I’m dedicating this blog to my mama, who lives in Arkansas and had the horrible misfortune of being on the phone with me last night when someone starting shooting what sounded like an AR-15 somewhere near my house. At 9:30 at night. LOUDLY and over and over. I hung up, called the police, and called her back. In that time, Aunt Connie also heard it and called the police. I don’t know what ever came of it, but it’s beginning to happen on a more regular basis in our city, and I am OVER IT.
I love Memphis, I’ve said it over and over. I grew up here, spending my summers in the very neighborhood I now live. My grandparents lived 2 streets behind where I currently reside. My house is the exact same layout as theirs was, all I need is one of those velvet Spanish Matador pictures to hang in my living room and a window unit in my dining room window blowing out that ice cold air and BAM! I’d be right back in the 80’s hanging out playing Uno with Aunt Connie and Aunt Virginia. Back then, Aunt Connie and I would walk this neighborhood for hours with no cares whatsoever. At night, we’d sit out by the street on the edge of the sidewalk, watching the lightning bugs and trying to determine if there were ghosts moving in the windows over at the school. (It was a night janitor, but that didn’t stop us from claiming ghosts were overtaking the school in the evenings.)
I hate what has become of Memphis since those days. As an adult, I don’t feel safe going outside at night in my own neighborhood, one that holds so many fond memories with my family. Shoot, my mom just told me a funny story last night about how my dad was playing basketball in this neighborhood when I was young and fell and hurt himself. I never knew that, but it just gives me another memory that cements my love with this area. I had a Great Aunt that lived just a couple streets over, and tons of cousins all over the place (and still do!). No wonder I’ve always felt such a sentimental bond with Memphis, overall. (and y’all thought it was just because I love Elvis.)
I don’t know how to create change in this city with so much rich, beautiful, sad, and life-altering history, so much grit and so much grace, but I do know that it must happen, and happen soon. I never thought I’d be looking outside the city limits to find a home, but here I am, driving around on the weekends trying to determine a safe and quiet place to buy a home. I’ve lived all over Memphis, from downtown to Cordova, but Midtown and Downtown will forever hold a special place in my heart. I found my soul there. I made tons of friends, lost tons of friends, danced my way through the weekends (and many week nights), drank my sadness away, sobered up my way through soul searching realities and overall, became the woman I am today. I wouldn’t trade any of it, good and bad.
Memphis has long been associated by many folks with the song “In The Ghetto” that Elvis made famous. The backstory of this song is pretty cool. When Mac Davis was 5 or 6 years old, the Nashville songwriter couldn’t understand why one of his best friends had to live in a bad part of town. He remembered that friend as he wrote “In the Ghetto,” which Elvis Presley turned into a chart-topping hit in 1969. (It took many takes before they got the sound just right, but the result is the beautiful and haunting version we know today.) It was a major hit and was the first song Elvis recorded with a socially conscious message. He was reluctant to do it for that reason, but knew it would be a hit. “The fact that ‘In The Ghetto’ never seems to lose its relevance is both a testament to the power of Davis and Presley’s creation and a sad commentary on the societal ills of poverty that never seem to relent. That vicious circle keeps perpetuating itself some 43 years after this song first brought it to the pop music masses.” — Alan Hanson | © July 2014
I say all that to say this: Memphis may always be associated with the images that this song somehow manages to beautifully, yet sadly, portray, but that doesn’t mean we have to live or act that way. It’s time for change, and it’s time for our city leaders to step up and make it happen. There are far more beautiful things, places and people that make Memphis “Memphis” for those of us who call it home, and it’s time we shine a light on them, and work together to spread a positive vibe of healing and grace all over this city we love.
I dedicate this song to my mom, who loves my cover version, and who had to unfortunately hear over the phone what we are living with on an almost daily basis here in this city I love. Let’s do better Memphis. We are definitely MORE than capable, and worth it.