In class we talk about a great deal of things that has really just opened my eyes up to some things that I just never really just paid attention to. Maybe because I am from the South, and have become comfortable with the things that goes on. Or I am use to the custom of the things that we do down here in the South. Because in reality take someone that is not from here they would probably look at some of the things we do and say we are very crazy. Watching the film and coming to class has showed me how we really talk act and carry ourselves. Especially, as a black male in the South you see a lot of want to be rappers, pants sagging, even much so the big rims on cars and gold and silver grills in their mouth. Looks as if that is the signature look that most, not all, young men want to look like and act like. The movies demonstrated and back me up a lot on the stereotype. Because in the movie it was about a pimp with the press and curl, very poor trying to accomplish his dreams of becoming a known rapper and to do this he goes through extreme measures in my opinion to complete. If you ask a young black male what he wants to become in life he will tell you either a famous basketball or football player, or a rapper. This is so funny to me because not everybody is meant to play sports or rap. Do not get me wrong there are very good known rappers and famous basketball and football players from the South. But this image and dream that some people have will never come true. Sorry to say, I really do think that the media has a lot to do with that image. Because the people that are famous make it look so easy and to make matters even worst most of their stories is the type of story that says started from the bottom now I am here. People look up to them and say hey, he is just like me he can do it so can I. But, in reality everybody cannot be a rapper and famous basketball player. I think the South would be such a better place if everybody finds their own niche, something that they are really good at and go after that dream. Dare to be different is what I have learned to live by. I am not trying to crush anybody’s dreams or anything, but I am really trying to be realistic and say that the South has so many different images that the media and famous people portray to say that their life is so perfect and that what they are doing is what you should look like and be like. When we all know that God made everybody different, I am not saying that not to chase  your dream as a rapper or basketball player because I do believe in the motto you can do anything that you put your mind to. But I’ll leave you with this advice if you are in your late 20’s almost 30 and your dream of a rapper or basketball, football player has not came true I think that you should turn that dream into a hobby and find your niche.

Am I My Brother’s Keeper? (Facilitating the Comeup)

It seems that when you are born in an area stricken by poverty or an area with a high concentration of low income workers, there is an unspoken contract that you consent to. It states that if you are fortunate enough to move beyond the status quo, you have an obligation to assist others in their journey out of poverty. In other words, if you are one of the proverbial plants who manage to grow out of concrete, you do not simply stretch your roots out and enjoy the sun; instead, once you have made a hole or  crack in the seemingly impenetrable barricade that is poverty, you move to the side and let others attempt to come through your hole in order to grasp at some sunshine for themselves.

I say that it is unspoken, but that is not true. It will be spoken of if you do not abide by this contract. Some people will be bold enough to come out and say that you should help them because you made it  and it is the right thing to do, while others will insist you owe them something because they “knew you when.” Some will mask their endeavors towards riding your coattails  in phrases such as: “you are not the same ” or they lament how much you have changed.

I do not agree with these notions. I believe that if you make it into a better position and life and choose to use that position to give back to others, then that makes you a wonderful person. If you choose to donate to hospitals, schools, your local outreach program, etc., that is great. You are putting money, effort, and/or time into a system that you existed in for quite some time. However, you do not owe a job to “Joe Blow” down the street because he gave you a birthday card when you were eight.

People who are in no way qualified or people who will be a detriment to what you have made for yourself will not care that they are these things. “Joe Blow” could not keep a job at McDonald’s, he/she was always late and  unnecessarily took days off. Now he/she wants employment at your place of business. What do you do? Armed with an understanding of their conditions and how difficult it would be for them to transition to where you are without your help, do you give in? Do you just “give them a chance”? I mean “come on mane, everybody needs a chance.” “Some one had to give you one, right?”

To tie this into what we have covered in class with the film Hustle & Flow, I do not believe that Skinny Black owed it to DJay (spell it right) to listen to his cassette. I know many people see it as just a listen, but that is looking at it with rose colored glasses. DJay was invited to the party for other business and tried to pimp Skinny Black. He sat down at his table after convincing himself that they were in some way friends because he had heard of him. He played up this imagined friendship not out of admiration, but because he wanted something from Skinny Black. Skinny Black owes him no listen and could have felt slighted by the move. Think about it. You sit down and begin to converse with what you think is someone who likes you for who you are and not what you have and then they reveal their ulterior motives.

Did DJay support Skinny Black by buying his mixtape? Yes, but so did a thousand other people, hence his fame. Does he owe something to each and every one of them? No? Then why does he have to give anything to DJay specifically? He is not his brother’s keeper, nor is he the keeper of some guy down the street who saw him in the hallway of the local high school sometimes.

Memphis is Beautiful Despite What They Say

After we finished reading Memphis and the Paradoxical place in class, I began to think about the way people view Memphis. The point that stood out to me the most in the book was when Rushing talked about how reporters from up north would write articles about Memphis saying that it was a dirty place to live in and that was the reason the people kept catching the yellow fever. After reading this section of the book it made me realize that things like this have not changed for Memphis. Although residents of Memphis know that the city is amazing and not as violent as people make it seem, outsiders continue to tarnish the city’s image. For example, as I was strolling through the latest stories on Yahoo, I ran across an article that was talking about Elvis Presley and the Whitehaven community. The journalist wrote a story about the current condition of Elvis Presley Blvd. and hundreds of people chimed in to give their two cents.  Multiple people stated that they were afraid for their life while in the area and encouraged others not to visit. REALLY!! Everyone knows that the Whitehaven area is far from dangerous, but appearance and perception is everything. Because one person said the area is bad, other people stray away from visiting the community and this undoubtedly affects the economic growth of the area. The commentators on the article failed to mention the real reason they feared for their life while visiting Graceland.

It is common knowledge that mainly Whites visit Graceland. It is also common knowledge that the Whitehaven community primarily consist of African Americans. We can say that race is no longer an issue in America, but everyone knows that is a load of crap. Racism is still alive and kicking. The people that visited Graceland were not afraid because the area is know for violence because that is not true. They were afraid for their life because too many black people were close by. Now if they said they had stayed in South Memphis and they feared for their life this might be a different story. I just feel that too many people who know nothing about Memphis  try to say what the city is about and they have no clue what they are talking about. I believe that not enough people focus on the positive things that are going on in the city.

People tend to forget that Memphis is constantly trying to make the city a safer place to live in. For example, last year Memphis started this thing called gas for guns. This program encourages people to bring in their guns in exchange for gas cards, grizzles tickets, or gift cards. Things like this is Memphis’ attempt to make the community a better place.

Memphis has multiple things fighting against them. The first thing that we have against us is our history. From the beginning people have been told that Memphis is a dirty violent place and that stereotype has remained with us.  Another thing that Memphis has against it is that it is in the south. People still perceive the south to be far inferior to northern cities and this will forever be the mindset of Americans. While I know that Memphis is an amazing place to live and visit, others will never know this for themselves because they allow the views and perceptions of others shape their outlook of this beautiful city.


Memphis & Inequality

For many years the topic of inequality has been raised, but nothing actually done to change it. It is kind of like a relationship with a significant other. Have you ever sat back and let things happen that you know you were not satisfied with, but you did not want to alter the relationship, so you dealt with it? Memphis and its inequality reminds me of this kind of relationship, particularly when we look at where our money is invested. Recently Memphis City Schools shut down 4 elementary schools in the southwest corner of Memphis, forcing students to walk further, catch the bus, and/or parents to change their schedules and drop the children off at school and pick them up. This hurt many parents and it caused a drastic change in the lives of all of those involved including the students, parents, teachers, and other staff members. Closing down the schools will save about $4.2 million a year, mainly in the salaries of the staff. Imagine being told, as a teacher, that your school will be closed and you will be displaced. You did not have a choice in the decision and nothing you say can affect what is already in affect.

On the other hand, to attract tourists, the City of Memphis gave Bass Pro Shops $30 million to transform the Pyramid into a megastore and resort. While I understand the store will bring jobs to the city, I question whether or not it really costs that much to rebuild that location. Could we have awarded that money to the schools they shut down instead? Tennessee Department of Transportation officials awarded a $109.3 million contract to the reconstruction of the interchange in East Memphis. Repair the roads, but take away the schools. We have so much money to invest, but why not invest it into the education of our future? If this is the result of not having enough money, what will happen if we run out of money again? Do we shut down more schools to compensate for it? We as citizens of Memphis have to be more aggressive when it comes to anything hindering us from moving forward and really growing as a city.

It amazes me how we go to football or basketball games, and we scream for people we do not know. We pay a good amount of money to support the teams, but we are quiet when it really matters. We choose not to vote because we feel our vote will not count. We sit back when it hurts the worst but we get mad at the decisions others make for us when we had an opportunity to select who we wanted in office. Inequality is very well alive in Memphis. The question I raise is, what can we do to make inequality in Memphis a thing of the past?

We must come together and create a firm foundation for our city. Focus on what’s more important to our future. If you take away the things that mean the most to the citizens of Memphis, you run them out or cause the city to crumble. We need to invest to into our people and reach out to those who need help the most.

The Tale of Two Cities (The City I Thought I Knew and The City I Have Come To Know)

First of all, let me start by saying “Memphis and the Paradox of Place” was a great read! The author, Wanda Rushing, really put a lot of things in perspective for me. After reading this book, as well as discussing it in class, I’ve realized that I do not give Memphis enough credit. Don’t get me wrong, I love my city and where I come from, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I have so many things to be proud of when it comes to Memphis. Let’s be clear, the city of Memphis is tough. Having gone through so many trials and tribulations, setback after setback, and we’re still here. Memphis should definitely be commended.

True enough, it’s safe to say that I haven’t done a lot of research on Memphis. I guess I feel like since I’m from here, I know just about everything that has to do with Memphis, but I was completely wrong. Rushing says in her book that Memphis is underestimated by its own residents, and I couldn’t agree more. People from Memphis, including myself, are ALWAYS complaining about how there’s nothing to do here and how there are more opportunities in other cities. Now, this I agree with also, but it wasn’t until after I read “Memphis and the Paradox of Place” that I realized Memphis has so much valuable history. There is a history of people who made opportunities for themselves, regardless of the critics who say that Memphis is slow-moving and uneducated.

Rushing calls these people that I speak of as “independently minded thinkers”. To me, she’s saying these are the people who made a way for themselves without letting anyone or anything hold them back from doing what they wanted to do. There are so many individuals out there who love to throw salt on other people’s dreams, but people like Robert Church wasn’t having that. He was the nation’s first black millionaire, and guess where he was born? MEMPHIS! How freakin’ awesome is that? Then, there are people like Kemmons Wilson who started the Holiday Inn, which is still very successful today. Let’s not forget Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx. All of these people came from right here in Memphis, TN. They all made opportunities for themselves, and it’s a lesson for me because I realize now that I too can do the same.

The city of Memphis has been dragged through the mud and dirt, but we continue to stand tall. Wanda Rushing mentions, “Who would have imagined that the city once identified as a yellow fever “pestilential mudhole” and designated the unhealthiest city in the United States would become the home of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital?” We all know the wonderful work they do at St. Jude and it’s an honor to be associated with them. Memphis is also home to the Civil Rights Museum, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Stax Museum, Peabody Hotel, and Beale Street, where many musicians got their start. In the words of Jerry Lee Lewis, “I’m going to Memphis where the beat is tough, Memphis, I can’t get enough, It makes you tremble and it makes you weak, It’s in your blood, that Memphis Beat.”


Expanding My Southern View

It has been a long road from birth to my current position as a college senior. I grew up poor in Orange Mound and saw a lot of things. I seen people with prominent futures go from living large to dead broke. I just took notes and applied them to my mind moving forward. I always felt Memphis was a very poor city and a death trap for those who had a chance to become very successful. The schools I went to from grades K-8 were in poor communities. I was accepted in a optional program at Overton High School for drama. The first day of class was a complete inter city culture shock. My fellow classmates had different views on things. They all listened different types of music. Their career goals were different from the kids from my previous schools. I was in for a life changing experience.

Most of the kids at my high school came from middle and upper-middle class families. They were not to familiar with the poor parts of Memphis. As time passed I befriended my classmates. I hung out their house and they hung out at mine. We swapped inter Memphis cultures. My house they enjoyed pizza and rotel. While at their house I enjoyed crab legs and shrimp. I think I came out the winner. Their parents had successful careers and were in a strong network. While hanging out I learn a lot about my city that was unknown in my community. I met and interacted with blacks who made six figures a year. This was unheard of I was completely shocked. I went to high end restaurants and attended formal events that surprised my expectations. I quickly learned that Memphis had a lot to offer.

Memphis was not as far behind as I thought. We have a host of things to be proud of. The corporate atmosphere is very competitive with other southern cities. FedEx, AutoZone, and other large companies have a strong effect on employment here. Memphis and its surrounding areas has a host of golf courses which has a positive effect on businessmen. I did not think a lot of people played golf, but I learned otherwise. Many of the upper-middle class would play golf together. This was a similarity to big cities. I was the caddy for a doctor for a summer and he exposed me to Memphis’s business world. I witnessed myself the strong networking of the elite. Many high dollar deals were made on the peaceful course. The city has slowly developed around me, and its having a positive effect on the college students. Students are now considering not to relocate. The downtown area made a excellent turn around. It has many things to do and some nice places to live. Streets have developed and security cameras have made the area safer. Memphis has shown me that it is not a death trap. People have become very successful in the city. I know now from going outside of my environment. My advice for tourists and fellow residents of Memphis is to go outside your comfort zone. You fear what you do not know. Get to know Memphis as a city and a thriving business center.

My Sweetheart: paying a debt

I am very enthused to be giving my story on this blog. although this is my first time blogging, I am excited. My sweetheart and I have been dating for seven years. We have an awesome almost one year old daughter on October 4, 2013. He feels like I can not tell him any different about him & his musical career. He is an up and rising artist/writer/ rapper. Don’t get me wrong I truly am happy for him. I do not want to take away anything from him but he is the one that has made it and I feel as if he does not owe anyone anything who did not help him get there. He always says “Don’t worry about it.” or “I don’t know about how they played a specific part in his life on his come up.” The way I see it is he started out in our living room of our home, no one else’s. No one but his immediate family which is: sisters, brother-in-law, mother, and I are the only one’s that traveled with him, saw him grit and grind, helped him, gave him our last, risked getting no sleep for the loud sound of his studio in our home, etc. None of his friends except maybe three have been along for the rough risky ride. His stage name is Young Gwola. He is good, but he does not owe a debt to society or his high school friends unless they were there then and now not just showing up because he posted on Facebook he has a meeting with Atlantic Records this weekend.  Whose to say that he will sign any type of a contract with anyone yet.? He may just be outweighing his options to see how he can expand and how far he will go. I know people show up when people they know have money, but I am very uncomfortable with him making promises already as if he has signed anything to try and rebuild these so called “friends” lives and take care of them. He does not owe them anything but support and advice on how to get where he has gotten. He has been doing shows for free since he has started, most people would not do that but he saw that as his internship opportunity to get his credentials up and make his name for himself become known. Just reminds me of Hustle and Flow so much to the point I stressed that to him. He made it on his own like he is the Ludacris and the “new people” are Cuba Gooding. I just wish he would listen to me and sit down and analyze what he is telling these people who approach him expecting him to make a change for them because they attended Southside High school together. Once he realizes that he does not owe anyone anything except for maybe the ones that has truly been by his side supporting him since day one then he and I will be just fine. This is a link to one of his videos:

Hope you like it.


“Working the Streets” Downtown


At age 20, I moved from Jacksonville, FL to Houston, TX and then two years later to Memphis. Both of the prior cities were large and very bland, with no real character of their own. Most residents of both cities were not natives; in fact, in Jacksonville it was so rare that the few people who had been born there would sport stickers on their cars that said “Native”. Neither city felt truly Southern due to the large numbers of Northerners and Midwesterners that populated them. I found Memphis to be different; most residents were from here or from the surrounding rural areas.

Soon after my arrival, I became a bicycle currier in downtown Memphis for about a year. It was a very exciting job, riding my bike throughout the business district, up and down streets, through alleys, in the rain, heat, or snow. When it was cold, I loved feeling the warm steam coming up from the sidewalk grates as I pedaled over them. I have so many memories from that year downtown: the busy business people hurrying to and fro, street festivals on the Mid-America Mall, getting to know some of the homeless people I would see every day and hearing their stories, taking breaks in Court Square to feed the squirrels with nuts bought from the Kress store, famous for its “Whirly-Q Luncheonette”, and the smells and sounds of life in a vibrant business community.

I read the Commercial Appeal every day to get to know my new city. I had begun that habit in Houston, as it was a good way to feel an attachment to a place and less like an outsider. Soon, as I made my deliveries downtown I began seeing the actual subjects of the articles I was reading about in the newspaper. I might see Mayor Herenton in the lobby of City Hall, the County Commissioners in chambers, or find myself standing in line at a bank behind the Chief Public Defender (and future Mayor) AC Wharton. I would see colorful characters, some involved in scandals, around town such as Harold Ford, Sr., Ricky Peete, Riley Garner, and others. Each day could hold another chance encounter with the people I was reading about each morning. I rode elevators with Joe Birch as he chased stories downtown, and with the ‘alien from the planet Zambodia’, Prince Mongo, who was barefoot with rings on his toes. I often saw a young Leslie Ballin striding to Criminal Court to defend one of his many illustrious clients.

I fell in love with the architecture of downtown Memphis and its juxtaposition to the natural beauty of the river and the soybean fields stretching away behind it. It all felt so unique to me, and viewing farm fields from the city seemed symbolic of the urban/rural vibe of the city. It spurred in me a desire to know more about Memphis and its history. I began to read everything I could about it. I soon found myself giving historical driving tours of Memphis to my friends and family from out of town. We might go to Elmwood cemetery to see the memorial to the Yellow Fever victims, to the interstate underpass near the Convention Center where the city really began, to the Peabody Hotel which Prince Mongo tried to buy at auction in the 1970s, or to see the Lorraine Motel and the protester Jaqueline Smith.

I have seen a lot of changes in Memphis in the many years since my bicycle courier days, but my love of this unique place has never changed. Learning about the city gave me a love of history in general, and I am now here at the university to earn a degree in History. There is still a lot about Memphis for me to learn, and it is still exciting.



The South & Domestic Violence

Is Southern Culture Behind Domestic Violence Increase?

This article was very shocking to me. Not only is Tennessee the ranked fifth in the country for women being killed in a domestic dispute, but also some of the other states in the top ten are: Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. The news article claims that our southern culture can be to blame for this. The writers do not go into much detail about what in particular it is in our culture that produces such high domestic violence rates. One reason that I believe could be a factor is that many men in the South think that women are their property. It was a normal to believe this during the Civil War, but this belief should be long gone by now. In the 21st century, it is crazy that some people still have the mind-set that they can actually OWN another person. My guess is that men are taught this as young boys; from generation to generation they see how their fathers and grandfathers treat their wives. But aren’t they also taught to be “southern gentlemen” and to never lay their hands on a woman, no matter what? I have heard “men” (or should I say boys) state things such as: women should keep their mouths shut, they should not talk back, but only speak when spoken to, and that they only belong in the kitchen (as if women only have a role in the home and no where else). It is almost like some men in the South are closet abusers, they will act like they are the perfect southern gentleman, but in reality, they treat their wives as the opposite: cruel, harsh, demanding, and harm them physically as well as emotionally.

Also, some men in the South can be more physically aggressive because they think they have the right to honor and respect. Women in the South are less likely to come forward with domestic violence issues. They don’t want people to know that their husband beats them behind closed doors. In the South, women especially want their friends, families, co-workers, and even acquaintances to think that they have the perfect relationship/marriage. Because many women in the South are housewives, they might feel like they cannot make it without their husband, even if he is abusive, they need him in order to survive. We also have to think about the fact that the South is home of the “Bible Belt” and many women think that they cannot leave their husbands because, according to the Bible, divorce is wrong and women need to submit to and respect their husbands. Although many forget that the Bible also says for men to love their wives as Christ loved the church: which definitely means that if they believe and live by the Bible, husbands should not harm their wives physically or emotionally.

Domestic violence is also displayed in movies about southern culture, such as Fried Green Tomatoes. It is hard to watch as Frank slaps his wife, Ruth, and then pushes her down the stairs. This movie takes place in Alabama, which is the second highest state for domestic violence deaths. (Here is the clip where Ruth leaves Frank. If you have never seen the movie, it’s awesome!) In class, we briefly discussed the movie and book Gone With The Wind. I recently re-watched the film and was shocked to see how even the typical, independent and strong “southern belle,” Scarlet O’Hara, was a victim of marital rape. I had never really noticed the meaning of the scene until after talking about the movie in class. It is common for a person in the South to know a victim of domestic violence or even to know someone who was killed in a domestic violence situation. Domestic violence is not something to be overlooked. I believe that men and women should be aware of this terrible problem of domestic violence in the South and in our culture.

“Roll Tide”

Roll Tide commercial. Click on it!

After watching this ESPN commercial about the University of Alabama, I recognized many familiar aspects about the South. As we discussed in class, the South is big on sports, this particular commercial is a good example of it. Schools like the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, and the Auburn University, spend and make tremendous amount of money because of the their sports teams. Many of the big college sports school are located in a small city and the main reason why they are known for are their football or basketball team. Furthermore, Southerners love to be prideful of their team. They wear special sports gear, and put their college team’s stickers on their cars, they love to tailgate, and talk bad about another team. In general, America is big on sports. I am from Estonia, it is a tiny country in the North Europe, I never experience anything like this before. Such thing as college sports do not exist in Europe. It was very interesting to experience something like that in here. Many schools have their common slogans, for example, Ole Miss uses “HottyTotty,” Bama uses “Roll Tide.” I seems to me like Southerns want to have specific identity that they are known by. They are prideful of their location, college, and sports team. It is similar to their history when Southerners wanted to be different from the North and have their own Southern identity. I, as a outside observer from Europe, have realized that Southerners are much more prideful about the fact that they are from here or live here than people from the North.

Moreover, as we can see on this YouTube clip, Bama fans are from different race, age, and class groups. I think it is great illustration how sports unite people. For example, older white man, and younger black guy walk by each other in one of the Tuscaloosa’s gas stations are greeting each other by saying “Roll Tide.” I guess it is bigger than saying “Hello,” or “Good Bye” in Alabama.  People’s skin color does not matter at all, as long as they are supporting the same team, there do not exist no racial boundaries.

Another very Southern thing that caught my eye was the word “Y’all.” When the white mom drops off her children and says, “Roll Tide Y’all” it is as Southern as it can be. Also, the white man at the end says, ” Y’all did not even know…” The language that people use in the South is different from the North. Word “y’all” is one of those examples that almost every southerner uses. Of course, after being here for 4 years, I use it as well!

To sum up, the YouTube clip illustrates the Southern people and their culture pretty well by just showing a commercial about the University of Alabama. It is an great example to show that people’s skin color, nor their age or occupation do not matter in sports. The fans of the southern college sports teams are like one big happy family who laugh and cry together over winning and losing!