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Conversations with Barbara Farmer-Tolbert

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barbara Farmer-Tolbert.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am a lifelong Memphian. I was born into generational poverty and reared in a community known as the Foote Homes Housing Project. This area of Memphis was documented as one of the poorest zip codes in the nation. My neighborhood was encompassed by crime, broken homes, and a struggling school system. So, clearly, as the late Langston Hughes would say, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

I am the 2nd child of a sibling group of 5. My parents taught us to be considerate of others and to always protect one another. We were also expected to abide by the very strict rules set forth by our parents. They were determined not to allow the unruly circumstances around us to stop us from becoming successful and productive citizens. My parents kept us engaged in family time, school work, and church activities.

Now as a wife of 23 years and a mother of 1 son and a bonus daughter, we continue to express similar values in our home.

I have invested 25 years of combined service as a community servant within law enforcement, public schools, religious & non-profit organizations. I am also the founder of a mentoring group for girls called Slumbersations. I have diligently served in these capacities both nationally & internationally.

Among the religious sector, in the 100+ year history of Tree of Life MB Church (Pastor Emeritus- Franklin Dwight DeBerry), I am truly honored as the first woman to be Ordained.

As a graduate of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy, I am the first African American woman to graduate with the highest GPA. Training included class work, physical fitness and firearms proficiency. I am also the first woman to be awarded “Top Cop” in Shelby County.

I am also a recipient of the “Outstanding Community Servant Award,” the “Esther Award,” and the “Finer Womanhood of Religion Award.” I was also featured in a book written by the Girl Scouts. These are just a few of the accolades I am truly honored to receive.

Now a retired SVU Detective, I have become an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, sex crimes, and vulnerable person abuse. I am certain my life’s purpose is to help whomever I can while I can.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Certainly, life has not been a smooth road. I was born in the ghetto to teen parents & abject poverty. While attending elementary school, my older brother and I were subjected to being bullied on a daily basis.

There was no level of expectation or hope in our neighborhood. But, every Sunday after church service, my parents would drive us through the “rich” neighborhoods. They showed us life outside of our current situation and encouraged us to strive for more while keeping our morals safely intact.

My siblings and I have gone on to receive college degrees, military honors, and amazing accolades. We have been blessed to become homeowners in the neighborhoods where our parents “drove” us through every Sunday. We are also business owners and productive community servants. I am thankful my parents allowed us to dream big!

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I have held several jobs but I will highlight at least 2 of them.

The first one is a “calling” and not a job. I am honored to have been called to preach the Word of God. I serve as the Pastor of Missions at New Hope Baptist Church under the leadership of Senior Pastor Robert J. Matthews.

Serving as a Pastor creates unique opportunities to work with families & communities around the world. I am most proud of being able to become the founder of our sister church in Burundi, Africa known as New Hope Baptist Church of Burundi. I have traveled to Africa on mission trips but never imagined the level of connections that have been established. My journey throughout life has allowed me to visit all 50 states within the USA and 75 different countries around the world. I am sure some people may wonder how a little girl like me from the ghetto have been afforded so many amazing opportunities. I can assure you, it’s nothing but grace.

I would also like to highlight the years I served as a Special Victims Unit Detective. I met people during some of the most horrific times in their lives. Yet, the bond we established reached far beyond them just being a case I worked. I will never forget this experience. I am thankful to have served & protected our community. I am most proud when I see victims become victorious.

There are several laws & memorandums I have stood on the front line to help implement or amend. Some of those laws include the VINE (Victim Notification Network), Domestic Assault (Amendment), Sexual Assault (Amendment), Child Endangerment Laws (Amendment), Crimes Against Persons with Disabilities (Amendment), Sex Trafficking Awareness (In Schools & Businesses), & LGBTQ+ (Law Enforcement Liaisons & Jail Intake Protocol)

As a retired SVU Detective, I continue to serve as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, sex crimes & vulnerable person abuse. I travel both nationally and internationally speaking about various social ills, such as human sex trafficking, domestic abuse, and bullying. I also provide training for leadership and personal development.

What’s next?
I will continue to serve within the community locally and abroad as a beacon of light for persons who may have lost hope. I will also make sure laws are implemented and enforced to protect victims of crimes.

In the most recent election cycle in Memphis, TN, (August 4, 2022), I ran as a first-time candidate for State Representative District 91. My team and I ran a very respectful and impressive campaign. We received more than 40% of the overall votes. I feel extremely empowered and will continue to fight for safe communities, flourishing families & thriving schools.

I want people to know I am here to make sure that by rallying together, we become, “Fuel For The Future.”

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: @BarbaraFarmerTolbert_4dis91
  • Facebook: @fuelforthefuture91
  • Email:
  • LinkedIn: Barbara Farmer-Tolbert

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