The situation for the Jena Six that was such a concern for people nationally last summer and fall has been largely forgotten, even though most of them still face serious charges. The huge march came and went, and then the media left, many (not all) of the bloggers seemed to lose interest, and the case moved to the back burner, which is unfortunate to say the least. Perhaps people thought that fair treatment for the Six was guaranteed after the huge march and accompanying national attention, but that is a naive hope at best. What’s more interesting, however, is that since February, a revival has been developing in Jena, involving both white and Black churches, including the L & A Baptist Church, where the first meeting was held to protest the noose-hanging back in 2006. The revival began at Midway Baptist Church, a church that was struggling and didn’t even have a pastor, but it is continuing today, and yet, there has been no major media coverage. I wrote last summer that ultimately there is no answer to racism except people turning to Jesus Christ, and it appears that people in La Salle Parish have been praying, and God is working there. There are serious problems that remain, but it is encouraging to read that at one revival service, whites and Blacks apologized to one another and asked each other for forgiveness. This is what happens when people turn their lives over to God. The question is, where are the cameras now? Why is this not national news? The town’s bitter racial conflict was front-page news all over the United States, but this unexpected, unlikely revival apparently warranted only a series of articles in a couple of religious journals. Does the media run from stories that lead to places they would rather not go?
The problem with the Memphis City Schools is not that the school board is elected. The problem is not that this elected board chose a superintendent. The problem is not even that some members of that board felt that the primary qualification of the new superintendent should be Black skin. The problem is not simply money, although that is part of it. Even if Mayor Herenton got his way, and now had the right to appoint both the school board and its superintendent, and even if an anonymous donor gave or willed a billion dollars to the Memphis district, we would be faced with the fact that the Memphis City Schools, being nearly all-Black, cannot prepare its students for a world that is increasingly diverse. Add to that the problem of crumbling, outdated buildings and Memphis’ declining tax base, and you get a recipe for educational and social disaster. There is an answer far better than Herenton’s power grab, and it is simple. There should be only one school system in Shelby County, and it should be the Shelby County Schools. Memphis will never again have the tax base to adequately fund a large, urban school system, and even if it could, it is unfair to African-American children to shunt them off into all-Black, segregated schools, even under the pretense of separate school districts or “neighborhood schools.” Just because the neighborhoods are in awful shape should not consign the young people there to a hopeless future. It is time to put responsible people in charge of all public education in Shelby County and to start worrying about children and not politics or skin color. For those who constantly worry about race, it happens to be Black children who are bearing the brunt of the leaders’ irresponsibility. If we don’t do something soon, our whole region faces a very dark future.
My stepfather Larry’s truck was in Jackson, Tennessee at the truckstop, and I also thought it was likely that restaurants in Jackson wouldn’t be as crowded as Memphis, even on Father’s Day, so after church, we headed out I-40 into Jackson. Larry had wanted to try a diner called Gunther Toody’s, named for a character on an old TV series called Car 54, Where Are You. I had eaten there in the past and found it to be really good, but, unfortunately, when we arrived there, we found it out of business, and had to make other plans. I knew about a new place called the Flatiron Grille, so we headed there, and found it to be incredibly good. The restaurant was dark, with modern art and furnishings, and the menu was diverse, ranging from relatively inexpensive sandwiches and burgers to expensive steaks and seafood. Larry and I chose burgers, while my mother chose an open-faced prime rib sandwich, and then, for dessert, we all chose slices of chocolate-caramel pie. We were extremely impressed with the food and service, and the restaurant’s owner and chef both came over to our table to talk with us. Afterwards, Larry had to drive some that day, so we left him at his truck and headed back to Memphis.
Lil Larry of Hot 107 was sponsoring a Young Jeezy concert at a new club called the Atrium in Hickory Hill, a building that was formerly the Martini Room. I had thought about going, but decided not to, and headed down to the Grove Coffee Shop in Southaven for a breve latte instead. On the way home, I began seeing dark, low clouds and bolts of lightning to the northwest, and once I was home, the storms began in full force. My mother had gone to pick up her husband in Jackson, Tennessee, and they were driving back to Bartlett in the severe weather, so I called them, but they said they were all right. Even so, I was relieved when they got to the house.
A sunny, warm evening in Alcy Park, with kids everywhere, some on basketball courts, others running around on the grass, and the members of a pee-wee football team going through drills and workouts on the grass east of the courts. Young people were walking to and from the park and apartments across the road, checking each other and laughing, with the beat of rap coming from cars passing by. Tune and I were on one of the courts playing a game of one-on-one with an underinflated basketball that kept sticking in the net. One neighborhood youngster came over and asked if he could take a shot with my basketball, and he proved to be a pure shooter. I asked him who he played for, and he replied “Nobody.” The kid wanted to play me or Tune for money, but we had almost finished our game, and soon we headed out, to the other side of Airways for cold slushes at Dixie Queen.
The first summer weekend, really, and the rap concert scene is picking up accordingly. A new club called Club 100 Grand is opening in Parkin, Arkansas tomorrow night, and Criminal Manne and DJ Squeaky have some sort of rap fest at The Pit on North Parkway.