Memphis Is Changing

January 4th, 2018

Happy New Year, Memphis. It’s nice to see you standing up for yourself. More people are watching than you may realize. Keep giving them something to see.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, January 5, 2018, and in The Memphis News, January 6-12, 2018

Jeff Davis


President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was invited back to Memphis in 1964 when black folks were getting all uppity during the civil rights movement. He has finally left the podium.

Slave trader and Ku Klux Klan founder, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, was dug up, stuck on a horse and given a park in 1904 to put black folks firmly in their place. He has dismounted, and Jim Crow is finally leaving town.

Memphis is changing.

We are becoming the city we are instead of the city we thought we were, woke to the reality of ourselves, seeing a way forward, hearing our own voice. The same city council that couldn’t seem to see how to get out of the way of parked cars and special interests a year ago, spoke as one to remove overt symbols of racism and repression from our public denial. A county commissioner took leave of the petty fistfight between commission and county mayor to raise private support for public good and work with the city to make it happen. Our city mayor, lawyer by trade, summoned the originality and creativity that flows through us as surely as the river flows by us to lead the effort to a legal solution.

Memphis is changing.

The city that wouldn’t let yellow fever kill it, that wouldn’t let the federal government steamroll Overton Park, that wouldn’t let the memory and mark and meaning of Martin Luther King, Jr., die here with him, remembered who we were and stood up to a state who would make us in their image. When we tried to bring city and county together to improve public education here, the state wrote laws applicable only here and pulled us further apart. When we tried to rename and reposition our own parks to reflect a diverse and welcoming city, the state wrote laws to preserve an insensitive even oppressive status quo. The state says we acted to subvert those laws. Yep. Just like they did to us when they wrote them.

When those statues came down, we stood up for ourselves. We are taller because of it.

Memphis is changing.

Look around. All of Midtown is hotter than Memphis in August and Downtown is growing faster than a Twitter trend. Not long ago, we didn’t know what a boutique hotel was; now we’re tripping over them. Boomers can stop wondering what a Millennial is; they’re those young people all around you. They’re the people every city is looking for, and they’re looking at us.

They like that pedestrian bridge we just built across the river, the vertical urban village we just built in Crosstown, the brewery we just reimagined, the bike trails we’ve just built, and the genuineness in us that you simply can’t fake. And they flat out love the potential they see in us that we often fail to see in ourselves.

We almost forgot that we’ve changed the world from here before.

I’m a Memphian, and change is welcome here. Again.


Robert Geer: "I am a Memphian" "Memphis today, it must be noted, is not a colorblind city. Too many neighborhoods and schools remain one "color" or another; our public schools predominantly black and private schools predominantly white. But there are diamonds in the rough. My daughters have attended White Station High School, a public school more diverse than most of this country's elite liberal-arts colleges. (I attended Tufts, and my firstborn is a freshman at Wesleyan.) Each of my daughters has sat in a classroom where she is a distinct minority, as measured by skin color, nation of origin, or religion. The Spartan softball team's outfield in 2014 and 2015 could serve as a poster for the virtue of diversity in Memphis: a Caucasian in left, a Latina in center, an African American in right." - by FRANK MURTAUGH This man has a decent ideology but is still only one-sided and only based on his small amount of experience. I refuse to be proud of being a memphian because that would suggest I support all Memphian activity and that would mean I support rape, murder, and crimes of all kinds on a mass scale. I do not. I carry myself as an individual, never grouping myself to organizations because I know that people involved have their secrets and when they stop being secrets, I want no ties to their problems. Therefore I want no ties to the plethora of Memphis problems .

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