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VOL. 133 | NO. 5 | Friday, January 5, 2018

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Memphis is Changing

By Dan Conaway

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SOMETHING’S GOING ON HERE. President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis was invited back to Memphis in 1964 when black folks were getting all uppity during the civil rights movement. He has finally left the podium.

Slave trader and Ku Klux Klan founder Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest was dug up, stuck on a horse and given a park in 1904 to put black folks firmly in their place. He has dismounted, and Jim Crow is finally leaving town.

Memphis is changing.

We are becoming the city we are instead of the city we thought we were, woke to the reality of ourselves, seeing a way forward, hearing our own voice. The same city council that couldn’t seem to see how to get out of the way of parked cars and special interests a year ago, spoke as one to remove overt symbols of racism and repression from our public denial. A county commissioner took leave of the petty fistfight between commission and county mayor to raise private support for public good and work with the city to make it happen. Our city mayor, lawyer by trade, summoned the originality and creativity that flows through us as surely as the river flows by us to lead the effort to a legal solution.

Memphis is changing.

The city that wouldn’t let yellow fever kill it, that wouldn’t let the federal government steamroll Overton Park, that wouldn’t let the memory and mark and meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. die here with him, remembered who we were and stood up to a state who would make us in their image. When we tried to bring city and county together to improve public education here, the state wrote laws applicable only here and pulled us further apart. When we tried to rename and reposition our own parks to reflect a diverse and welcoming city, the state wrote laws to preserve an insensitive even oppressive status quo. The state says we acted to subvert those laws. Yep. Just like they did to us when they wrote them.

When those statues came down, we stood up for ourselves. We are taller because of it.

Memphis is changing. 

Look around. All of Midtown is hotter than Memphis in August and Downtown is growing faster than a Twitter trend. Not long ago, we didn’t know what a boutique hotel was; now we’re tripping over them. Boomers can stop wondering what a millennial is; they’re those young people all around you. They’re the people every city is looking for, and they’re looking at us.

They like that pedestrian bridge we just built across the river, the vertical urban village we just built in Crosstown, the brewery we just reimagined, the bike trails we’ve just built, and the genuineness in us that you simply can’t fake. And they flat out love the potential they see in us that we often fail to see in ourselves.

We almost forgot that we’ve changed the world from here before.

I’m a Memphian, and change is welcome here. Again.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

PROPERTY SALES 51 223 1,152
MORTGAGES 55 189 861
BUILDING PERMITS 149 541 2,593