THE BEST SELLERS’ LIST- T-N-T Production: Invitation to a game transforms into partnership and strong bond

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Taliyah Chalmers hits the red carpet on Prom Night for Millington Central High School.

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

For the past three years when The Millington Star rolled on the scene of a sporting event, banquet or community happening, it was team coverage. 

Joining me on most assignments was Millington Central High School student Taliyah Chalmers. I first met the girl who would become my Goddaughter when she was 11 years old. Walking home from Millington Middle School, Taliyah introduced herself to me by saying, ‘Hey you know my mom, I am TC’s daughter.’ 

I stood on the sidewalk outside of MCHS, just wrapping up a few interviews, blown away by this adorable little girl just simply letting me know who she was. 

Fast forward to the winter of 2017, my friendship with her mother Talatha Chalmers has grown and Taliyah is a member of the Lady Trojan Basketball team. 

Now 14 years old, Taliyah is at that age of trying to find her footing on the social scene at school. She couldn’t be seen talking to the old reporter. I would still pick on her in front of her teammates and check on her progress. 

Then one day Taliyah needed a ride up to Munford for a game. She called her mom to get permission and the seed to a father-daughter bond was planted. 

The first time Taliyah joined me for an assignment came a few months later at my alma mater Raleigh-Egypt to watch the Trojan Football team take on the Pharaohs. My school edged out her school in a thriller that rainy night. 

I remember Taliyah being impressed by my job, how I multi-tasked and the respect people had for my position. 

What started as a way for her to get out of the house and be in the know, became a passion for her. Our time together as T-N-T is coming to an end. Today my Lil One will be graduating as part of the Class of 2021 at Millington Central High School. 

The end of a special era in my career is a milestone for the girl who is like a daughter to me. This Best Sellers’ List is going to pay tribute to my LeaLea. Below are 10  things I will miss going on assignments from the better half of T-N-T. 

10. Respect

The foundation of our relationship is respect. Taliyah got a chance to meet important figures like Mayor Terry Jones and Millington entrepreneur Terry Roland; educational leaders from Collierville to Millington including her future principal Mark Neal prior to him taking the job. 

From the numerous coaches to the players from across our coverage area, Taliyah got a chance to see my interactions with these newsmakers like a Susan Graves. The respect I gave them was returned. Taliyah was proud to be a part of The Millington Star and the coverage to many important events. Eventually her voice started to be heard and she came up with ideas to better inform the public and showcase our sources. 

9. Star Moment

“You’re already interviewing them… I can just record it on the camera. You can post it on YouTube.” 

Those words gave birth to Star Moment. Now countless highlights and amazing achievements during a game are documented through the words of those who made it happen. From Millington to Brighton to Munford to Rosemark, the Star Moment has taken place in gyms to the fields of play. 

Star Moment was extended to The Express Lane (Bartlett Express), Moment in the Sun (the former Shelby Sun Times) and H-I-Lights (Collierville Hearld Independent). 

With a gift of observing and adding improvements, Taliyah stepped out on a limb by giving me that advice. She learned that I was willing to listen to her and valued her opinion. From thumbnails for the videos to show ideas, her imprint will live forever on YouTube.

8. Inspirational

Knowing that I am being watched closely, I have to be professional, sharp and dedicated to maintain a good impression on Taliyah. 

From Nashville to Crockett County, T-N-T has hit the road to document history. I made sure I carried myself in a way that would make our paper look good and make her proud. 

Taliyah inspired me get up and go to extra games to give her peers their shine. She would tell me how hard her classmates at Millington worked to improve. “They deserve the coverage.” 

Her insight would trickle into our conversations and serve as a reminder of why I am blessed to do this job. Soon her classmates would tell her to make sure The Millington Star would be at this game and get the camera ready. It’s hard for me to say no to my Lil One. Most of her game requests were honored. 

7. Inside jokes

When you spend a lot of time on the road and hours at games, you develop a chemistry. You can almost finish each other’s sentences. With Taliyah being a teenage girl interested in Tik Tok, Korean dramas, K-Pop, make-up videos and other girly stuff, I was there to mock all of it. 

On the other hand, Taliyah was around a middle-age man who loves wrestling, 90s music, sports and classic TV. She learned to jab back and roast some of the things love. 

Through time we’ve learned to appreciate the other’s interest and how to share most of them. I will never enjoy K-Pop. 

From “Mike Tyson Mysteries” to “Young Rock,” I can see my influence on her. And I’ve purchased fingernail polish and purses. Her punishment is unlimited Dad Jokes. “Organic Beets By Dre.” 

6. Musical talents

Following in her big sisters Christina’s and Tianna’s footsteps, Taliyah joined the band. One of the best birthday gifts I ever received was Taliyah’s saxophone solo of “Happy Birthday” for me. It was a surprise and those notes echo in my heart today. 

I will always remember the pride I had when she performed her first choir solo during her sophomore year under the direction of Leah Thomas. 

From Megan Woodring to Kreston Smith, Taliyah has become a better performer in the concert band. I was deeply honored to escort Taliyah on her band Senior Night and I have a cool T-shirt to commemorate her last choir performance. 

Taliyah loves music and has dedicated a lot of her time as a student to the art. I have the pleasure of picking up her from practice and dropping her off to the band room. I got a chance to see her in her environment and earn the respect of her younger peers.

Because of music I had a few chances to tell people while pointing at my Lil One, “I’m here for her.” 

5. Spiritual growth

During this time Taliyah’s relationship with God is growing. She would ask me questions about the Bible, faith and what has helped me survived tough times. 

I would share my past experiences, mistakes and regrets with her. I didn’t want her making the same mistakes I made. I want to see her improve on what I should have done 20 years ago. Meanwhile she was growing closer and closer with God. She started to study the word and listen to elders in her family more. Taliyah made some spiritual decisions to get baptized and teach the younger children at our church the Church of Christ at Ridgegrove. 

Her growth in the Word and Holy Spirit now has her giving me advice and being their for me during my down moments. 

4. First interview

At the Millington McDonald’s, Star intern Taliyah Chalmers meets with Blake Spurgeon, the incoming director to the North Shelby County Young Life Chapter. 

I don’t know if I was a proud editor or proud father.  But I set back and watched Taliyah do her thing. She had her questions written down in her notebook and she planned to stick to the script. 

Then the interview took place and Taliyah told me she used some of the methods she witnessed from me for several months. 

Taliyah was so happy conducting her first official interview. But she was in for a rude awakening. Every journalist will tell you the most tedious part of the job is transcribing that wonderful conversation. Once she was done, Taliyah lamented to me about the hours it took. All I could do was laugh and say, ‘Welcome to the club Sweetie.’

She wrote a wonderful story and helped the community get to know a new piece of the Millington fabric. 

3. Still a fan

As she prepares to walk across the stage, Taliyah is still a fan of the games we cover. She sees Munford as a rival but roots for Cougars like Maiya Reed and Nic Buford. The 2018 Brighton Lady Cardinal Basketball team is one of her favorites. She cheers for coaches Stan Gatlin and Cedric Anderson like father figures. Now she can even tell you what she likes about their coaching styles. 

The TRA Lady Rebel Softball team made her feel welcome in the dugout causing Taliyah to learn softball cheers. But her favorite team among all teams is the Millington Trojan Football squad. I guess playing in the band for them all those games has exposed her heart. 

She will get upset, I do mean mad, when one of her teams loses in the postseason. Taliyah is full of joy when one of our teams advances or wins a championship. 

Taliyah was the inspiration for The Millington Star and West 10 Media opening up the Athlete of the Year to sophomores. She keeps a record of the multi-sports standouts to be nominated. Taliyah is a fan and that helps with the drive to do this job. 

2. Behind the camera

A few people remember Taliyah from our West 10 Media teaser a couple of years ago, “Better yet, check out West 10 Media…” She slammed the newspaper into the chest of my brother Chad Blunt and delivered her line like a pro. 

Just seconds later, Taliyah declared I won’t do that again, I work behind the camera. 

She was almost right. Taliyah has developed a steady hand and keen eye on shooting footage for our signing ceremonies, interviews, Star Coverage and The Best Sellers’ List. 

We had fun during the Pandemic Summer bringing this list to life. I go back and watch our cold openings knowing the true collaborative effort behind them. 

Maybe our best one is the parody of the Liberty Insurance commercial. She used her voice to make that come to fruition. I learned that day she wants to make me proud and make sure she’s helping me succeed despite her typical teenage worries.

1. It’s OK

Usher… in a new phase in her life. Watching my Goddaughter  mature and grow from that adorable 11-year-old into an 18-year-old who looks 11 has been a privilege. I thank God everyday He trusted me with you. 

I’m grateful to God that He put faith in Taliyah to trust me as well. I won’t get too emotional in this portion of the countdown. 

I will go back to a moment at the park. One of Millington’s educators from E.A. Harrold Mandy Compton came up to to Taliyah just smiling. Being around the amazing Dr. Compton made us both grind with joy. 

“Oh she’s yours. Taliyah you have your dad’s smile.” 

We didn’t correct Dr. Compton that day. All we could do was laugh. That was the first of many mix-ups. While the blood says one thing, our hearts know. 

Bittersweet. My Lil One won’t be there by my side anymore. But this milestone is the start of a new wonderful chapter in her life. “Take the lessons I’ve already taught and get ready for the new ones to come from Appa.” 

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas@magicvalleypublishing.com.