Texas Liberal

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Beale Street In Memphis, Tennessee—A Lousy Place

 

One of the worst places I’ve been is Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Beale Street is famous for its place in the history of blues music.

I wrote a poem about how bad it was.

Below the poem is a recent column from The Nation about Beale Street and the fight over stewardship of the Lorraine Motel. The article was titled “Thieves of Black History” and was written by Gary Younge. 

The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King was shot and killed. 

The poem is called Memphis, Tennessee  

Martin Luther King

Was shot in 1968

In Memphis, Tennessee. 

Poor black kids

Turn handstands for handouts

From drunken Southern whites

On Beale Street. (Birthplace of the Blues!)

Today

In Memphis, Tennessee 

They can dress up everyone

In an Elvis costume

Have a big Elvis parade

Down Historic Beale Street

On the Fourth of July,

In Memphis, Tennessee. 

And have all the Elvises

Water-ski on the Mississippi

Under a canopy

Of Red, White & Blue Fireworks. 

It won’t matter. 

Because Martin Luther King was shot

In Memphis, Tennessee

And it did not teach

That city

A damn thing.

Below are the first two paragraphs from the The Nation commentary. Here is the link to the full article. It is well worth the time to read the full piece. (The above photo is of the Lorraine Motel balcony where Rev. King was shot.) 

If Beale Street could talk, as James Baldwin famously imagined, then somewhere around Memphis’s South Fourth Street it would let out an agonizing cry. Facing east, the garish neon commodification of the blues stands behind you–a trap for tourists and an insult to the legacy of a great musical tradition. Commerce here is thriving from a culture it doesn’t respect. Ahead sprawls the desolation and poverty of the communities that gave blues its meaning and to whom the blues returned some dignity.

A block away at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center, around eighty people have gathered to prevent the pilfering of yet more local black heritage. Twenty years ago, the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, was turned into a National Civil Rights Museum. The chair of the executive committee of its board, J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III, is a wealthy white Republican. Charged with safeguarding a vital landmark in the nation’s racial history, Hyde lobbied for the defeat of Harold Ford Jr.’s bid for the vacant Senate seat from Tennessee in what was widely regarded as the most racist campaign of the 2006 election. While Hyde has been representing the civil rights museum, the company he founded, AutoZone, has been embroiled in a longstanding EEOC racial discrimination lawsuit.

Please click here for a post on Martin Luther King’s great Sermon Unfulfilled Dreams.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | History, Martin & Malcolm, Music | , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Origin Of The Term Halcyon Days

 

Here is the origin of the term Halcyon Days from The Oxford Companion To The Year. December 14 appears to be the beginning of these days according to the book.  

According to a Mediterranean folk belief, seven days before the winter solstice the halcyon—a mythical bird with the body of a kingfisher…—begins to build her nest; this takes her seven days, after which for another seven days she lays and hatches her eggs. During this period, known as ‘the halcyon days’, the sea is clam and can be sailed, almost always off Sicily and frequently elsewhere. Aristotle quotes from the lyric poet Simonides of Ceos: ‘when in the winter month Zeus brings calm to fourteen days the earthlings call the time when the wind is forgotten the holy breeding-season of he many-coloured ‘alycon.

Here is the definition of the term Halcyon Days from The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary—Fourteen days of calm weather supposed to happen when the halcyon was breeding; now, days of idyllic happiness or prosperity.

I don’t have a picture of a halcyon. I do have a picture of a Kingfisher which is of the family Halcyonidae.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 10 Comments