Growing up in Memphis, I always heard my classmates and friends say they could not wait until they were old enough to get out of Memphis. They saw, and a lot of them still do see, Memphis as a dead-end city that people get stuck in and can never leave. To them, Memphis was likened to going to jail, doing your time, and finally being released. That after high school graduation they were released from their bonds and able to leave this city in search of something bigger or better. I guess they just didn’t see the all the great things that have happened and are happening in this city. They chose to focus on the bad that is constantly finding its way into the news instead of looking past this grim facade to see the good that we Memphians can claim. If I could address all of my friends from years past that I have known and seen leave this city I would have a few things to tell them.
We were at one time the center of music here in the South. Beale Street was the epicenter of black culture during the early 20th century. In class we were told it was described at the time as the Harlem of the South. Though it was a majority of blacks that frequented Beale, whites found their way down their too. Stax Records and Sun Studios, some of the biggest and most famous recording labels in music history were founded and based out of Memphis. People like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam and Dave, and Booker T. & the M.G’s all got their starts here in Memphis. In our present, Memphis is the home of many major companies and hospitals. The Med is located here as well as St. Jude. The Regional Medical Center at Memphis is one of the best trauma centers in this area, and also has a great neonatal care ward. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is also located here in Memphis. It is the leading research facility in the fight against childhood cancer and also provides a place for children to come to get treatment for free. Memphis is also home to Federal Express. This is arguably the biggest logistics company in America and its base of operations is located here in Memphis. FedEx also just so happens to be created and founded by a Memphian, Fred Smith.
Above I went into a few of the things that have shaped and continue to shape Memphis today. In addition to these things we also have many other companies, museums, and landmarks that have put Memphis on the map. Like we discussed in class, Memphis will never be an Atlanta, Los Angeles, or New York but we shouldn’t aspire to be like those cities either. We are Memphis and that should be good enough for all of us. Instead of trying to play catch-up with these other cities and trying to be and emulate what they already are, we should focus on perfecting what we already have and focus on getting our great history as this underdog city out there. Their are a lot of great things going on here in Memphis in the present and I feel like if people were able to see the great things they wouldn’t be so prone to leave and settle in other cities like Atlanta. We need to work on retaining native Memphians so that we can shed our under-dog label and become a city with the same prestige as those afore mentioned cities.