The Right Call

January 27th, 2011

Our differences make us the individuals we are. What we hold in common brings us together.

That can be – and of late too often is – fear, anger, threats, exclusion. Shared geography. Shared lives.

Or it can be – and of late there are promising signs – friendship, progress, opportunity, inclusion. Shared geography. Shared lives.

It's our call.

As published in The Daily News, January 28, 2011, and in The Memphis News, January 29-30, 2011 



Howard took his phone out on his porch overlooking the Little Red River in Arkansas and called me. "The band wants to throw Jimmy a party," he said. "Can we make that happen?"

A few months ago, I wrote a column about a friend with cancer and the comfort of cheeseburgers. A couple of weeks ago, just before he left town to have major surgery, we had a helluva send off. Howard's band, Solid Gold, rocked in pink tuxes. Hundreds of us showed, marking and keeping time in celebration of life and memories, dancing like no one was watching, singing like we could, going low on "Shout" like we used to with no fear that we couldn't get back up.

"Yes," I replied, "we can make that happen." And with just a few emails, a couple of strategic phone calls, we did.

Howard wanted something to happen. He knew somebody, so he called. I knew somebody, so I got in touch. They called, talked, emailed, tweeted and reached out to somebody. Pretty soon you're laughing out loud with people you haven't seen in years, reliving the old stories and stocking up for the new ones, watching hope take a drink and bust a move.

It happened, like so much in Memphis, because we knew who to call.

It seems another couple of friends have gotten together recently to make something different happen in Memphis. The fact that one is black and the other white, that one is the Mayor of Memphis and the other is the Mayor of Shelby County, is not what makes this different. This isn't about public cooperation and private separation.

What makes it different is that I think, and Lord I hope I'm right, that A C Wharton and Mark Luttrell actually are friends, and share in the belief that nothing can happen that benefits both of their constituencies without their shared vision.

Take this party they want to throw, for instance. They’ve given it a name – EDGE (Economic Development and Growth Engine) – and they'll combine the efforts of nine different entities and ask them to play the same tune at the same time. That will be music to the ears of the people they'll invite to the party.

That would be anybody and everybody who will bring jobs into Shelby County.

Now, those folks don't know whether to call the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning & Development or the Memphis-Shelby County Industrial Development Board. Maybe they should email the Depot Redevelopment Authority, be put on hold by the Memphis-Shelby County Port Commission, or Google the programs of Memphis Foreign-Trade Zone 77 or Memphis Community Renewal.


If we're going to get the calls and the jobs, people have to know who to call. One somebody, one entity, that will coordinate all the somebodies and make it happen in Shelby County. Our competition is making it easy, so let's not make this hard.

I'm a Memphian, and this is the right call.


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