Friday night was only the second week of the high school football season in Memphis, and Melrose High School was playing Booker T. Washington High School at BTW’s stadium in South Memphis. Although the weather was extremely hot and sticky, a good crowd showed up for the game, and both schools had brought their marching bands. Melrose’s band is called the Sound of the Mound in honor of the Orange Mound neighborhood where the school is located, and this year’s version shows a considerable amount of talent and potential. Booker T. Washington’s band seems smaller and more youthful this year, but they also have something to work with.
Sadly, the football game continued a trend I’m seeing this year of one-sided blowouts. All three of the North Memphis Classic games last week ended in lopsided scores, and Melrose won last night’s game 64-6. Perhaps out of frustration, a young man, evidently a BTW supporter, threatened to bring a gun to the stadium and shoot the Melrose band, which led to the latter having a sheriff’s escort out of the stadium at the end.
Every year, usually on the first Saturday in June, a block party is held on Tate Street in South Memphis, near the intersection of Crump and Walnut. The event is intended to promote peace, give the neighborhood kids something fun to do, and to provide an opportunity for Memphis’ best rap artists to perform. There’s usually good food, good music and lots of fun.
On the first Saturday afternoon of the summer, I took a ride out to the town square in Collierville to check out Square Beans Coffee, and I have to say I was impressed. The coffees and espresso drinks are good, and the shop also features glass-bottled craft sodas and ice creams. Square Beans is open until 9 PM on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and occasionally features live music.
I had heard that Memphis was to have something called a “Zombie Walk” up South Main Street to Beale Street, but I didn’t expect to see it, because I was playing a jazz gig at the Beignet Cafe on G.E. Patterson Avenue, but during a break, I heard something that was the last thing I expected- a funky drumline playing Jackson State University War and Thunder cadences. As it turned out, the “Zombies” hired the Blood Sweat & Tears drumline to provide the beat and motivation for their walk, and were standing in the vacant lot next to Earnestine and Hazel’s playing their cadences while a young woman danced to the beat. It was one of those serendipitous Memphis moments.
I had never heard of the Velvet Dogs until Sunday afternoon, but the name sounded intriguing, the weather was beautiful, and the patio at Central BBQ in Midtown is always a really cool place to eat, hang out and enjoy music, so I headed down there. And I have to say, I was impressed with the Velvet Dogs, who are a fairly large acoustic band dedicated to roots rock and pop with a strong Memphis undercurrent. Their originals were tuneful, and their singers soulful. Although I didn’t find a whole lot of information about them online, I did see where they have occasionally shared a bill with better-known Memphis band Devil Train, a group with which they have points of similarity.
Dear Governor Jindal, you are quoted this week complaining about the emphasis minorities place upon their background and heritage. You decry their refusal to assimilate into some “American” culture that you assume exists. To put this issue in proper perspective, it is important to go back and look at American history from a time long before you were here, and long before your ancestors had immigrated to America.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, the southern states quickly set about enacting laws that were called “Black Codes.” These laws made a distinction between whites and Blacks, and set up a standard of second-class citizenship for Black people. The passage of these laws helped bring about a period of so-called “Radical” Reconstruction, where, for a brief period of time, Black people were permitted to vote and hold office. But even then, most of the Reconstruction governments authorized separate and segregated education at primary, secondary and college levels. After the era of so-called Redemption, Blacks were summarily stripped of their right to vote, and then harsh laws requiring separation and segregation of the races were enacted in all Southern states, and by the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, these laws were expanding to many northern and western cities and states. Clearly the white majority in America did NOT want Black people to be assimilated into American culture, because in reality, assimilation is a two-way street, and they rightly understood that elements of Black culture would influence whites as much as white culture would influence Blacks.
Nor was the desire to prevent assimilation restricted to Black people. Many businesses in northern cities denied service or employment to the Irish or Italians. These communities were often viewed with suspicion because of their extreme poverty, because they came to America in large numbers, and because they tended to be Roman Catholic in their religious orientation. Laws were passed in the 19th Century to forbid immigration by Chinese people altogether, presumably because, once again, the culture of Asian people was thought to be “foreign” to America and its form of government.
America also denied the chance of assimilation to the native peoples whose land this country was founded on. Despite a long history of self-government, the native tribes were forcibly removed from the South and restricted to reservations in Oklahoma or other western states.
As for African-Americans, by the time laws requiring segregation and separation were dismantled, bitterness and disillusionment had already set in. Black people had largely grown up in segregated, all-Black environments, and many of the unpleasant incidents of the 1960’s only reinforced their discomfort with attempting to blend into mainstream society. And for the last 30 to 40 years, incidents continue to occur which remind Black people that they are really not welcome in America, and that they are not merely separate by choice, but by design of those who have engineered America’s social and economic structure.
In closing, let me point out, Governor, that nowhere in your comments did you address the considerable amount of damage done by white people who insist on holding on to their “heritage.” Many conservative organizations openly state that America’s heritage is a legacy of white, Anglo-Saxon protestants, and that this legacy is under attack from “diversity” and “multi-culturalism.” If it is necessary that all other races give up their pride of race and heritage in order to be “good Americans”, should not white people have to do the same? And if not, why not? Such a double standard is indeed a glaring proof of the racial hypocrisy that has always been a part of the United States.
As Craigmont High School’s blowout of Douglass was winding down, the Trezevant High School Band came marching into Crump Stadium with their new director, Otis Logan, the outstanding young Memphis drummer and leader of the band 4 Soul. Trezevant was facing Frayser High in the 8 PM contest, but unfortunately, Frayser did not bring their band to the game, and worse, there were intermittent showers during the first two quarters. But Trezevant’s band and drumline sounded good, remarkably so considering that school has only been in a couple of weeks so far.
Because of a late-afternoon rehearsal (and the threat of rain), I decided not to go down to the Othar Turner Picnic at Gravel Springs near Senatobia, so when I saw that there was a high-school football classic going on at Crump Stadium in Midtown, I decided to go and check it out. I had missed the 3 PM game with Manassas, but when I arrived Douglass High School was getting blown out by Craigmont High. I had hoped to see Douglass’ band, but they sadly weren’t there. Craigmont however brought their band, and while their band didn’t perform at halftime, their drumline did.
When Cockadoos closed a couple of years ago, downtown Memphis was left without a source for espresso-based drinks, aside from the Starbucks inside the Westin hotel across from the Fed Ex Forum. So when I heard that a new place had opened on Gayoso Avenue called Tamp & Tap, I was eager to try it. As the name suggests, Tamp & Tap is a little bit more than the usual coffee bar. It offers coffee drinks, using Chicago’s Metropolis brand, but it also offers craft beers, and a small menu of salads, sandwiches and baked goods, including cookies and brownies. The space is surprisingly large and inviting, with rustic wooden walls, and comfortable couches. Although the official hours are until 9 PM each night, Tamp & Tap has been staying open until 11 PM on Friday and Saturday nights, and is definitely worth a visit for some really good coffee, a cold beer, or just a place to chill.