Where were you April 4, 1968?
Me? I had not been born yet, but the Civil Rights Movement had been. This year, 2018, marks the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, TN. The I.C.O.N. P.E.A.R.L.S., a girls division of my women’s organization, embarked on a 5-day tour of Memphis. What initially was planned as a commemoration trip evolved into a full-blown tour of decades of Black History.
I came into Memphis on Friday which was really day 2 for everyone else. My arrival to the hotel was late and after working and traveling that day, I really wanted to rest for the next day. All that changed when I greeted the children as they played games and ate pizza while they were excitedly telling me about their tour earlier in the day. They visited Slave Haven, a museum site of a home that was a part of the Underground Railroad. They gave me vivid descriptions of what they saw since photos were not allowed inside the home. They actually were able to go into the cellar where slaves hid underneath the house and saw tunnels there as well.
The Lorraine Motel at The National Civil Rights Museum was so spectacular. It was in-depth, thorough, and very enlightening. I couldn’t stop reading. I was captivated by the unending wealth of knowledge and facts that graced the walls. I love facts. 955 communities have streets across America named after MLK.
A few things I learned…
*Hundreds of blacks served as politicians after reconstruction. We haven’t reached that peak since then.
*The rise of Thurgood Marshall after he won Brown vs. Board of Education. It was unprecedented, but also inevitable.
*There are countless historical pictures, figures, and facts. It was all too much to capture in one or even two settings. The courage it took to live in the moment not realizing or setting out to make history, but just rather change the present and future, was and is immeasurable. I realized our life must have meaning and purpose. The benefits from our courage and journey is what people use to flourish. I definitely could and will visit NCRM again!
Of course, a trip to Memphis would not be complete without a trip to Beale Street and BB King’s restaurant! Following our museum tour, we took the children to BB King’s. Such a perfect choice! There we were in the heart of the city with heavy and respectful hearts and we dined together for lunch to uplift our spirits. We listened to live music. Real music. Raw talent. True artists. I am glad we were able to expose the children to this rare art form. I even made them get up and dance. They had so much fun. They wanted to come back the next day. The mini-concert was well worth the experience for them.
If we can party, we can praise.
We started our Sunday morning at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. Divinely so, it was their Youth Day. It was such an encouragement to the children and me as well to see the youth facilitating, leading, and participating in worship service.
After church, I had lunch at Memphis BBQ Co., one of the Pittmaster Champions. It was a must I stop by since my husband loves to grill and watch Pittmasters! I had to give him a full report especially since the restaurant was literally across the street from our hotel.
Our last museum tour of our adventure was the Stax Museum. I knew Motown and Detroit had a huge influence of Soul Music. But, I learned that a Memphis has a large imprint on it as well. It was great seeing the artists, studio, instruments, costumes, cars, and old footage. How timely was this visit as I learned more about Aretha Franklin and her legacy just days before her passing. She was the absolute FIRST woman ever to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame! May she rest in perfect peace. Black people have influenced America and its culture in so many ways.
After three days of history and knowledge, we decided the children needed a brain break. After all, school was about to begin in a few days for some of them. We had a birthday pool party for one of the girls! Who doesn’t love cake, pizza, and a pool all to yourself? I enjoyed watching the children swim and have a great time. I envied those worry free and carefree days.
We ended our trip bar hopping on Beale Street. The adults that is. We started at the Silky O’Sullivan’s. Then, bounced to Rum Boogie Cafe’ and we jammed with the band and Toni, the vocalist until the club closed. It was so much fun. We did not want the fun to end. So, we slid by The Juke Joint next door, an old 1960’s lounge, and listened to the sultry sounds of a male vocalist and enjoyed listening to the harmonica. We ended the evening at BB King’s with even more live music.
Every band, vocalist, and lounge was entertaining and fun. There was not a dull moment. I cannot believe I slept on Memphis, Tennessee. I will be back sooner than later. I have to visit the Slave Haven Museum for myself and party on Beale Street with my husband. He loves the blues and barbecue as much as he loves me. Giggles
Above anything, I was able to share this experience with my 80-year-old grandmother and 8-year-old son and that was well worth every minute of sleep I missed. My grandmother lived through the times we toured about for a better future for the generations of my own and that of my son. I pray he never forgets these moments and we can recreate this tour for his family.