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VOL. 131 | NO. 69 | Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: A Day In The Park, Fashion Week and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

By Bill Dries

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The skid is over. The Grizzlies beat the Bulls at home and the post-season possibility drama continues in the land of Griss and the one year and done college home of Derrick Rose.

Overton Park was everywhere Tuesday it seemed. But it was no day in the park.

First, there is now a lawsuit in Chancery Court that seeks to void a key event in the park’s ongoing chronology of controversy – that’s mine, other reporters – not sharing.
The key event is the March 1 City Council vote that gave the Memphis Zoo use of most of the park Greensward for overflow parking.
The lawsuit claims that the council violated the state’s open meetings law and that Chancellor James Newsom should therefore void the council resolution.
It also contests whether the council had the authority to do what it did.
Second, the highly-anticipated traffic and parking study of the entire park was released a few hours later by the Overton Park Conservancy and we reviewed it with conservancy leaders in an editorial board meeting.

If you’ve seen the disclaimer that we’ve posted on most of our stories about the park and the controversy this will be déjà vu. Our publisher, Eric Barnes, was not involved in the editorial board meeting since he is on the conservancy board.

The bottom line of the study is that the consultants from three planning and design firms believe the answer to the park’s problems will eventually be a $7.8 million 300-space parking deck that they believe should be at the Prentiss Place entrance to the zoo and the park off McLean Boulevard.
But between now and the end of 2017, they outlined a series of measures including: a renewed and better thought out shuttle system, the opening up of some parking spaces found at various locations in the park and better messaging including social media and an app that will get the word out to park visitors about the ebb and flow of traffic in the park in real time. And there is a proposal to redo the zoo's existing parking lot to create more spaces.

You will start seeing some of these measures the weekend of May 7 when the park has another of those spring Saturdays with a lot of different events from the Latino Memphis festival to the centennial celebration of the Brooks. And the Zoo’s new Zambezi River Hippo Camp will have been open about a week at that point.

The study is a look at the entire park and it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the rest of Overton Park with so much attention each weekend on what happens on the Greensward.
It’s public ground that has a lot of history behind it. Like all history there is what happened and there is what didn’t happen but was planned.
With that in mind, the Crème de Memphis blog has a look at some planning and development documents from the park’s past.

It’s fashion week in Memphis where of all of the business incubators we have for various industries, there is now one to come for emerging designers. And it is an upstairs space in the South Main District.
Meanwhile, the Memphis College of Art is heavily involved in this.

More on the Medical District effort in advance of our seminar Thursday at the Brooks on health care. This time from Dr. Kennard Brown of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center who offers further proof that you are going to start seeing signs of this effort – this collaboration --sooner rather than later.

Now you want to go, don't you? There's still time and I'm hearing rumors that the first 50 guests get to wear lab coats. Not really.

I’ve covered Rev. Jesse Jackson a lot over the last 40 years. The two-time Democratic presidential contender, civil rights icon and Operation PUSH founder has been in Memphis a lot over those decades.
And he’s been here a lot on April 4, including April 4, 1968 when he was part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s inner circle.
Thirteen years younger than King, Jackson was the next generation of the movement when King died in Memphis in 1968.
Today he’s almost twice as old as King was when he died. And I keep coming back to the aging and longevity of those in the movement who outlived King. It suggests to me what a rocky road King would have faced had he not been killed.
In the 13 years from Montgomery to Memphis the pressure on King was steadily building with more and more critics and outright enemies waiting for him to slip up. And Memphis looked to be that place when a poorly organized march here turned violent with him in the march -- the only time that ever happened to King.
It was part of the reason he returned to the city in April.
And when he died it capped 13 years of a philosophy and a specific movement that I firmly believe people will still be talking about and studying long after we are all dead and gone. It's easy to forget that King's view of the risks and the possible setbacks to what he was trying to do must have been frightening.
I’m certainly not alone in wondering what would have happened had King lived longer. Would the times have changed as they did without his violent death? Just as our society is different because of his presence up to April 4, 1968, would it have changed again if his presence had been here beyond 1968 or would he have changed more than our society did at that point?
This is our story about Jesse Jackson at the age of 74 on the balcony where King was assassinated 48 years ago.

It’s been more than 30 years since the decision was made to build the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame somewhere other than Memphis – a slight that lives long in long Memphis memories that have helped to build the city's massive chip on its shoulder.
I’m beginning to think the folks who organized the museum and then inducted six people from Memphis in the first two classes made the right decision for us in setting up shop in Cleveland.
And much of my reasoning comes from this piece in The Guardian by Dave Bry.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the piece because the headline pretty much says it all “Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be put out of its misery.”
And my reasoning here isn’t based on taking that action.
It is instead based on our civic sensitivity. In 1983, when this decision was made, we had a legendary inferiority complex. Now, not so much. But all of this talk of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Memphis would be a severe test of that. We still care too much what others think of us. We probably won't ever shake that because it is an essential ingredient in our ability to convey experiences in our culture that everyone in the wide world can relate to -- sometimes even if they don't know what the words mean.
The idea of talking about how establishment and anti-rock and roll we had become would probably be cause for some soul searching here. Not to mention the effect it would have on our image as a place where outsiders and creative loners have a place to call home.

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