Clemmie Greenlee is a force of nature, and I am crazy about her.

I first met her when she was a resident of Magdalene House, which is a women’s program founded by Rev. Becca Stevens that Russ and I have been involved with for almost 10 years. I’m not even going to try to tell her story, because she does it so much better herself– there’s a six part interview with her on YouTube, here’s a link to the first part. Let me just say that she has gone from being a crack-addicted street prostitute to becoming a vocal advocate and organizer for the Nashville Homeless Power Project, and an outreach coordinator for the Peace Campaign of the Galaxy Star Drug Awareness organization. The Nashville Scene chose her as their Nashvillian of the Year for 2007, and you can read that article here. 

But the best part about Clemmie isn’t what she does, it’s who she is. She’s a survivor, an odds-beater, a woman of courage and faith. She is a pint-sized powerhouse, with dancing eyes and one of the best belly laughs I’ve ever heard. I just ran into her yesterday, the first time in a long time, when I was at Thistle Farms, which is Magdalene’s cottage industry for healing bath and body products. I was there to interview Becca Stevens for an upcoming Homecoming Magazine feature, and running into Clemmie was just a happy accident. 

Which brings us to this picture. I cannot believe I am about to unleash this image of myself on the poor unsuspecting internet, but honestly? It was so goofy that I laughed my head off when I saw it and that trumped my vanity. If this is not the classic Nancy Reagan look of adoration, I don’t know what is! I look like Clemmie’s about to give me a dog biscuit. Or I’m about to propose to her. Or lick her face.

Anyway– enjoy! Feel free to make up your own caption!

“Tori Taff, on the left, shown only moments before being served with a restraining order by Ms. Greenlee’s attorney…”

7 Responses

  1. rockin robyn

    No criticism here… What a special picture! What I see in that picture is your heart.

    I watched those YouTube interviews and what a special lady Clemmie is! Thank you for opening my eyes to a world/a lifestyle I wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

    I had a very boring childhood. My parents raised 6 children on a printers salary and a stay-at-home mom – we weren’t rich and I’m sure we did without but I never knew it then. I never saw the ocean until I was in my 20’s… Looking back, I don’t know that I was ever, even a rebellious teen-ager… I’m sure I had my unperfect moments but mostly I just grew up naive, just very ignorant to the world of drugs and alcohol only because it just wasn’t around. So I always had a fear of it all. It just wasn’t my parents lifestyle and to this day I thank them and praise God that I don’t know that part of life.

    I wouldn’t trade that boring childhood for anything – because, at least I could be a “kid”… Clemmie had no choice. She grew up fast in a dark world that no child should ever have to be exposed to. Now she is a light to that world and making a difference. Awesome!

  2. LindaB

    Well, bless her heart——Clemmie is absolutely awesome! My heart ached for her losing her son. And I was actually moved to tears by her mother putting buckets of water, soap, and washrags on the step where her two oldest children lived in squalor so they could bathe!

    She certainly is an amazing survivor of that horrific world of drugs, prostitution, and violence! And her passion to go back into that dark and dangerous place to rescue others stuck in that lifestyle——well, it makes me want to fall at her feet too, Tori! Hug her for me next time you see her, will ya?

  3. kwr221

    great photo! And – you’re both color -coordinated! ;-) nice tops.

    oh, yeah – and it’s a great story, too, of course.

  4. meb

    What an amazing story she has. Hopefully more people will hear it and become aware of this other world that exists out there. And then go do something to help too.

  5. Ben Jones

    My first impression of this photo is the look on your face says how much you admire this woman and her courage. It looks like while Clemmie is talking you are soaking it all in and seeing Jesus through her testimony. Love it.

  6. auburn60

    When I worked at a downtown shelter for kids I saw a lot of kids–both male and female–turn to prostitution. Some as a way to get by on the streets when they were underage and runaways, and some simply walked out the door,away from ‘the system’ when they turned eighteen, directly into the mean streets and whatever they had to do to survive.
    A few times,driving down the streets,I would see some girl I recognized from a facility I worked in or a caseload I had carried and I would jump out of my car to try to talk to her.(I was younger,dumber and could sprint faster then.)Always,always I was told that they could see no other way of survival at the time.The saddest thing I ever saw was a girl I knew who had been in foster care, carrying her baby in a carrier,tottering home on her high heels at 3:00am after a night ‘on the streets’. She wasn’t even 19 yo. I could watch out the window of the shelter and see kids I knew ‘working the streets’. Sometimes there would be a ‘sweep’ and the police would pick up 10-20 prostitutes at a time,arrest them and turn them loose on the streets again. What purpose did that serve? They were rarely offered any help of any kind and probably would not have taken it,anyway.
    I wish some of the kids I have known had access to someone like Clemmie. Someone who has ‘been there’ and faced down the obstacles
    and lived to tell about it.I hope I knew some survivors.

  7. tori

    Aww… I love that you all love Clemmie! That makes me so happy! She IS remarkable, thank you for acknowledging that.

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