glass always half empty or half full?

It’s always half full! I am eternally optimistic. If it’s half empty it just means there is work to be done. There’s more room for improvement and more opportunities.

What do you wish for?

I wish for a bigger space for Moves and Grooves. A space our kids can call their own and be free to create.

Read about the Moves and Grooves ART SPLASH event on page 110.

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