Nobody, at least in the media, has given much attention as to why the Memphis City Schools rebuilt Douglass High School. It couldn’t have been due to necessity, since I doubt that Northside, Manassas, Raleigh-Egypt or Kingsbury High Schools were full by any stretch of the imagination. For once, it couldn’t have been about race, since all of these other schools are predominantly-Black also. It couldn’t have been about growth in the Douglass neighborhood, since that neighborhood has been in steady decline since the 1970s, and the original Douglass High School was closed due to low and declining enrollment. This new school becomes even more suspicious when we notice that the district has been closing schools in recent years, having closed South Side High School, the city’s second-oldest high school just last year. The best I can determine is that pressure to build the new school came from two quarters-the powerful, national Douglass Alumni Association, which consists of a number of successful people in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and other cities who wanted their alma mater rebuilt, and redevelopment people who apparently believe in the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy that the great new school building will jumpstart rehabilitation of the Douglass neighborhood. All of this wouldn’t be so annoying were it not for the fact that the pricetag for this speculative venture is around 8 million dollars of the taxpayers money, for an 800-student, racially-segregated high school in a school district that is about to terminate 140 teachers because it is so financially-strapped. How many of their salaries could have been paid for the next five years with $8 million? The superintendent and school board need to rethink their priorities and stop giving into political pressure. Smaller class sizes in the schools that exist now makes a lot more sense than building new ones, no matter how popular the new ones may be.
Last summer I railed against the construction and zoning of Shelby County’s all-Black Southwind High School, which the county school board seemed to be using to “whiten” Germantown, Houston and Collierville High Schools. Now the Metropolitan School District in Nashville is undergoing a similar crisis in which Black parents are objecting to a district rezoning that sends almost all of the district’s Black students to all-Black schools. Letters written by white people to the Nashville Scene reveal that many of them applaud the rezoning, and for distinctly racial reasons. One woman asked rhetorically why the “liberals” don’t want white people to be able to preserve their “white heritage”, while another stated that going to school with white people won’t fix what’s wrong with inner city Black youngsters. The tragic truth is that school boards are using neighborhood zoning to resegregate public schools, and they’re getting away with it. At a time when the courts should be more vigilant than ever, they are removing school districts from court supervision, and those districts are then proceeding to resegregate, presumably because most school boards are elected, and this is the politically-expedient thing to do, a popular move with white parents in many districts. Conservatives often argue that Black children don’t have to be in the same classroom with white children to learn- and if we’re talking about learning facts (times tables, history, the law of thermodynamics, etc.) that’s true. But learning also occurs when children interact with other children, especially those from a different background, and that learning is crucial. It is this learning that is lost when parents homeschool, or when children attend one-race schools. The current reality in the tragic situation is highlighted in situations like that of Southwind near Memphis, where the frehsman enrollment this year is down 200 students from projection. Evidently, many Black parents sold their homes and moved rather than subject their children to the indignities of a segregated, overcrowded school. It is a tragedy when people have to sell their homes and move to exercise a right to integrated schools that the constitution supposedly already gave them. If we insist on continuing to separate white and Black children in schools, we will reap a terrible harvest of hate from it in the future.
Afterwards, I drove back to the hotel and registered for the conference, which was being held in the ballroom on the top floor. Mr. Serv On was there from Louisiana, Cowboy from Buck Wild Productions, C. Wakeley from Florida who used to manage Bloodraw, a rapper and producer named Blacktime from Cincinnati but now living in Nashville, and many others. I was on the initial panel about the pros and cons of getting a major label deal, and Freddy Hydro arrived from Memphis and joined us during it. I hung around the hotel lobby networking after that until it was time for me to go to the ball game at LP Field.
The stadium was visible from the ballroom of the hotel, so it wasn’t far away at all, but I had not expected the $20 cost of parking when I got there. The Tennessee State Aristocrat of Bands marched into the stadium first, rocking their cadence “Psychotic Funk”, and soon, the Human Jukebox of Southern University was entering the stadium from the other side as well. They proceeded to battle back and forth, but the John Merritt Classic had evidently sold advertising over the scoreboard, so every time there was a time out, they began drowning out the bands with commercials, and we fans couldn’t enjoy the marching bands, which is half the fun of a Black college football game. Tennessee State ended up winning the game, although they had trailed Southern for much of it, and there was then a really good “Fifth Quarter” of band battling afterwards. It was about 10 PM when I left to stadium area, and I still had to run back by the Maxwell House to get my baggage and check out.
Tom Skeemask from Memphis had pulled up in front of the hotel and was just checking in as I was leaving. We talked briefly, and then I headed out to the Mall at Green Hills to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. College football highlights and results were flashing across the TV screen as I waited for my hamburger and french fries, and then I began the three-hour journey back to Memphis, made more difficult by my extreme fatigue, which made me have to stop several times for energy drinks. I arrived home about 3 AM and went straight to bed.
I grabbed a breakfast at Waffle House near Wolfchase Galleria, and then drove up I-40 from Memphis to Nashville for the Tennessee Music Conference and Hip-Hop Awards.
I drove by Grimey’s Records, but for once I didn’t buy anything there, and I didn’t find much at the thrift stores in West Nashville on Charlotte Pike either. I had seen a billboard announcing the Tennessee State vs. Southern University game Saturday, and driving down West End Avenue, I saw the Southern University band members coming out of the Holiday Inn and getting into their buses, so I decided to get a game ticket and go to the game Saturday.
At the Ticketmaster inside Kroger, I learned that there was a Battle of the Bands Friday night on the TSU campus, but apparently it was already sold out, so I purchased a game ticket, and then drove to the Maxwell House Hotel where the conference was taking place and checked in.
The hotel was also home to a gospel music conference of some sort, and also was the headquarters hotel for the John Merritt Classic football game that I had just purchased a ticket to, and the Southern University football team and staff were staying there. The Maxwell House had been considered the nicest hotel in Nashville when my parents and I had stayed there in the 1970’s, but nowdays it was beginning to show its age. Everything looked as it did in the 1970’s, although the hotel was very clean. The whirlpool had evidently been removed, although hotel literature still claimed they had one, and the pool was outside, so with rain beginning, I couldn’t go for a swim. Robski the conference organizer agreed to meet me for dinner, so he came up to the hotel and we decided to go to the Longhorn Steakhouse, but the location on Lyle Avenue was closed, so we ended up having to go to the one in Brentwood, which was fairly good.
When I got back to the hotel, I wanted coffee, but most of the coffee bars I called on my iPhone were either closed or not answering their phone. I decided to go to one called Fido on 21st Avnue South near Vanderbilt, but I couldn’t find it, and ended up going to J & J Cafe and Market on Broadway instead. By then, it was too late to go to the Battle of the Bands, even if I could have gotten a ticket, and it was raining, so I went back to the hotel. Despite the rowdiness of some of the Southern players, I had no trouble falling asleep.
Hurricane Gustav did hit New Orleans head-on, but it proved to be a weaker storm than expected, and though there was damage, the levees, at least in the New Orleans area, held. The storm spawned a number of tornadoes, however, including ones that struck Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach and Destin in Florida. We were beginning to get the rain in Memphis as well, so we cancelled our barbecue plans and decided to go out to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner, since a new location had opened near Wolfchase Galleria.
Just beyond Big Sandy, I drove past a sprawling campus that signs announced as the International ALERT Academy, although signs on some of the fencing read “Property of Ambassador University.” I wasn’t sure what the International ALERT Academy was, but it was a big place.
In Longview, I was looking for a place to get coffee, but nothing was open, apparently because it was a Sunday. Driving up to Loop 281 looking for a Starbucks, I came upon a Jucy’s Hamburgers instead, and, seeing that they had won an award for having the best burgers in East Texas, I stopped and ate lunch there. I still wanted coffee, but in Marshall, nothing was open either, so I drove on into Greenwood, Louisiana to the flea market, and bought some records there, but all the vendors were closing early because of the approaching storm and the risk of flooding. Signs along the interstate announced that the shelters were already full in Shreveport and Bossier City, and buses of evacuees were being directed to the Alltel Center in Bossier City. I decided not to eat dinner in Shreveport, but I did stop at the PJ’s Coffee on Youree Drive for a breve latte, and on the TV there, Governor Jindal of Louisiana was warning that “this storm could be the worst one yet.” At Ruston, I began encountering outer bands of the hurricane, with rain and heavy wind in places, and I decided not to eat at Monroe either, but to go on into Jackson, since I felt that I would be fighting sleepiness after eating.
In Jackson, all the storm shelters were full and people were being advised to go further north. I stopped at a Lone Star Steakhouse for dinner, and the restaurant was full of people from Louisiana who were running from the storm. Rain was fairly steady from then on, and traffic was practically bumper-to-bumper on I-55 north as people were fleeing the coast. Periodically we passed cars that had broken down along the side of the road, and I stopped at Batesville for an energy drink, and then drove on into Memphis.
On the internet at home, I learned that the International ALERT Academy I had passed earlier in Texas was affiliated with Christian evangelist Bill Gothard, and was a military-style training camp for young people who were then sent around the world to the scenes of natural disasters to rescue victims. The campus however had formerly been Ambassador University, a college affiliated with Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God cult. It had closed abruptly in 1997 due to financial crises brought on by the church’s gradual drift toward mainstream Christianity. Ironically, as the movement’s new leadership began to remove much of Armstrong’s doctrinal error and bizarre beliefs such as “British-Israelism”, many members broke away to form splinter groups that adhered to Armstrongism. Nowadays, the Worldwide Church of God is considered a mainstream Christian denomination rather than a cult.
Wes had to speak at a morning panel at 10 AM, so I decided not to leave the hotel for breakfast, and Doc and Hood met me down in the lobby and we went to the 619 North bistro in the hotel for breakfast, and soon Wes joined us. The food was good, but overpriced, and Wes’ panel was postponed because nobody got up early enough, since they had been up at clubs until at least 2 AM.
When it finally got underway, Jeremy Miller spoke at length about The Source magazine, and then he headed out to his son’s football game in Oklahoma City. I had been headed to lunch at Goff’s Charcoal Broiled Hamburgers, but Wes talked me into eating lunch at the hotel restaurant instead.
I spent much of the afternoon in bed with a headache, but I felt better later and got back up, and Wes decided to drive out to Houston to meet with Chaney Welch. I got with Doc and Hood, and they decided to ride out with me to Pappadeaux’s on Oak Lawn Avenue, where we ate dinner. I had the shrimp en brochette for the first time, and it was really good.
After stopping by Cafe Brazil for coffee, we headed back to the hotel, and they rode out to the lingerie party downtown. I decided to hang around the hotel since it was too late to ride the Trinity River Express train to Stars Jazz Club in Fort Worth, and a rapper from Waco drove up to meet with me, but he didn’t get there until 2 AM. It was finally 3 AM when I got to bed.
Once I did get registered, I learned that the conference had provided a hotel room for me and another hotel room for Wes Phillips, who was driving in from Jackson, Mississippi and had called me from Tallulah, Louisiana. While sitting in the lobby, I ran into Doc and Hood, the rap duo from Oklahoma City that had impressed me so at the Oklahoma Music Conference back in 2006, and I was sorry to learn from them that BJ, the founder of that conference had been killed a couple of months before.
Wes arrived in the early evening, but I got caught by Mike the conference organizer and was corralled into the opening showcase of the music conference, which I wouldn’t have minded except that I was so hungry. The talent was better than average, however, and especially impressive was a little boy from Dallas called Bentley Green, who rapped three songs from his upcoming album, and who had been rapping since he was three years old. I finally left the hotel and drove over to Lower Greenville to Daddy Jack’s, but I was fairly disappointed at the limited menu. I finally chose a broiled lobster tail, and it was very good, but also quite expensive. Then I drove out to Cafe Brazil for coffee and dessert, and then I headed back to the hotel, networking and interacting with the conference attendees.
The hotel was also really neat, sitting on one side of a vast plaza, complete with ice-skating rink, and with the meeting rooms on the opposite side of the plaza. There was no real exhibit hall area, only a few tables set up outside the main ballroom, so people tended to gather and hang out in the lobby, and in the restaurant/bar. I met with the Presidential Trap House label there in the restaurant, and then later the hotel began serving pizzas and sodas in the lobby. There had been some sort of modeling event at a downtown club, but I stayed at the hotel and got to bed around 2 in the morning.
Wanting a hamburger, I headed over to Jake’s Hamburgers on Skillman, but there was literally no place to park, so I stopped by Poor Man’s Music & More on the other side of LBJ Freeway, and then drove over to the Galleria.
At Valley View Mall, there were two new record stores, an Xperience Music (which is what the Eargazum chain is becoming), and Nu Era Music and More, which wasn’t on my store list and which I just happened to see as I walked through the mall. From there, I headed out to Oak Cliff and to a store on Cockrell Hill called Da Shop, and then to Rewind Music in the Wynnewood Village. At Top Ten, the owner Mike asked about Gary Bernard, the buyer at Select-O-Hits who he had known for some years, and gave me a cold root beer, and then I headed down to the Eargazum at Southwest Center Mall.
In Grand Prairie, there was a large store called Forever Young Music, and they had a Houston CD I had been looking for called Queen of Hits: The Macy’s Record Story, so I bought that and then drove over to the Irving Mall to leave posters and promos at another Eargazum location.
I had decided to eat at a Texas Land and Cattle Company in Garland near Lake Ray Hubbard, and I didn’t want to fight LBJ expressway traffic at the 6PM time of evening, so I decided to take the new George W. Bush Tollway, little knowing that by the time I reached the end of it in Garland, I would have spent almost $10 and killed nearly an hour. Worse, the tollway abruptly ends at a city street in Garland that doesn’t lead to I-30, so I had to drive down through Rowlett to get to the restaurant. The Dallas Cowboys pre-season game was on the TV screens at the restaurant, and I ordered their signature smoked sirloin, which is unique and very good.
Afterwards, there was supposed to be a jazz group playing at R. L. Griffith’s Blues Palace on Grand in South Dallas, but there wasn’t, and so I drove down to Brooklyn Jazz Cafe again. But the group there had quit playing because of the Barack Obama speech at the Democratic National Convention, which everyone was listening to. I hung around the club for awhile, but ultimately headed back to my hotel.
I had miscalculated the start of the Texas Summer Music Conference, and had taken a day off work that I probably hadn’t needed to, but since I had already made my plans, I had gone on Priceline.com and booked a hotel room in Dallas for Wednesday and Thursday nights (they had put me in the Hyatt Regency Reunion), and I reasoned that this would give me a free day in Dallas on Thursday to go around to the record stores with posters and promotional CDs.
Below Little Rock on I-30, I began having a problem with drowsiness, so, at Texarkana, I stopped at a Starbucks, and then I headed on into East Texas, stopping at Greenville to go by a Hastings Music in the hopes of finding CDs by The Southern Sea or Tree With Lights. Unfortunately, they had neither of them there.
I had considered eating dinner at Culpepper Cattle Company in Rockwall, but after checking their menu on my iPhone, I learned they had both remodeled and increased their prices dramatically, so I decided to eat at the Saltgrass Steakhouse there instead, and it was quite good. The sun was beginning to set over Lake Ray Hubbard as I stopped at a Starbucks after dinner, and then I headed on into Dallas.
I headed first to Good Records in Lower Greenville, where I found a couple of Numero Eccentric Soul reissues that I didn’t have, as well as CDs by the Sound In Action Trio and the Papercuts. Then I headed over to South Lamar Street, and stuck my head briefly into Bill’s Records before heading down the street to the Brooklyn Jazz Cafe, where the Dallas Observer had said the Freddie Jones Quartet would be playing. The cafe was large, nearly a block long, and was full of people. Freddie Jones proved to be an excellent trumpeter, and his quartet was exciting, if a little funk-oriented. I am not usually a fan of R & B-influenced jazz, but this group was exciting, particularly the drummer and bass-player. At an intermission, I met the trumpeter, and learned that he was originally from South Memphis-it’s a rather small world after all. During the rest of the night, he used two other drummers, and I tried to buy a Brooklyn Jazz Cafe T-shirt, but the owner had taken the key to the shirt-case with her when she left for the day.
I had worried about finding the Hyatt Regency Hotel, but I had no difficulty finding it once I drove into the Reunion area, and once I got checked in, the pool was closed, so I headed up to my room.