Meandering Thru Memphis

30 May

blues city cafe

I took a trip to Memphis, Tennessee last week. I’ve always wanted to go to the city and I finally got my chance. I stayed at the popular Peabody hotel in downtown Memphis — very swanky. I visited the Rock N’ Soul Museum and learned of the deep musical history of Memphis – soul, blues, and rock and roll. I went to the National Civil Rights Museum the actual site where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated — The Lorraine Hotel, but unfortunately the museum was closed. What establishment is closed on a Tuesday? #disappointed

But I was able to take a few pics.

 

lorraine hotel

 

lorraine hotel 3

lorraine hotel 2

 

The food was delicious and insanely unhealthy but one must indulge while on vacay. I dined at the Blues City Cafe, B.B. King’s Blues Club, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, and Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous. Yummy. And I toured the famous Beale street — the once black dominated business and music district. Present day Beale Street is Memphis’s answer to Bourbon Street (never been there). It was a new experience seeing folks roam about drinking freely in the streets. It was liberating but slightly off-putting. What if something pops off?

I was surprised to learn that the city of Memphis is actually more populated than Atlanta. It was ranked the largest poor city in America in 2011. And it’s the fourth most dangerous city in the America. I knew that the TV show, The First 48, was filmed there but I didn’t know it was like.

I definitely enjoyed my time but I can’t imagine living there permanently. The city’s infrastructure desperately needs improvement. The downtown area was rather deserted and underdeveloped.  One block would be populated and the next abandoned. Also Memphis felt like the true south.  And although I love southern charm, I don’t care for the racist undertones and the stark economic disparity between blacks and whites. I know it’s reality but it’s unnerving nonetheless. And I suppose that’s how it should be — unsettling. I also learned that African-American women in Memphis die from breast cancer at a rate twice that of white women. Black women have all the luck don’t we?

Take a trip and judge for yourself. It’s sure to be an experience.

Here’s a pic of a mural that I stumbled across. Famous soul singer Otis Redding recorded many of his hits at Stax Records in Memphis. I attempted to check out the Stax Museum but it required a trek through a sketchy part of town so I aborted that mission.

 

otis

 

Why not close with some Otis? Here’s one of my favorites. Happy Weekend!

 

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2 Responses to “Meandering Thru Memphis”

  1. Nicole Gordon May 30, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    I am a native Memphian, and while I am glad to know that you enjoyed your vacation in Memphis, I felt compelled to clarify what you shared. I too am an African American woman. I grew up in a middle class family, and I married a native Memphian who was also raised in a middle class family. Yes, Memphis, like many large, metropolitan areas has its issues, but there are many well-educated African Americans who are not classified as poor. In fact, the Lorraine Motel was once owned by a very prominent African American family. Yes, Memphis has problems with racism, but I have traveled to thirty states, and honestly, the majority of states struggle with some form of racism. I am actually shocked to learn that Memphis was ranked as being so impoverished and crime-infested. My husband and I reside in the downtown area and while there are pockets of underdevelopment, downtown real estate is by far the most expensive and sought after real estate in Shelby County, Tennessee. In fact, downtown hosts the annual “Memphis in May” events along with other events on our beautiful riverfront. Thank you for patronizing our beautiful and culturally rich city. The residents are truly some of the friendliest you will meet anywhere. The level of artistic talent and southern hospitality here are second to none.

    • whatsablackgirltodo June 2, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

      Thanks so much for checking out my blog and providing your input.

      My post merely reflects what I observed — granted I was limited in my exposure which was only to the downtown area. I did not travel via car to any sites — my trip to and from the airport doesn’t count. I expected more of a bustling city center i.e., shopping, city dwellings, people milling about (beyond Beale Street). But bustling is a relative term. And I also expected more amenities centrally located. Unfortunately, I came the last day of Memphis in May so I missed out on that. My coworker who is from Memphis did mention that at one point there were places to shop downtown however, they did not survive. According to my coworker there wasn’t enough tourism and/or local revenue to keep the businesses afloat especially after the recession of 2008.

      I am sure Memphis is populated with plenty of African Americans who are middle class.

      In regards to the racial undertones, that’s generally how I feel when I visit a city deeper south. I feel the same way when I go to my parents’ hometowns in North Carolina and when I went to visit Charleston, South Carolina. The energy is just different. I don’t know how best to articulate it. It’s as if my blackness and therefore subjugation is more apparent if that’s possible. For instance, when I went to eat at a couple of restaurants I noticed that the black employees were all in the back doing the cooking while the white employees worked as wait staff and greeters. I was also told that there’s only one spot on Beale Street that is owned by an African American. I’m not sure how true that is.

      Overall I enjoyed my trip and I agree the people were very friendly. I would like to return to properly visit the National Civil Rights Museum, one day.

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