Not the Same


I am an African American Woman, and this status was ascribed to me because my parents are African American so I took on their race; however, this does not limit the things I can do. One of the greatest things I have come to believe about living and growing up in the United State is that social status in the US is primarily achieved.  A person can be rich one day and within a blink of an eye be poor the next.  Another, way of looking at it is that your family may not have a lot of money, yet if you work really hard then  you, yourself may have a lot of money one day.  It is up to the individual to determine how his or her life will turn out. This gives me great hope that I can still make a great impression on the world through my achieved status; by helping my race work in a positive way. With that same view, sometime the struggle can get hard because contrary to what some people believe, working hard does not always get a person what they want. A man that does not work does not eat is an old saying or that people that do not have anything must be lazy. Yet, I have seen a man leave his home before sunrise and not return home until midnight doing hard labor work just to feed his family and still not have enough money to pay all of his bills. Many people say that everyone living in the United States are afforded the same opportunities in life. This couldn’t be further from the truth. People are often given opportunities and all people are not given the same chances (opportunities). A child growing up in the Projects of North Memphis will not be given the same opportunities as a child growing up in the suburbs of Collierville. Thetwo children will not even receive the same quality of education. Social status is often what determines what social clubs and social arenas a person will belong to. Rich people tend to socialize with other rich people; often giving each other’s children opportunities that the maid’s (poor) children will not get. Poor people tend to hang with other poor people. Often dreaming of a way out, they work hard with the hope one day they will own a home or one day their children will go to college.

Children learn from their environment and the live what they learn. Children from a well off background learn to network and meet the right people because it is often said, “It’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know”. Children from a background stricken by poverty often learn to hustle or play the lottery with the hopes of hitting it big. Besides who are poor people going to network with, they are all poor and have nothing. I have seen people in the projects spend their last $2 on a lottery ticket, these people don’t have a gambling problem (well maybe), theyjust want a way out. People with a high social status teach their children how to manage checkbooks and the importance of good credit. On the lower end of the spectrum, they often don’t have a checkbook to manage(paychecks are loaded to a pay-card) and their credit is already a mess from just simply trying to survive (getting title loans or payday loans). Wealthy people often encourage their children to marry a certain young man or young woman from a certain family because of thatfamily’s social status. This is because last names and social prestige mean a lot in the upper class. Think about it, have you ever seen a rich father encourage his daughter to go to the projects and find a husband, no!! On the other hand, some parents living in the projects don’t encourage marriage at all, not because it is a bad thing but because the Welfare department says if you have a husband they can’t help you even if you really need it,especially if the husband is working (even though he is not making enough to pay the bills and buy food). Rich people help their children complete and send in college applications and financial aid applications. They sit down and discuss what colleges their children want to attend and why they want to attend them. On the flip side of things, how can a single mother from the projects help her child fill out applications that she has never seen or even heard of? How can she discuss what colleges to go to when she doesn’t know the names of any colleges (other than The University of Memphis)? Rich people travel and get the opportunity to see many different places. Poor people are often stuck in one place their whole life. The world to them (poor people) is only as big as what they see, and that’s not much. I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. All Americans are not given the same opportunities.

Southern Schools: Business or Education

Sports has been an all time favorite past time in America. The south takes it to another height. Colleges are becoming more focused on sports rather than education. There are some cons and pros for this problem. The south has a long trail of racial problems, but sports bring people together and eliminate differences. Fans will join hands and cheer for same team side by side. You can go the deepest parts of Mississippi and Alabama and find fans that are willing to put race aside for sports. Sports also can greatly develop a small city and economy. Let me briefly talk about some schools that benefit from this. The first school is Ole Miss. I know Oxford is developing, but it is still in Mississippi. Mississippi is ranked number 50 on ACT scores, but has produced a host of great athletes. Ole Miss brings in a great deal of money from football. Their games are sold out and people pay top dollar to watch them play. Their basketball team has up and down years, but never gets close to football. You rarely hear about their educational achievements. Oxford is booming during football season locals enjoy the money they make, and the school enjoys donations.

            The second school I want to talk about is the University of Kentucky. The school is located in Lexington, Ky. Unlike Ole Miss, basketball is the money maker here. Kentucky has a long history for basketball, but with today’s technology it receives attention on a large scale. Social media exposes the institutions to other areas of the world and their fan base grows. Basketball is similar to a religion in Kentucky. They are lead by John Calipari, who was the former coach of the University of Memphis basketball team. Calipari is an excellent recruiter and signs the best high school players to play for him. The players he brings in are for the most part future NBA players. Fans enjoy it because you can attend a game and watch a good selection of future NBA players play for a cheaper price then going to an actual NBA game.

            The last school I want to talk about is Sweet Home Alabama. Legendary Tuscaloosa, Al is home to roll tide football. The University of Alabama loves and adores their football team. They invest so much money in the program. Their football stadium is state of art, and better than some NFL stadiums. Roll Tide football is big business. They have fans all over America with their winning attitudes. The football program brings in over 82 million dollars a year. This is large number, but the state’s education ranking does not reflect any investment from the college. Nick Saban is the head coach of this team and is the highest paid coach in college football. Saban makes 5.5 million dollars a year to coach football to players who are doing it for free.

            These schools are well known for their sports, but why is education not advertized and invested in as much. Education will last longer than any athletic ability. Boosters have got involved and now make money off sports for their own interest. We all have to realize that these players we watch and enjoy are still students, not dollar signs.

Growing up in a urban community it was not uncommon to know teenage girls with children. My mother made it her duty to emphasis how much of a struggle it would be to have a child at such a young age. Although I did not take the proper steps to avoid pregnancy as a teen I was blessed enough to have my first child as a adult. Even now as an adult it is a struggle to raise a child while going to school and working to support my family. Now that I am a mother and a aunt to two teenage girl I stress the importance of not having children until they establish themselves. Although my son has been a motivation for me to complete school and strive for more in life I would recommend anyone to wait until they are financially stable before bringing anyone else into the world. Major problems that our society faces today include diseases, teen pregnancies, hatred, crime, and war. As a society we have a lot of work to do in order to fix these crucial issues. It seems as though unprotected sex has become a norm in the younger community causing the development of many diseases that often goes uncured simply because parents are not aware of their children being sexually active. The only way to address this issue is for the school systems and parents to become more involved with teens and their sexual activity; this could be done simply by providing guidance to teens and insuring them that no matter the issue they will always have someone there to talk to. Awareness classes could be held that addresses the dangers that come along with unprotected sex. Simply by being more open with teens  could lead to a dramatic decrease in sexually transmitted diseases. Teen pregnancies are another issue that ties in with unprotected sex. There has definitely been a rise in babies having babies causing more children to be raised in poverty. As a society we should be more willing to insure that less teen moms has to rely on government assistance to survive. We could also help those teen moms out by providing daycare so that they could finish school and work their way out of poverty.  Hatred, crime and war are also issues that have seem to take a turn for the worst. Every day on the news there is a different story on the news about gang violence, robbers, and killings. For centuries we as a society have allowed ourselves to be at war with one another over foolishness causing the person to become harmed over issues that could be easily solved. At some point we have to realize that violence is an issue that has to stop; too many innocent lives are being taken and even more people have to pay their debts to society by rotting away in prison missing out on the joys that life has to offer. I would love to be able to go around to all the crime filled neighborhoods with single teen moms to make awareness for disease and crime, many of these issues take place simply because there is no one in these cities and towns that will give the love and support that is needed.

Southern Hip-Hop and Rap

Many people may know that Hip-Hop and Rap music began up North. New York is the idol city for the music industry. Many of the record labels such as Interscope and Def Jam reside there. This is key for Northern rappers who are from the city or surrounding areas. These rappers somewhat have an advantage because they can walk around the corner or down the block to contact a major record label. This made the Hip-Hop and Rap scene predominantly have a strong influence within the music industry in the early 90s and late 90s. Artists such as Jay Z, Nas, DMX, and others were the front runners of the Rap game. Southern artists have a more independent work ethic than Northern rappers because of the lack of major record labels.

Southern rap and Hip-Hop wasn’t as mainstream compared to these artist. 3 6 mafia, 8ball and MJG, UGK, and OutKast were very popular amongst the South. Record labels in the South, in the early 90s, included Cash Money Records and No Limit Records. Master P and the whole Cash Money roster were popular but not on the level of the new era of Southern artists. I would say that Southern artists came along in the early 2000s. Artists such as T.I., Ludacris, Usher, Rick Ross, and many more have placed an imprint on the music industry.  Many of these artist come from the city of Atlanta. Atlanta itself is a good place to invest in music. A lot of Southern cities have not adopted this culture of  Hip-Hop record companies. Memphis is one of those cities. Atlanta have a lot of music producers and independent record labels. This is key for Southern rappers to get a foot into the music industry. This allows these independent artists exposure to the major record labels up North.

Southern artists such as Lil Wayne, Future, Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, Young Jeezy, and many more are dominating the music industry. Producers such as Drama Boy, Lil Jon, and Jazzy pha produce many of the beats we listen to today. These artists and producers represent the Southern  way of living and grind. These artists are featured on a lot records that are played today. They have hustled their way into the music industry and are getting record spins up North. This is a big accomplishment for southern music. It is an accomplishment because most Southern music is look as being country and hard to understand. It is similar to how the Blues became an epidemic in the United States.

Lil Wayne set the bar for Southern Hip-Hop. Many southern artist weren’t known for their lyrics. The South was known for its banging beats and creation of the crunk music. He added a Southern swagger to the Hip-Hop industry. He is one the most featured artist today.

The South has made a strong influence on the Hip-Hop and Rap industry today. Southern rappers have worked their way into the mainstream music industry and have became household names. Many of them represent the relentlessness of the South and its culture. This is a representation of the hard work and dedication Southerners have.


Going to the Chapel.

People get married everyday. Some folks are old, some middle aged, some young adults. In fact, the average age for a woman to get married in the United States is 27 years old. That is not crazy, in fact, it makes logical sense for people to wait until their late twenties to get married because they are more financially stable as well as more mature. However, it seems to me that women in the South get married much younger than anywhere else. My mom married my dad when she was twenty and he was twenty-three. That may sound very young, but it is not that unusual. I have been in college for three and a half years and the wave of people I went to high school with getting engaged has only just begun. A few girls got married right out of high school, but that was less common. Now, though, it seems like every week someone new is engaged. And I am a part of the epidemic! One of my teachers actually brought this topic up in class one day. He is from the North, and he said he found it very different than what he was used to. He said that every semester he has at least one or two girls in his classes that are engaged. For me, though, it is not strange to be engaged so young because I have been with my fiance for over five years. While yes it is a trend in the South to marry young, I think it has something to do with the fact that a lot of people start dating young and date the same person forever. Also in the South family is a huge deal and a woman is expected to be a good wife and mother. A long time ago women were married very very young and maybe since the South has a tendency to be rooted in tradition, that tradition never died. It just is the norm to marry young. However, there is a certain stigma behind it. Some women did in the past (and some still do) go to college just to find a man to marry. People call that getting an MRS degree. Hardy har har. Right after I got engaged and posted it on Facebook (like you do) one of my old guy friends who happens to go to Alabama commented on it and said something along the lines of, way to get that MRS degree Erica. And that really hit a nerve with me because I went to college to get an education and I should not have to apologize for also planning a future for myself. But I digress. I think women in the South are taught at a young age that it is okay to want to get married young, and so the pattern continues. I do not think that women getting married young is exclusive to the South by any means. It just seems, to me, to be a prevalent pattern.

Southern Living: The Most Underrated Way to Live

Growing up in the South I was often surrounded by people consistently putting the area down. Oh how they naive and wrong those people were and are. The South is a prime place to call home for multiple reasons. Firstly the food located in our godly region is the best in the country, perhaps the world ( I’ll fight you if you disagree). Food is a way of life and so much compassion and time is put into it, therefore  it is top quality. With southern weather, especially in the Mid-South, you have a chance to enjoy every season our planet throws at us. Recreation is plentiful in the south, pick your poison. it is a great place and way to live, so get your mind right people.

Food, oh how we love food. On top of our love for good food, we have the chance to live in the “great food capital of the world”, as it was just coined. No matter where you find yourself in God’s country ( the South) you re never too far from some delicious. Of course you have BBQ, and every regions different way of preparing the smoked goodness. Then you have your chicken fried everything, and that is the way we like. Is our type of food healthy? God no. Is it divine to the taste buds? You bet your sweet ass. If it were healthy we would not brag about, or be such  a happy people.

In the South you legitimately get a taste of all four seasons. Who wants to live in California where it feels like the beginning of summer for an entire year? Not this guy. I love the feeling of the weather starting to cool, and getting to break out the jeans and flannels. Winter definitely has its downsides but i do enjoy it, you get to enjoy a bonfire and have the chance for a white Christmas, which is just magical.. The summers are often hot, but that is what air conditioning and bodies of water are for, so stop whining and enjoy yourself. Lets not forget about spring, oh how grand spring can be. The warm weather returning and everyone returning to their normal good moods.

If you enjoy the outdoors the South is the place for you. We have the mountains in the East if hiking is your bag. Lets not forget those bodies of water. Fishing is amazing down here, you have the coast, rivers, and lakes skittered throughout the region filled with water critters just waiting for you to come and capture them. Let not forget about sports and how much better we are than everyone else at them. When I say sports I am of course talking about the southern trinity: Football, Basketball, and my personal least favorite Baseball. We are better and we know it. I hate it when I hear people bad talk where we live when if they would just stop and think about it they would realize how good we have it.

Thank God for Google

I love history. My history, your history, all history. You could say I spend too much time looking over my shoulder, at what was, and what might have been. I admit that I ascribe the the Old South habit of near ancestor-worship. My grandmother taught me to love history by telling me stories about her past, our family’s past. After she died, I inherited much of her furniture, some that dates back to the 1850’s. Until I remarried a few years ago, my entire house looked like a diorama of an early 1900’s home. My new husband is the one who brought it to my attention and that he did not want to live in a museum. I had not realized that I was trying to actually live in the past. Now I try to keep only one foot there.

Recently, I was poring over old genealogical charts, imagining peoples’ lives through their birth, marriage, and death dates and locations. I can see the progression of these settlers across the frontier,  from Virginia and North Carolina, over the Smoky Mountains, to western Tennessee. While looking at the chart I noticed that a grandfather named Nathaniel, born in 1796, had a son by a slave woman. The names of his descendants were listed on my chart. The last name in that line was Willie (Bunnie) and had Nathaniel’s surname. The last name is unusual, and French. I suddenly thought, it is not impossible that with such an unusual name I might locate this person.

I googled her. I could not believe it when I found two hits. One a very old woman in New Jersey and the other a 61 year old woman in Chicago. Of course, I face-booked her, and I followed links to her career in radio, on the FM dial as well as satellite XM. I had her phone number, so before I lost my nerve I called. I got an answering machine and left a message. “I think we might be related…..”.

That was in September, and after no response for a few weeks, I sort of forgot about it. Probably I was wrong about the family connection, or even more likely, maybe we were related, but she chose not to revisit thoughts of her ancestor being at best coerced, but most likely raped by this white man, Nathaniel. I had apologized in my message to her for invading her privacy and  that I understood if she did not wish to respond.

Then last Friday out of the blue I saw a missed call on my phone and heard a voice-mail from Bonnie, asking me to call her. I called her back immediately.

Yes, we are indeed related, she said. She was interested in history and genealogy as well and had researched beyond Nathaniel to the seventeenth century.  I felt like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., would appear any second, that I was on the television show “Who Do You Think You Are”. She proceeded to tell me how a community of French families had settled in Arcadia, Nova Scotia in the 1600s and were later pushed out by the English in the 1700’s. A part of this contingent resettled in North Carolina, where Nathaniel was born.

Bonnie very graciously told me about her great-grandfather Anderson, Sr., who was the child of Nathaniel and the enslaved woman.  He grew up in North Carolina and had a wife and children there. Around the 1840’s, Nathaniel asked Anderson if he would help him move his family from North Carolina to a new homestead in McLemoresville, TN. In return for this help, Nathaniel would give Anderson a parcel of his homestead acreage. Anderson agreed, helped his father to move, then  returned to North Carolina to retrieve his own family. Bonnie said that her grandfather Anderson, Jr. told her that his father’s family was no longer there. They had disappeared. Bonnie reflected on that, concluding that they were most likely sold while he was away.

Anderson, Sr. returned to his new homestead and eventually married a woman named Mary. Together they had many children, among them Anderson, Jr. The family and their descendants continued to live on that parcel of land as farmers. Bonnie’s grandfather told her that “although the two families lived on adjoining land they did not associate with each other, but that when they saw each other they always treated each other kindly”.

In 1936 Bonnie’s father Manley left that rural town on a bus bound for Chicago at the young age of 17. He joined the Great Migration, trying to escape the repressive Jim Crow south. He served his country proudly in WWII and like other Americans across the country he came home after the war and started a family. Bonnie related to me that throughout her childhood she returned every summer to the old home-place in tiny McLemoresville, and experienced Jim Crow herself, in the 1950s and ’60s.

The old home that Anderson, Sr. built is still there, but now its boarded up and covered with vines. Family members still live on the land, and occasionally they gather for family reunions. I do not know if the “other” family still inhabits the nearby parcel, but I do know that while Bonnie’s people always knew about this conjoined history, in my family it was hidden. This encounter with Bonnie has served to reinforce to me how very interconnected we all are, blacks and whites, in America. Bonnie and I are just as much family as all the other people and names on my genealogical charts. Although imagining these ‘new’ relatives lives from birth, marriage, and death dates and locations is uncomfortable, it is important for me to recognize and acknowledge their pain and endurance in the face of such racism and inequality as well as their rich participation in the settling, building, and defense of this country.

Commericalizing Southern food and music

So many times I have heard that the southern way of living is so out of whack and so behind the times. It is so ironic that some people feel this way because several things that have been commercialized to the mainstream audience has come from the south. Certain foods have been advertised and placed on the national scale. Popeye’s and KFC are two major fast food restaurants that originated in the south that have been franchised all over the country. I have travelled to other states that were not in the south and I have seen both of these restaurants. Popeye’s commercials keeps the originality of its birthplace by having the band playing in the background but why are people running to Popeye’s if it is supposed to be so country and behind the time. Even the dish shrimp and grits originates from the Louisiana and it has been placed on fine dining restaurant menus. These overpriced restaurants try seem as though this dish did  not come from the south. They are trying to glamorize it and make it seem as something brand new.  It is funny to me that the south has come up with so many popular dishes or restaurants that have gone mainstream but people still will not accept the south into the rest of the nation. Whenever I am watching the food network channel with my mother, she always says to me I do not know how these people on this network have made it this far because what they are doing has already been done years ago. She always says my mother used to make this or  make that when I was little now television wants to make it seem as though it is their idea when really people in the south have been doing what their doing for many years.

Music is another thing that has gone mainstream. There are numerous amounts of famous music artists that are well-known by this country and they are born and raised in the South. Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Justin Timberlake and Elvis Presley are well-known entertainers from the south. These artists have sold countless amounts of albums but people still remain to believe that the south does not bring anything to the table for the country. When these artists went mainstream it was as if the rest of the country forgot where these singers originate from. Even the popular television show American Idol primarily has contestants that are from the south. Once they narrow it down to the top 10 most of the contestants are southerners. Even most of the winners for each season are southerners. Is this really a coincidence? I think that this country loves to hear southern people sing but they will not admit that the southern region has contributed a lot. Carrie Underwood is one of the most successful southern winner from American Idol. She has won several awards and she is even the star of the upcoming Broadway show The Sound of Music.


Down with Chivalry!

Over the holiday weekend my brother and I went to visit some of our family at their cabin in Heber Springs. After dinner, all of the cousins went outside to get a fire started; doing this meant chopping up a fallen tree. Once all of the wood had been cut, I immediately went over to help. As I picked up a log, my brother and both of my cousins yelled, “PUT THAT DOWN!” and I immediately became confused because all I was trying to do was help. When I asked why, they said that I was a girl and didn’t need to do any manual labor, “that’s what men are for”. I tried to tell them that I really didn’t mind but they just were not having any of it! It drove me crazy just sitting by, watching someone else do work that I was fully capable of doing.

This incident got me thinking about gender roles in the South and how even today woman are viewed as delicate creatures, incapable of doing things for themselves. I definitely can’t say that I have never played into this negative stereotype, because sometimes it is just down right convenient. However, I realize that by doing so I am perpetuating something that can be really detrimental. Historically women have been treated as property, as people who are incapable of taking care of themselves. While many people in the South place a large importance on chivalry, I feel that maybe we should reexamine this practice.

Just because I am a woman does not mean that I am incapable of opening a door for myself or having a job to support a family, for that matter. Many young women in the South are brought up to be a perfect lady and housewife. Not that there is anything at all wrong with being a full time mother, because that is no easy task. But I feel that young women should want more for their lives, because they are capable of more. Women are taught from a young age not to make waves, to be quiet and not to be too opinionated.  The book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg addresses this issue and offers ways for women to succeed in their careers. It has sparked a movement in many professional communities that encourages women to “lean in” to their careers , because a woman is just as capable of being  the CEO of a fortune 500 company as a man.

I think it is imperative that women, especially in the South, realize that we are capable of so much more than being the “perfect housewife”, that our opinions matter, and that we most certainly do not need a man to define us.  Women need to be instilled with the knowledge that we can do absolutely anything a man can do. I believe that this knowledge starts with the realization that maybe chivalry should just be dead. When young women start to realize that they have the power to do things on their own, they will then have the confidence to pursue more challenging careers.

Grit and Grind: Memphis’ Identity

Grit and Grind has become a part of our language here in Memphis. This phrase, that began with a player describing his and his team’s performance after a game during the playoffs in 2011, has become the motto for an entire city. Over the years, one of the things that has become common knowledge here in Memphis, for those who follow our sports teams, is that no matter who is playing, whether the Grizzlies or the Tigers, the game will not be an easy victory, and if they lose they will not lay down and let it happen. It will have been a hard fought battle to the end. As my dad says, the team will have “played with a lot of heart.” Tony Allen described his team that night as playing with a lot of heart, grit, and grind, but this idea of playing with heart, grit, and grind is not new here in the Bluff City. Heart, grit, and grind has always been a way of life here in Memphis, we just did not have a way to express it. Growing up here, I have always noticed a certain resiliency we Memphians, and further us Southerners, have that is not shared by other people in other cities. Things in life are not given to us here. We must pull ourselves up by our boot straps and make our own way.

In class we talked about how after the Civil War we decided, whether it was our decision our made for us does not matter, that we did not want to be like the North. Everything the North did was bad and we wanted to be the opposite. This might have been fine in a displeased post-war South, but the lack of change and upgrading set us up for a substandard way of life in the present. This unfortunate truth has still not changed. Our schools, housing, politics, infrastructure, every aspect of our lives, is not up to the standard set forth by the government. In a lot of cases we must teach ourselves growing up because the teachers did not do an adequate job. The beauty of our situation though is that we do not give up and accept our life as it is. We wake up every morning and strive for something better. We are told as children that if we dream it we can attain it, and I think this is true for Memphis. We always expect to hear terrible things about our city when we turn on the news, and dread telling people where we live because we would have to convince them that it is truly a great place to live. The truth is, though, that we do live in a great city. We are a city that never says die. We accept our inadequacies and learn to move past them. Our identity as a person, as a team, as a city, is the same. Hard work. Determination. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Never say die. Grit and Grind. That is Memphis.