Friday, May 24, 2013

Believe Memphis

This week's "Because I Said So" column is all heart. Believe it.

Good seats still available on 'Believe Memphis' bandwagon 
I was born and raised in Memphis, weaned during the 1970s on a steady stream of negativity flowing through a city whose dreams had slipped into the river and whose borders had become porous. Everyone, it seemed, wanted out. The grass must have looked greener in the next county over, a neighboring city, any other state. 
But things have turned, haven’t they? Negativity is passed from generation to generation like a bad gene, and the only way to arrest it is to flip the off-switch in our DNA. My children are being raised in a new Memphis, one with possibilities imagined from the uppermost reaches of government down to the teacher in the classroom, from the 7-foot-1 defensive player of the year to the CEO to the waitress serving sweet tea. 
And it’s borne upon one word: Believe. 
It’s a directive being spread around these days on billboards, the airwaves and a little yellow towel, but the attitude has been growing in us all along. We have flipped that switch and begun believing in ourselves and our city, and to proudly share the stories that make us who we are. 
Believe Memphis. So powerful is this simple command that it isn’t just for those born and raised here. It’s for everyone everywhere. We are all of Memphis. If you have a favorite pop star and dance to your radio, if you’ve stayed in a hotel, shopped in a grocery store, shipped a package or tasted the perfect pulled pork sandwich, then you are of Memphis. And we’re glad to have you. We welcome you. 
The term “bandwagon” gets used in a negative way, but I say come on board. Ours is a wagon that has been hitched in the past to teams of Tigers, a couple of kings, two pandas and a Redbird. It has been loaded into the belly of a purple and orange cargo plane. More recently, it has been pulled behind a 400-passenger paddle wheel steamboat, a fleet of food trucks, and bicycles along a 7-mile Greenline, through a revitalized park, and eventually, it will cross the river over the Harahan Bridge. When there was no one to pull it, we stoked its steam engine with issues of Forbes magazine and the words of bitter columnists from afar. Currently, it’s being pulled by a grizzly bear. So climb on: It’s a bandwagon with an actual band led by Booker T. Jones fresh from a concert of American soul music at the White House. 
My children already have their own memories of Memphis to share, their own stories of visiting the Memphis Zoo and the Levitt Shell, of standing riverside to gaze at the water, exploring Midtown’s caf├ęs and riding the trails at Shelby Farms. They’ve visited the farmers markets and Botanic Garden, caught movies at the Summer Twin Drive-In and danced at the Stax Museum. They’re old enough to understand the news they see and hear, and open enough to understand that it’s not all perfect. But they have the sense that it can be changed for the better, and that is a brand new sensation. 
I’ve loaded my family aboard this wagon, and I’m stopping the cycle of negativity for my own children. I am of Memphis, and my children believe because they’ve never known any other way.