When the United States Department of Education complained about the location of Memphis’ all-Black Kortrecht High School in the middle of a noisy, smokey rail yard in South Memphis, the city finally decided to build the new comprehensive Black high school that the Black community had been asking for. The community considered it a victory, until they learned it was to be called the Memphis Negro Industrial High School. Outrage over the name led to one of the first sustained Black protests in Memphis, and though the community did not get their wish of a school named for its principal, Green Polonius Hamilton, they did get the name changed to Booker T. Washington, and the new school opened in 1927. Memphis folklore has it that the school board gave it green and gold colors and the mascot “Warriors” so that worn and used jerseys and jackets from the white Memphis High School (now Central) could be used at BTW. Over the years, Booker T. Washington furthered the hopes and dreams of generations of Black Memphians. It has produced great musicians like the Bar-Kays, and great athletes. A few years ago, it was visited by President Barack Obama himself. Unfortunately, schools’ fates are largely determined by the neighborhood around them, and BTW’s future seems threatened, to say the least. Enrollment took a plunge when open enrollment and transfer allowed people in the district to attend high school elsewhere, and then the city began its program of demolition of the projects including Cleaborn Homes, where many BTW students resided. Now Memphis has received a 30 million dollar grant to demolish and replace Foote Homes, the last public housing project in Memphis, where a lot of current BTW students live. With it being replaced by upscale housing for the wealthy, it is unclear whether BTW will retain enough enrollment to avoid state takeover or closure. But for now, fans and alumni still take pride in their team and band, turning out on Friday nights for the weekly games at historic Washington Stadium.
Eye Street Jazz, Washington DC
Walking Back from the Inauguration, Washington DC
Getting back to the area of Washington where our buses were going to pick us up at 5 PM proved to be easier said than done. The waits to get on trains at Metro stations were about an hour, and eventually the Metro was shut down altogether for some reason. We were forced to walk out of the Inauguration area instead, but when we attempted to head back north to get to the Capitol Hilton Hotel, we kept running into barricades that kept us walking ever further west toward the Potomac River. We finally were able to make it through the National Mall area when we got to 18th Street (we had started at 3rd!), and the bright side of it was that we got decent pictures of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately, tight security kept us from being able to watch the parade, and frankly after the long walk, we weren’t up to it anyway.
At the Presidential Inauguration 2013, Washington DC
Ultimately, we had to ride the Metro to get to the appropriate entrance to the Inaugural events, but once we were on the National Mall, there was a sort of awesome feeling to seeing the Capitol building in person and all the crowds of people. We were quite a ways back, but there were TV monitors and speakers around, and we were easily able to hear the selections by the US Marine Band (they played at least one piece by Arkansas composer W. Francis McBeth). There was also a prayer by Medgar Evers’ widow Myrlie Evers, and of course the main speech by President Barack Obama. As the basic ceremony came to an end, our group decided to leave out of the mall area so as to be ahead of the crowds, or at least so we thought.
Jazz at the Farragut West Metro Station, Inauguration Day 2013, Washington DC
Inauguration Morning, Washington DC, 2013
The morning of the Inauguration was bright but rather cold, and we had to walk a considerable distance to find where we were supposed to enter the event based on the tickets we had. But everyone was in good spirits, and there was a general upbeat mood in the air. At one barricade, we briefly saw President Obama emerge from the National Cathedral after a morning prayer service.