VOL. 133 | NO. 161 | Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Building on Momentum
Janique Byrd, Special to The Daily News
Though I did not move to Memphis from New Orleans until 2005, I consider myself a proud Memphian.
The momentum that Memphis is feeling and fighting for cannot be matched. I witnessed its energy upon my arrival, and upon becoming engaged with New Memphis’ Fellows program. I realized my potential to harness and contribute my personal and professional experiences to my new hometown of Memphis. I am honored to continue adding to this energy through my role on Memphis Greenspace’s Board of Directors.
When County Commissioner Van Turner, director and president of Memphis Greenspace, approached me last year about serving the newly-formed nonprofit, I was speechless but nonetheless thrilled. His confident demeanor in reflecting Greenspace’s mission and opportunity to remove Confederate statues from Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park quickly influenced my decision to join the leadership.
I like to say my position on the board is one of balance, as the rest of our team is comprised of attorneys. When dealing with such delicate situations, our gift of perspective is key—How will the public interpret this? How will our decisions affect communities? How do we condense our language so that it is understandable, sharable, and transparent? It takes a considerable amount of effort from all of us, but it is necessary.
Our daily communication and consistent work are collectively rooted in our call to position Greenspace as a birthplace for a thriving Memphis. For us, the work is personal—our parents and grandparents fought hard so that their children would never have to experience the injustices they did. We were born into that fight, but we are blessed with the opportunity to take it even further by accomplishing a goal that Memphians have been pushing for decades.
Soon after that cold December night in Health Sciences Park, when we loaded the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest onto a truck and watched it disappear into the horizon, I overheard a conversation between a child and her mother in the crowd of our Memphis Greenspace press conference at Health Sciences Park on the morning of December 21, 2017. I was moved to tears seeing the child holding on tight, listening to her mother describe the gravity of the situation. I still think about that child being able to grow up and enjoy these parks in ways that simply weren’t possible 50 years ago. I hope that child will one day bring her children here to share the story.
Removing the Confederate statues was not simply a grand political gesture, nor is it our sole reason for existing; Memphis Greenspace broke down enormous barriers of entry to two entire Memphis parklands, freeing them to welcome all citizens of today. We invite others to join us with innovative and inclusive park programming and conversations as our early partners—Downtown Memphis Commission, Fourth Bluff, Memphis River Parks Partnership, UTHSC, Memphis Medical District Collaborative, and others—are already practicing.
We have the chance, together as a community, to build these parks how we’d like future generations to embrace them. We invite you to help us channel and grow this momentum.
The more spaces we have to come together, the further along we will move. Let’s move together.
Janique Byrd is secretary of the Board of Directors of Memphis Greenspace. To support Memphis Greenspace’s efforts, donate through memphisgreenspace.org.