The last five years, starting with our first edition on June 18, 2008, has been a dramatic story arc on numerous fronts that indicate two things in particular about our community. Memphis is changing and the direction of that change depends on what we do far more than what chance creates.
We began at the start of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Local businesses were without a border separating them from the rest of a global economy whose dynamic growth continued with expansion into new markets. They have suffered, grown, retrenched and flourished and some have even moved as chronicled in these pages.
The map of the parts of Memphis we choose to live in and create vibrant communities in may be the most visible change in our cityscape in the last five years. A city routinely ranked high for its obesity rates and related health problems can’t get enough of bicycle lanes and greenlines.
Even one of the city’s most influential political leaders and most astute observers, Lewis Donelson, recalled a time not too long ago when the civic dialogue was dominated by a relentless downing of any attempt to show or create pride in the city. There’s been a generational shift by younger Memphians. They proclaim their love of Memphis in large bright murals, battle on social media against stereotypes and have revived dormant but beloved institutions like Levitt Shell that even a heart with the coldest regard for our city remembers warmly.
But our politics remain too tied to personality.
With the exception of voter turnout in presidential general elections, it’s been 19 years since even half of the voters in Shelby County showed up for a countywide or citywide election.
Some of us would like to believe public education isn’t political. But the changes in public education led by the schools merger speak volumes about the restlessness among those currently practicing politics and those outside the gates of an insular and well-guarded political fortress. On both sides of the wall that is being torn down too many of us are still keeping score, inventorying what those on the other side got.
We still have a historic problem with violence. We seem willing now to acknowledge that we can’t jail our way out of the problem. But walking away from that as a long-term solution is proving too difficult as our problems with due process at Juvenile Court indicate in abundance.
And our struggle with the basic elements of life at the core of all of this is reflected more than ever in a stubborn, ongoing and at times obscured renaissance of the arts at every level from music to theater to dance to the visual. In five years, we’ve learned that stories don’t end at the bottom of the page. Stay with us and find out what happens next.