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VOL. 132 | NO. 165 | Monday, August 21, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Crosstown & Forrest, Eclipse Day and The Problem With Day Care

By Bill Dries

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As an organizer of Saturday’s “Take Them Down” rally at Health Sciences Park walked toward Union Avenue where Memphis Police had taken one of the protesters arrested there, he looked at another organizer and said, “It’s time to make the call.” The call was bail money for the five, soon to be six people arrested. These were the first arrests of the last week of new momentum for an issue that has risen and subsided for decades now in our city.

This one feels different largely because of a context I think is further evidence of a new generation of political activism. And since this is about political power, there is resistance and there is a difference over tactics among those who believe in the same general goal of taking down the monuments.

The affidavits filed with the misdemeanor charges against the six people arrested proved to be interesting reading once we got a look at them Sunday afternoon. It turns out only two of the six were actually charged with trying to cover up the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest and one specifically is charged with “desecration of a venerated object.” All six are due in different parts of General Sessions Criminal Court Monday morning for arraignment. Also in our story, Mayor Jim Strickland responded late Sunday to the difference over tactics on this issue in blunt fashion after a formal statement earlier in the day on the arrests themselves.

As events in Health Sciences Park were taking a dramatic turn, the formalities of opening Crosstown Concourse were underway with a very different atmosphere. But that’s not to say it went unnoticed. Far from it. Crosstown Arts co-founder Todd Richardson mentioned it and the national reaction to violence in Charlottesville a week ago by white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups around the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue at the University of Virginia.

“I know Memphis has its problems,” Richardson began as he talked about the importance of involving all of the city, in all of its diversity, in what happens within the concourse and the community surrounding it. That, Richardson specifically suggested, is the way forward from Charlottesville.

All told, an eventful weekend that, to me, demonstrates both the promise and the challenge of Memphis. And if you have grown cynical about the promise part, I can tell you I know of at least three undertakings that are underway specifically because of what has happened at Crosstown Concourse – which was perhaps the ultimate against the odds project when the idea started knocking around town.

With that in mind, here is the cover story in the new edition of our weekly, The Memphis News, about how this all came to be and how the building itself came to be 90 years ago this same month. And yes, there were political considerations even back in 1927. Although the time frames are a little different. Crosstown Concourse began as a general idea at the depths of the most severe national economic downturn since the Great Depression. Sears Crosstown came along during the economic surge just before the Great Depression.

We’ve had a few cover stories over the years about this project. So for a deep dive, here’s several of them for your reading pleasure.

"Rekindling Crosstown" from November 2012.

"Blank Palette" from May 2011.

and "Crosstown Crossroads" from February 2015.

It is Eclipse Day around here, outside of the path of totality. And we have the most comprehensive listing of events across the city for you to consider because we don’t want you to be in the dark about these things.

Turmoil on the board of Tenet Healthcare, the company that operates both Saint Francis HospitalsMemphis and Bartlett. Two board members have resigned over “irreconcilable differences regarding significant matters.”

Early childhood education and day care for pre-schoolers should focus less on repetition of things like the alphabet and do more work on building vocabulary and a start toward reading comprehension, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said at week’s end at a Memphis panel discussion.

Notes from The Daily News Seminar last week on start-ups including a general call for more incentives like an “angel-plus fund.”

Also from week’s end, about 2 million square feet of industrial space by the airport changed hands in a pair of deals worth $25.9 million. A New York-based capital group is the buyer of the Airport and Delp Distribution Centers.

Pitchfork on Julien Baker’s new album, recorded at Ardent. She is already on the road with a tour through the end of the year that will take her overseas and bring her back here to the 1884 Lounge on Dec. 1.

Alexander Bolton in The Hill on U.S. Senator Bob Corker’s calling out of Trump and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen’s airline seat legislation.

The Memphis News Almanac: Soul Brother #1 in Memphis, The Memphis Belle’s first Memphis home and The Daily News reports on the opening of Sears Crosstown.

I’m off this week for the most part – you might call it a Bill Eclipse. Or you might not. In any event, Last Word will return with the Tuesday, Aug. 29 edition.

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