The Way I See Memphis!!!!!

Being born in Memphis was sort of a privilege as a child because I would hear all about this amazing historical stuff. For example, I would hear about Memphis being the place for music, and how Elvis lived here. Also, as a child I would travel to my grandmother’s house, and she lived so close to Elvis Presley’s home. That is pretty cool to know because everyone loves Elvis Presley! Back then I thought Wow! I wonder how many people would love to be so close to this man’s house. B.B. King is another Memphian that would come up, and this is exciting for the African American community because of how they were treated in the South. Being a child I just thought I lived in the bet place on earth. My mom told me a story on how the Jackson 5 performed on a building for them as children. She would also talk about how nice and pretty Memphis was, and how things were different when she was growing up. I would have loved to grow up in Memphis in those times as my mom because she shared many great memories of Memphis; and that is something I won’t be able to do with my son as much. I say that because as a child we had a few more activities in the city, but still not enough to “brag” about. However, the way I felt as a child changed as I got older and started traveling. I’ve been to so many different cities across the US and I must say “Memphis is not the place to live.” Of course it is cheaper, but the school system is horrible. I have a 6 year old son, and I want the best for him, including his education. I also want him to be able to enjoy his childhood, and there is not much in Memphis for children to enjoy. For instance, after going to the movies, the zoo, the park, and skating, what else is there to do? I will tell you… NOTHING!!! It is quite easy for someone who has never left the city of Memphis to say it’s a great place to live; but I totally have to disagree. I think it is more to life than Memphis, TN. Don’t mistake me when I say it’s not hell on wheels, but it is definitely not a place to have lots of fun. When I began to travel, I would visit these cool places such as beautiful beaches, viewing mountains, big, beautiful malls with stores women love, nice creative restaurants, and so much more. Many people down talk Atlanta, GA, even though some of the people remind me of Memphians, I have fun there. Atlanta has so much to offer.  Dallas has so much to offer as well, and I know because I lived there for a long time. In contrary, while on the subject of the way I see Memphis, the job market sucks. Many college graduates leave when they earn their degrees because of the Memphis unemployment rate. The proof of the job market is so obvious because whenever I look at the news they are discussing the issue. When I graduate from The University of Memphis, I am on the first train out of here! Many of us don’t like to face the truth, but hey, Memphis is not what’s happening! The majority of my family lives in Texas, and they remind me almost every day how boring it is in Memphis. When the holidays come around, I travel to Texas to be with my family because they will not come to Memphis. As I stated before, Memphis was a great place in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, but now it is a real bore. I would much rather not stay here once I earn my degree this spring. To sum up my opinion, I may see Memphis in a different way for many Memphians, but it is THE WAY I SEE MEMPHIS!!!

Why Are African Americans in Their Position in Society?

What is race? Why do we as human beings have to be placed in certain categories even though we are all human? I all go back to money. Most people do not know that race is socially constructed. As we were growing up, we were taught that different races have a huge biological difference; which is not true. According to history, America’s structure was built on different racist acts. When you set a structure for something that is the way it is going to continue to be. Slavery is a perfect example. During slavery many African American lives were destroyed which made it hard for them to create wealth for their descendants. I feel like this is something everyone should know and understand. What people fail to realize is that everything that happened during slavery happens in today’s society, modern day slavery is what I like to call it. I always figured that we had modern day slavery but I did not know how closely related it is to the older days. Back then when slavery was legal, black women were forced to sleep with multiple men. Now in society we see black women sleeping with multiple men, I feel like that is all the black society knows. I also feel like blacks have been hearing stereotypes about themselves so much that they have started to believe it is true and act it out. As we all can see, blacks have not assimilated and I do not think we will ever assimilate. Today we mostly see institutional racism instead of individual racism, which is something most people don’t see. It’s all about seeing the strange in the familiar. People look to the media for everything. The different stereotypes have been proven wrong in many cases. This should teach a lot of people how to not believe everything they see on TV or what they hear because that feed more into stereotypes. People should start researching on their own. One of the biggest mistakes in the African American communities is that most do not learn from history. Growing up as a young black woman and having freedom to go to whatever college I want to go was not the way life use to be. I feel like if people knew their history more and learn from it, then the world would be a little better than it is today. So many people take things for granted that should be cherished.

Platinum VS Gold

Much musical success has risen from the streets of Memphis. Music from Memphis has a distinct richness that comes from within the lyrics. It is more than just songs and beats it is a feeling that comes over us when listening to the song; where the dialect speaks of the real struggles that real people are facing. This creates a connection to the audience that is made directly through the artist who has lived it and is putting their personal passion into the creation of the music. The artist communicates the song in such a strong way with everything from the lyrics, to the tone of their voice making the music come alive and helping the audience bond with the song and the artist. The richness of the verses and link to the people are what bring many artists up from the trenches gaining them recognition outside of Memphis leading to their success.

The artists speak from the heart because they have lived through the rough times and know what it is like to have to grind through the struggles of a blue collar low income lifestyle. Once gained success some artists lose their true identity from Memphis and forget what how the city and their life within it made them who they are, while others do not forget the struggles of their past and the difficulties of what they came up from. “Hustle and Flow” demonstrated being connected to Memphis and portrayed the concepts through the use of Platinum and Gold. Those who gained success and lost touch with their roots where seen as “Platinum” and those who remained intact with their past and struggles as “Gold”.  In the movie Platinum is represented by Skinny Black and how his success drove him to become “too good” for the city, while Gold is represented by Djay and his crew whose success is driven by the difficulties and struggles of their life in Memphis.

Artists from bluff city need to be “Gold”, they need to embrace Memphis and be grateful for how the city has historically changed music by forming its own styles of Blues, Rock Roll, Hip Hop, and Rap. With changes is social status and lifestyle of becoming famous it is easy to become “Platinum” and forget about Memphis and the negative stigmas that lie there. But artists must not forget how their tie to Memphis has made them unique and is what holds the key to their success.  If it wasn’t for Memphis and their experiences in the city, their achievements would not be nearly the same.

Southern Economy

It seems like the whole country is coming out of an economical struggle finally yet the South is still at the bottom of the map. New York or Los Angelus of course still has plenty of options to thrive economically, depression or not. The Southern states, with more land than we know what to do with, can not recover as long as the real estate market stays in a constant struggle. Also minimum wage seems to be a joke as well. No one can successfully live in the United States of America with these disrespectful wages paid to the hard working majority body of the citizens. The upper class slaves the poverty stricken or near-poverty stricken people of America. They work us to further pad their pockets and bank accounts full of millions and billions of dollars and pay each worker a mere sixteen thousand to eighteen thousand a year. That barely allows the person to eat or much less afford a decent means of transportation to go back and make the rich upper class corporations. With the majority of the South being a rural area and extremely high populated cities not found often down here, jobs are rare to find in a town that does not need many resources as a high populated metropolis. We do not need sixty Starbucks to employ people in the towns. We do not need four times the amount of fast food restaurants to employ people. We do not need as many teachers, police officers, firemen, paramedics, doctors, or even Wal-Mart employees. You get the idea, the population in the majority of the southern states does not need as much catering to or resources provided nor do we have the capital to invest in all of those perks. Our economy is going to continue to struggle as long as more people are born in the South and less people have job oppurtunities. The government “shutdown” today lays even more people off of their positions which furthers the unemployment rate currently. It seems likes the direct basics and fundamentals of our country known today needs a change. The South should also be invigorated with money from the hot spot cities. We just are not provided a money earning opportunity in Memphis. Even after college you have to move somewhere else to earn a living in this cold world. Memphis is supposed to be a larger city in the South of the United States and we are one of the poorest economically in the country. The South tends to get overlooked due to them thinking we love the simplicity of open land and farms. Not true for everyone and they deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. The small cities in the South are just stuck where they are with no income and scarce resources. Poverty is real in the South and as long as the rich stay rich in this country then all of the working class will continue to be screwed until something changes. We do not want to continue to be enslaved by money that we never keep a dime of in the South.

Sorority Segregation

Recently I heard about an incident at the University of Alabama that seriously got my blood boiling. Allegations were made  towards  several of the school’s Panhellenic sororities , claiming that they were systematically excluding two African American women from becoming members. According to many accounts, these women were perfect candidates; having great grades, tons of high school involvement, and both came from very good families. Somehow though, these two women did not receive a bid (invitation) to any of the sixteen Panhellenic sororities on campus, making it incredibly obvious that they were excluded because of the color of their skin. As a member of one of the chapters targeted in these allegations, I almost feel responsible for the blatant racism that happened at The University of Alabama. When I first learned that my chapter, who I have always held to such a high standard and whose Purpose I try to live out everyday, was a part of this I was speechless. I became even more detested the more I thought about it. How is this type of racists exclusion still happening? I have seen how recruitment works, if the African American PNM (potential new member) was well liked by the women in the chapter her scores would have reflected that and with her GPA and high school involvement, it sounds to me that this girl would have been a shoe-in. According to various sources, the alumna tinkered with the girls’ scores to ensure that they would not be asked back the following night. My heart is broken for all of the women involved in this terrible incident. For the chapter members who obviously missed out on gaining an incredible new sister and who have been failed by the leaders of their respective organizations, my heart is broken. For the two amazing women who were not given a chance to become part a PanHellenic organization because of the color of their skin, my heart is broken. For the advisors and alumna who acted like complete baffoons and who are clearly blinded by undeserved hatred for people who are different, my heart is broken. I can only hope that swift and immediate action has been taken by the chapter’s national headquarters to somewhat remedy this situation, however I am not entirely certain how you could fix something like this. Involvement in a PanHellenic sorority is so much more than wearing letters and going to parties, it is about becoming a better woman and doing good in the world. It is supposed to be an environment that fosters love, sisterhood, morality, and justice. This incident not only makes the University of Alabama look bad, but it does a complete disservice to sorority women everywhere. I wish more than anything that I could say with confidence that Alabama chapter of my sorority was completely innocent, but I can not on my good conscious do that. Racism is still very alive in the south and its clear that it is not going anywhere anytime soon. I just hope that the two African American women that were involved do amazing things with their lives, make the women who excluded them feel like the idiots that they are.

Growing Older in Memphis

Like many I grew up hearing mostly negative things about living in Memphis, I was often too nervous to speak out against the naysayers. It only grew worse in high school, always hearing classmates say things like “I can not wait to leave this city”, and “after I graduate I am never coming back here.” I on the other hand never felt this way, I grew up in a house where a University of Memphis flag hung right outside our front door and the Cooper-Young festival was a annual tradition. I loved the city as a kid and teenager. When time to apply to colleges came around it was a no-brainier for me, I wanted to go to Memphis. Everyone else around me felt quite the opposite. It was not until my later years in college that I noticed a sudden change in most people’s attitudes towards our hometown, they very suddenly became huge fans of the city and things in it. While I believe a huge part of the new fan base for the city was based largely on the recent success of the local professional basketball team, it became apparent that other reasons lingered.

While Memphis has its obvious down falls, it has accumulated a large number of positive aspects as well. These positive aspects being the post-graduate options for young people fresh out of college. The first aspect is the number of graduate school programs that have sprouted in Memphis over the years and made quit the name for themselves. The Humphrey’s School of Law being located downtown and climbing the later in rankings is not only attracting kids to stay or return home for further schooling but it also attracts students from out of state to come and live in Memphis.  The University of Tennessee Health and Science center has multiple programs that are ranked in the top twenty-five in the nation and do an amazing job getting top students from all around to attend school. Finally the University of Memphis’ program for Speech Pathology and Audiology is ranked in the top fifteen in the nation and is a huge reason the University got to leave the death trap that is the C-USA. As we all know you have an extremely high chance of living in the city that you attended graduate school in (Or at least near by) especially if you attend law school. After all, the connections you make will most like with people in the school’s area. So we can thank these post-grad programs for retaining  young people who will improve the city socially and economically.

Another huge benefit of moving or moving back the the Bluff city is the low cost of living. Chances are that most kids that are freshly graduated are not rolling in the dough. Which makes living in Memphis a fantastic option for young people. Forbes Magazine had Memphis in the top ten place to live for young working  men and women due to the low cost of living and job opportunities. Anything that can reduce debt and make paying new bills easier is a great thing in my humble opinion. Also, with the young and vibrant community growing the the midtown area it is not hard for young people to find a part of town they would love to live. Midtown, specifically the Cooper-Young area and grown and now provide young Memphians attractive places to eat, shop, and spend their late nights.

So it is really no surprise that most of my high school friends and changed their tune about living in the blue collar town. It is quite humorous to see them all end up back in their home town, and then actually enjoy it. I would love to be that guy who gets to say I told you so and that I have loved this city longer than any of you, but lets be honest, not one likes that guy. It is a great sign that young college graduates are filling the city and allowing it grow in multiple aspects.

This Great City

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.

A Helping Hand or a Foot in the Ass?

The decision was made last week by the Achievement School District, the government operated charted schools in Tennessee, to change the grading scales in those schools in an effort to help to ultimately do away with an A-F grading scale and align it more so along the lines of T-CAP scores with a mastery of course subjects earning an Advanced or Proficient, and anything below those lines received a standard of High Basic, Low Basic, and Below Basic. The new grading scale gives students a wider range to score better on assignments and allows them a larger range to score better in their core area subjects. The Achievement School District feels as if it is a good start in turning these failing schools around, but is it really a good start?

Parents are more than leery of the new grading scale, and I do not blame them. The way the new grading scale is set up, a D grade earned by a student in an ASD school within the school year of 2012-2013 ranged between a 70-74, the new grading scale has been set to range from a 58-47. On top of that being an additional 7 grading points added, but for students it means that they can master at a minimum of 58% of their school work and still pass. In my opinion, the new grading scale found in ASD schools is anything BUT beneficial.

When I first heard about the grading scale change and how the new ranges were set, I was immediately upset. As a future educator I felt as if the change was not a help, but a crutch. I did feel that there were other alternatives that could have been devised to save these failing charter schools instead of what feels like giving them a passing grade without them actually knowing the material.

The schools in the Achievement School District in Memphis are all located in the lower income areas, areas where residents are more likely to receive government assistance and live in poverty. They are areas inhabited by our minority brothers and lower class Whites. They are people who cannot afford to move to the areas of town with better schools and have to utilize the neighborhood schools.

What upset me about the grading scale change was the fact that they have ultimately set in place this new standard of grading that does not show in favor of the lesson being taught and the comprehension of what they are learning, but how much of work is completed and how much is correct. So from my understanding a student can have a quiz with a hundred questions and they answer the ones that they know, say maybe 47/100. You mean to tell me that they are getting graded for that 47% work? In what world does that make sense? It upsets me that they have set the standard so low for these students. They are setting those future generations up for failure accepting mediocrity & giving them a piss poor excuse for an education that would ultimately not allow them to succeed & perform as well as those White kids that went to better schools. I see it as keeping the disenfranchised, disenfranchised.

Although there are some who are not directly affected that do not have a formulated opinion on the issue, take a look at this article posted by local WMCTV News Channel 5 it may make you gain one .

Living, Learning, and the Outgrowth of a Paradox

Memphis, Tennessee has a rich creative history. Beale Street was a central location for African Americans and was their spot to relax and unwind. It was filled with culture and a place where people could feel somewhat equal to whites, but that was short lived. There are many people from Memphis that have contributed their hard work and intelligence to making this city a place full of culture and attempting to keep it up to par compared to other cities. That is the biggest mistake that Memphis as a city could possibly make. I did not realize this mistake until our class discussion. It never crossed my mind that we are focused on becoming something that we are not. We will never be Atlanta that has the AUC, the aquarium and the Coca-Cola Factory. As Memphis we overlook The Civil Rights Museum, the Stax Records, The University of Memphis, and the famous hip hop culture that we have here. It is common for every city to think that their city has nothing to offer. I have learned that a paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. Memphis is filled with contradictions, and have over time been consumed by them. The consumption of all the negatives has shed a dark light on Memphis from the people who have been born here and that currently live here. Memphis, Tennessee has an exemplary neonatal care department, but also has a sky high infant mortality rate. It goes unnoticed because the high infant mortality rate is always being broadcasted. I have come accustomed to seeing a lot of deaths in Memphis, and I have never paid attention to the hospitals and their specialties. I admit, that is not on my mind, but I am at fault for downing my city because of the crime rate and not acknowledging the good it has.  Memphis is known for its musical history. Its history is known around the world and has become timeless. There are some Stax produced records being infused to songs still in 2013. Sure, I was elated to know that music from my city is still being glorified and appreciated, but I still shake my head at all the people I know that wake up and decide to be a rapper. It just saddens me to know that people see that as an easy way out. It is a chain reaction but the chain is weak. The chain is weak because all they see is the glitz and glam not the actual talent that it takes to be a rapper. While watching Hustle & Flow, I related to the movie and I have witnessed some people live their life like that. Not once was education mentioned in the movie except when it was being used to talk about “who you know”.  There are not many people in Memphis who actually want to go to school with the concept of graduating. People are just going as if it is just something to do. I am a victim of letting the negatives overshadow the love that I have for my city. I loved my childhood and I am enjoying my life now living here and I am 20. I am glad to say that the paradoxes will no longer blind me. No longer can the negativity bring my spirits and perceptions of this luscious growing city down. I accept that the growth of Memphis is slow but at least it is moving forward. I will contribute to shining light on Memphis for what it is, and I will stop comparing my city to other places because it will never be another city. The progress of Memphis has to come from within. The citizens of Memphis must work together to better our city. No change will be made overnight, but every input helps. It is not the city governments complete fault, even though they make  the decisions, we as citizens can contribute to making our city better by voicing our opinions more. The paradoxes should diminish and the positivity in Memphis and about Memphis should flourish, which will bring support that is overdue in our city.


The Power of Music in the South

If there’s one way to bring people together in the South, it’s through music. Groups of people here may be worlds apart, but as soon as music is involved, it seems like differences are set aside in favour of appreciating art. Religion may be big in the South too, but it’d divisive in many areas, especially cities where many different faiths share the same streets. Music is different.

In the clip of Deliverance (a favourite movie of mine) that we watched, two worlds collided in a way that left much to be desired. Both parties were passive aggressive, with Appalachians being difficult and unhelpful, and the Atlanta bougies looking down on the display of rural life. Whatever enmity was shown, though, dissolved temporarily through music, when Drew played a duet with one of the local boys. For a few minutes, differences were set aside in favour of creating impromptu art. They had themselves a jam session despite previously glaring at each other! And not but 3 seconds after finishing, the boy refused to shake Drew’s hand. That may seem like a loss in my argument that music brings people together, but consider this: there was no magic understanding. They were still, essentially, ‘enemies.’ But they still played together and smiled throughout, despite having almost nothing in common. I think that’s actually a lot more powerful than some sort of magic understanding coming between them. Music brings people who loathe each other together even for a few minutes.

This is displayed in Hustle & Flow as well. Despite being friends in school, it’s pretty obvious that DJay and Key are now on separate social planes, and there’s definitely a tension between them because of this. Outside of the music production proper, they had arguments about how to go about recording and about showing respect, but once they got really working, it was easy to see that music got them working together almost flawlessly. Not only were different classes and races working together, but in a culture that seeks to keep the gender line very clear and divided, women and men were working together equally as well. This is hardly a new phenomenon, either; as was mentioned in the class lecture, this scene was meant to embody the jam sessions that took place decades earlier.

And I don’t think it’s just coincidence that these two scenes from two very different movies are incredibly similar. After all, conflict still plays a major role in DJay and Key’s relationship well into their recording sessions. I think it’s just a bit of a tradition we have. The years before my father passed away, he and I were like mixing oil and water, and it only got worse and worse as time went on, to the point where I was actively avoiding him whenever I could. Despite this, as soon as a new CD came out for a band we liked, you can bet we were listening to it together on the drive to my middle school without a hint of conflict. Music was one of the few things we still enjoyed together, despite the hostility that surrounded every other aspect of our relationship.

So I think that’s what it comes down to. In a region where conflict is omnipresent (despite our kindly smiles and ‘bless your heart’s, of course), music is kind of like a BC powder packet: temporary alleviation from something that will always be there. People say that humans are all equal under God, but I’ve seen enough to know that that’s not the case in practice. It takes something closer to home to bring people together, and I think, especially in the South, music is what’ll do it.