Sarah Carpenter: Fearless Advocate for Memphis Children and Parents

There are brave heroes among us and for many parents in Memphis, Sarah Carpenter of The Memphis Lift fits the bill. She is a fearless advocate for educational quality and school choice and she will travel many miles to make her case and if it means taking on powerful interests, so be it.

Carpenter is an organizer with The Memphis Lift, parent advocacy group that burst onto the scene in 2015. Clad in orange shirts, they raise their voices on behalf of parents who just want good schools for their kids. 

For far too long in the city of Memphis and around our country, poor people have been held back by a failing public school system,” said organizer Sarah Carpenter. “Some Republicans don’t want to increase school funding. Some Democrats care more about protecting systems and administrator jobs than they do about protecting children. We are here to demand that our schools work for us.

Carpenter’s commitment to education advocacy emanates, at least in part, from her experience with her granddaughter a decade ago when a KIPP charter school came to town and started talking about all kids, including her granddaughter, going to college.

It changed my life, because they made our kids believe that they could do this. And growing up in this neighborhood, my mom didn’t talk about college.

This past year has been uniquely frustrating as Carpenter and her fellow parents have found themselves battling with a group they grew up believing was on their side.

The NAACP.

While Carpenter spends her days pushing for high quality school options for children, the NAACP has been busy pushing for a moratorium on charter schools. On the day of the official vote by NAACP’s national board, Carpenter was there, clad in her trademark orange shirt, ready to disrupt a meeting by a bunch of folks who refused to meet with her group.

Carpenter isn’t shy about how disconnected NAACP members are from her and the parents she represents.


Most of these people live in suburban areas. They look like me, but they are not connected to me.

And she’s right. She lives in North Memphis where poverty is high and parents’ access to high performing schools is painfully limited.  

No matter how many NAACP representatives or other powerful interests work to silence or dismiss Sarah Carpenter, she remains fearless. She is laser focused on empowering parents by providing them with information and also teaching them to be their children's number one advocate.

There is no disputing that her voice is a powerful one in the education landscape in Memphis. Her courage and willingness to speak truth to power has begun to inspire people nationwide to follow her lead on behalf of kids and families.