On Thursday night, several hundred people gathered in the parking lot of the Cleveland Street Flea Market in Midtown to watch artists Eli Gold and Colin Kidder install a large, spinning sculpture made from 51 repurposed bicycle wheels across the street from the old Sears Crosstown building.
Intended to serve as the new "gateway" into Crosstown, the sculpture — titled "Beacon" — was created with money donated by Harry Freeman and Sara Ratner. The two had attended a Crosstown Arts MemFeast event in 2011, at which Gold and Kidder proposed to build the sculpture. At MemFeast events, artists present ideas for projects, and attendees vote on their favorite. The winner receives money to make their proposal a reality. The sculptors didn't win the MemFeast vote, but Freeman and Ratner liked their idea for a kinetic sculpture so much that they offered $3,000 to the artists after the event.
"That was an amazing example of the kind of community we want to create [for Crosstown]," said Christopher Miner of Crosstown Arts. "There's artists like Colin and Eli who want to do something and people like Harry and Sara who are interested in helping."
Since May, the completed sculpture has been sitting in the Crosstown Arts parking lot at 427 N. Watkins, awaiting its installation on the metal pole in a small grassy area at the intersection of N. Watkins and Cleveland.
"People in the neighborhood have stopped by every day to look at it," Miner said.
When Gold and Kidder made their proposal at MemFeast, they suggested adding the sculpture to the side of the Sears Crosstown building.
"They weren't married to that idea," Miner said. "We like the idea of the sculpture acting as a gateway to the neighborhood. It's more visible [at Cleveland and Watkins]."
Just last week, the Sears Crosstown Development Team announced that they had signed memorandums of understanding for ALSAC, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Church Health Center, Gestalt Community Schools, Methodist Healthcare, Memphis Teacher Residency, Rhodes College, the West Clinic, and Crosstown Arts as founding partners committed to redeveloping the 1.4 million-square-foot Sears Crosstown building.
Those with a desire for an adrenaline rush will have the opportunity to rappel down the city’s 365-foot iBank Tower this Saturday.
“Over the Edge,” will provide the first 100 people who raise a minimum of $1,000 with the chance to rappel down the tower located on 5050 Poplar Ave from 8:30am to 4:30pm.
The event is sponsored by Special Olympics Tennessee, a nonprofit that helps thousands of children and adults with disabilities improve their physical fitness and sports skills, enhancing their self-confidence and social competency in the process.
“The hardest part is actually getting over the edge. Once you’re over, it’s like, ‘oh my God. I’m actually repelling down a building,’” said Lisa Taylor, director for Special Olympics of Greater Memphis. “The reception has been really great. The first year, we had about 68 rapellers. Last year, about 65 to 68 as well. This year, the goal is to increase it to 80.”
Besides raising $1,000, participants must be at least 18-years-old and weigh no more than 300 pounds.
Money raised will benefit the more than 16,000 athletes who participate with Special Olympics Tennessee.
“Children and adults with mental and physical disabilities face challenges every day, but they step outside the box and they try everything,” Taylor said. “People who participate [with Over the Edge] are not just supporting the Special Olympics, they’re stepping outside of the box and challenging themselves to do something they normally wouldn’t do. They’re facing their fears.”
There will be food and drinks for sale and music provided by DJ Keith Dinkins with Dingo Entertainment and Ken Houston of the No Hit Wonders. Participants will receive a t-shirt and goody bag.
The annual event began in 2010. For more information, contact Lisa Taylor at (901) 683-1271.
This weekend, kids with incarcerated parents or relatives will get an opportunity to secure a mentor that helps them stay on the right path throughout the school year.
SoGiv, a nonprofit that sells footwear and apparel, and donates a portion of the proceeds to a worthy cause, is hosting the workshop “SoGiv-A-Mentor,” Saturday, 1 to-3 p.m. at 258 N. Merton St. The group is partnering with fellow nonprofit, Families of Incarcerated Individuals, for the event.
Edward Bogard, founder of SoGiv, said the event is targeting students aged 7- to 17-years-old.
“It's a long school year ahead, and having someone you can lean on or seek for advice can make all the difference in the world,” Bogard said. “We want to continue to do our part and make positive impacts on children's lives throughout the upcoming school year as much as possible. [We want to] let the children know to follow their dreams, because anything is possible.”
Bogard — along with guest facilitators Meko Yance, editor of BG Magazine, and Dr. David Acey, founder of Africa In April — will host breakout sessions that provide ways for kids to avoid going down a similar path as their incarcerated relatives.
There will also be lunch provided during the workshop, along with door prizes, and special performances by acoustic soul artist CC Hill, and R&B crooner AJAE Moore.
For more information, people can visit sogiv.org.
“No Papers, No Fear,” painted in purple letters and surrounded by pink flowers and butterflies, stood out from the six-foot backdrop of a flatbed truck’s makeshift stage at yesterday’s Memphis Unafraid rally.
“No somos illegales! No somos criminales,” the crowd of over 200 chanted in unison in front of the stage, where between 5 and 9 p.m., undocumented individuals and supporters performed skits, poetry, and speeches to highlight what they said are injustices to basic human rights.
The event at El Mercadito on Ridgeway Road across from Hickory Ridge Mall was one stop on the UndocuBus’s tour of the southern United States on its way to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 3rd.
The UndocuBus started its journey in Phoenix, Arizona on July 29th, on the anniversary of the state’s implementation of strict immigration laws that many immigrants and human rights advocates claim have led to unfair racial profiling and long-term detentions at private prisons during deportation proceedings.
The group is heading to the convention to join activists and allies in North Carolina, who are organizing around labor and immigration laws in that state, and to show Democrats the movement is powerful enough to warrant their support.
Six new undocumented members will join the bus when it leaves for Nashville Thursday, including four Memphians.
Alejandro Guizar, a 19-year-old college student from Knoxville, said he is joining the movement because he wants to give people courage to stand up for themselves and their community.
“When people are in the shadows, they get taken advantage of, and nobody ever finds out about it,” he said. “There is no way to defend yourself. You don’t know what to do. You don’t want to go out and ask for help. People are just scared.”
Gerardo Torres who has been on the bus since Phoenix said the immigration laws target the Latino community and create fear of the police.
“They say its not about skin color or about being Mexican,” he said, “but I’ve never seen any police officer stopping a white person. Phoenix is not just Mexicans. It’s a lot of other immigrants from a lot of other nations, but it’s focused on the Mexican people.”
Though many criticize the Undocubus for being lawless, Torres said, “Sometimes you have to break laws in order to get rid of unjust laws.”
He also said the eye-opening experiences and community support are what gives him the strength to shed his fear and speak out.
Support for the bus has reached outside the Latino community, drawing a supportive editorial from the New York Times.
Six supporters from the Chicago-based Immigrant Youth Justice League came to Memphis to follow the bus through Tennessee and show their solidarity with undocumented friends on the bus. Univision, a Spanish-language television program, is documenting the group’s travels.
Local support came from the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Workers Interfaith Network, Memphis Socialist Party, Communities United Under One Voice, and Unitarian Universalists as well as many local Latino businesses and community members.
So far, the bus has stopped in Denver, Albaquerque, Austin, and New Orleans without any interference from law enforcement.
Members of the Memphis Bus Riders Union are gathering on Saturday, August 11th to discuss the recent gas tax referendum approved by the Memphis City Council. The referendum would ask voters to support or refuse adding a one-cent tax to every gallon of gasoline sold within city limits, with the proceeds going to Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA).
The Bus Riders Union meeting, which will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Memphis Center for Independent Living on 1633 Madison Ave., was called because many of its members had concerns regarding the referendum’s content, which some consider to be vague.
“We’re going to be looking at the gas tax proposal and discussing it with the membership to decide if the group will get involved with this issue,” said member Brad Watkins. “We know that there’s a lot of support for it but we have a lot of questions about the language, the oversight to ensure those funds are going to go where we, and a lot of the members of the MATA board, agree that it should go to.”
The city council voted on Tuesday, August 7th in favor of placing the referendum on the November 6th ballot.
Watkins said the organization agrees that there needs to be a dedicated funding source for MATA but are seeking some clarification before they support it.
“In this era of city budgets, where funding comes and goes arbitrarily, this dedicated source of funding would ensure MATA could become the best public transit system that it could be, which is what we hope for,” Watkins said. “But we want to start a community-wide discussion on this to ensure that the gas tax, if passed by the voters, does what it’s supposed to.
The Memphis Bus Riders Union, founded in February, is a grassroots organization that seeks to ensure the needs and priorities of MATA customers are the company’s highest priority.
An e-mail newsletter from the Overton Park Conservancy sent out Monday morning warned park users to use caution in the wake of a series of robberies in the Old Forest.
The letter said several individuals were robbed on the forest trails over the past few days. One robbery of a 64-year-old man walking in the Old Forest on Sunday, August 5th led to the arrests of James Moss, Inell Crayton, and Devekio Bateman. The teenage suspects allegedly punched and kicked their victim before robbing him of his wallet and a cell phone. They fled on bicycles but were later caught in the area near Jackson and Merton.
The MPD now believes the situation to be under control, but the conservancy is urging park users to be aware of their surroundings at all times. The conservancy is working with the MPD to install security cameras in the Rainbow Lake parking lot and the East Parkway parking lot. Those cameras will feed into the MPD's Real Time Crime Center, meaning they'll be under 24-hour surveillance.
The newsletter stated that overall crime in Overton Park is actually on the decrease.
Drivers who pass through seven local intersections on Saturday, August 4th could catch a glimpse of a "living ad."
Teens from the Memphis Ambassadors Program (MAP) will be holding signs reminding parents that school starts on Monday. The MAP program is the city's replacement for the youth summer jobs program, which ran into problems several years ago when some student workers were not paid.
"Living ads" can be spotted between noon and 2 p.m. at Third and Crump; Third and Mitchell; Elvis Presley and Winchester; Yale and Austin Peay; Hickory Hill and Winchester; Lamar and Airways; and Summer and Highland.
MAP students will receive community service credit for the ad campaign. They are required to complete 12 community service projects each year.
“We know that some students wait until after the first week of the school year to go to school, and teachers have told us how hard it is for those students to catch up,” said James Nelson of the City of Memphis Office of Youth Services. “We’ve reminded our MAP students that school is starting, and now our MAP students are reminding others. We don’t want any of our local students to start the school year behind.”
To learn more about the Memphis Ambassador Program, read this Flyer story.
What's tactical urbanism? The latest buzzword in the urban planning movement is being used to describe low-cost, easy-to-implement action plans that temporarily transform an environment and possibly lead to long-term change.
Still sound like jargon? Examples of tactical urbanism in Memphis have included "New Face for Old Broad" (a two-day arts and retail pop-up fest along Broad Avenue in November 2010), National PARK(ing) Day (when artists turned downtown parking spots into mini-parks for a day last year), and food truck rodeos.
The Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team, which is tasked with boosting economic recovery in three Memphis neighborhoods, is partnering with the Street Plans Collaborative to host a free Tactical Urbanism Salon on September 22nd at 363 S. Main from 1 to 6 p.m. The meeting will allow residents to learn new ideas and approaches for instituting tactical urbanism projects in their neighborhoods.
“The Innovation Delivery Team is charged with finding new strategic ways to confront big urban problems, and that’s really what tactical urbanism is all about,” said Tommy Pacello, project manager for the team. “By our very nature, Memphians are creative, fearless, disruptive people who love to get our hands dirty. That’s why the tactical urbanism events that have taken place here so far have been successful."
Members of a new homeless advocacy organization held cardboard signs spray-painted with "Say No to Sexual Harassment" and "What Is Done in the Dark Will Be Brought To the Light" in front of the Beers Van Gogh Peer Center of Excellence at 669 Madison Avenue on Thursday afternoon. One woman canvassed the sidewalk, holding a sign and screaming, "You shouldn't have to have sex to sleep in a bed!"
The members of H.O.P.E. (Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality) were protesting alleged sexual harassment against female clients and female staff members at the Peer Center, a Tennessee Mental Health Consumers' Association organization that provides housing to homeless people with mental disabilities.
A H.O.P.E. member has alleged that one employee of the Peer Center has offered her $20 to show him her breasts, and she alleged the man also talked to her and others about the size of his penis. He also reportedly asked a woman if she wanted to be involved in a three-way with he and his girlfriend.
A few of H.O.P.E.'s members, including some who still reside at the Peer Center, have filed formal complaints of sexual harassment with the Tennessee Mental Health Consumers' Association. According to the press release issued by H.O.P.E., the employee in question was suspended during an investigation of a complaint but later returned to his duties with the stipulation that he receive sensitivity training. He is allegedly under orders not to speak to the victim accept in case of an emergency. H.O.P.E. is consulting with legal counsel to further pursue the matter.
A man who answered the phone at the Peer Center on Thursday afternoon said the center did not wish to make a statement.
On Tuesday, July 17th, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously in favor of amending the city’s Unified Development Code (UDC). The new amendments will bring forth various changes to the code’s stance on development and zoning in the city. But the changes must be approved by the Shelby County Commission before the revised development code can take effect.
One such change affects aspiring tattoo shop owners, palm readers, psychics, fortune tellers, and massage parlors who desire to open businesses in the Commercial Mixed Use (CMU-1) zoning areas. While those businesses are currently forbidden from opening in CMU-1 zoning areas, the amended code will allow them to apply for a conditional use permit to do so.
Tattoo artist Babak Tabatabai is breathing a large sigh of relief after the council's decision. In November, Tabatabai signed a lease to open a tattoo shop and art gallery on Broad Avenue. After investing nearly $30,000 in the building and its remodeling, he received a rude awakening from the Historic Broad Business Association that the district was not zoned to allow tattoo shops.
He applied for a zoning variance to open the shop, but it was denied during a public hearing held at City Hall in March. Since then, his business has been at a standstill, but the new UDC amendments passed Tuesday could help change that.
“It’s hard to describe my reaction when I heard the results,” Tabatabai said, who attended the council meeting. “I wasn’t expecting it to go through. I was mostly relieved that I didn’t have to move all my stuff somewhere else. No matter what would have happened at this location, I think [the $30,000] would have never been lost anyway. They say it’s no lesson lost. It would have been a really expensive lesson, but it still would have been one that I could have learned something from. Now it has become even better.”
The next step is a second reading and public hearing on the changes at the Shelby County Commission on July 30th. The commission's third reading is scheduled for August 13th.
If everything goes well, Tabatabai plans to apply for the Conditional Use Permit in August. He hopes to have his shop open by September. Named Ronin Design & Manufacturing, it will be a tattoo shop, art gallery, and design firm.
“Everybody on the street has a different opinion about tattoo shops, but the official position from the Broad Avenue Business Association is that we support what the process says,” said Pat Brown, vice president of the Historic Broad Business Association in regard to the recent UDC changes. “We never stated that we were against tattoos. That was never the case. Now that the entire UDC has been changed, we’ll support whatever that process is.”
Chooch Pickard, executive director for the Memphis Regional Design Center, was a part of the UDC stakeholders. The group worked with Josh Whitehead, planning director for the Memphis & Shelby County Office of Planning and Development, to come up with compromises on the amendments.
Pickard said he’s “90 percent happy with how things turned out,” regarding the code's amendments.
“We weren’t wholesale against [the amendments] by any means,” Pickard said. “We actually were in favor of the majority of them, but we had a number of items that we took issue with. I think the Conditional Use Permit is a better option than just allowing tattoo shops outright, because that gives the neighborhood an opportunity to give their voice and perhaps put some limitations on hours of operation and things like that."
The organization has been awarded a $395,000 Title X grant. Bypassing the state, Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis (PPGMR) applied for Title X funding directly from the federal government, and received a little more than half of the $748,000 they applied for.
Although abortion has long been the sticking point in debates over funding for Planned Parenthood, according to federal law, no Title X funds can be used for abortion services.
This counts as a victory for one of Memphis' leading family planning providers, after a drawn-out battle over Title X funding last year. In April of 2011, an amendment to the state law required that Title X funding be apportioned directly to county health departments across the state, instead of subcontracted to organizations like Planned Parenthood. When an overburdened and ill-prepared Shelby County Health Department opted to subcontract the family planning services out to a local health organization, it issued a request for proposals, effectively pitting Planned Parenthood, the longtime recipient of Title X funding, against Christ Community Health Services, the inevitable recipient of the funding.
The move to bypass the state government is not wholly unusual, says Barry Chase, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis. Other family planning organizations across the country have received Title X funding directly from the federal government in much the same way PPGMR has.
"Since the county decided not to fund us," says Chase, "we felt there were women in Shelby County who weren't receiving care."
Congressman Steve Cohen's office issued a press release with the following statement from Cohen:
“Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region has been helping Memphis and Shelby County residents get the health care they need to lead happier, healthier lives for years,” said Congressman Cohen. “These new federal funds will help ensure the Title X Family Planning Program reaches those who need help the most in underserved communities.”
But the Tennessee Right to Life group and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey were not so enthusiastic. Ramsey issued the following statement:
"By funneling federal tax dollars to abortion providers in Tennessee, Barack Obama has proven once again why he needs to be defeated for a second term. Tennessee has taken a stand against Planned Parenthood's pro-abortion shell game and defunded these organizations for a reason. This money is a clear attempt to subvert the actions of state government and prop up a culture of death on the decline."
We'll have more on the story as it develops in next week's Fly By section.
The city's low-cost spay and neuter clinic will soon be moving from its cramped space at 854 Goodman to a larger facility in Hickory Hill, thanks to a building donation from First Tennessee.
The new location at 5650 Mt. Moriah is twice as large as the current Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services facility, the waiting room for which is often standing-room-only on a typical day. Since the new space was a former veterinary clinic, future renovations are expected to be feasible and cost-effective. The larger size will allow the clinic to increase the number of patients it's able to treat.
First Tennessee gave the building to Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services as part of their community investment efforts, through which it donates foreclosed properties to nonprofit groups. Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services will start a public fund-raising campaign to fund renovations to the new space.
One hundred percent of the first high school graduating class of Soulsville Charter School have been accepted to college, and more than $3.2 million in scholarship funds have been donated to help them pay for higher education. Those students are graduating on Thursday, May 24th.
Founded in 2005, Soulsville Charter School is a tuition-free public charter school with a mission of preparing students for college success in a music-rich environment. It began with a sixth grade class of 60 students, and those students have now completed their high school careers.
Although the graduation ceremony is closed to the public, there is a Soulsville Charter School fund-raiser being held on Wednesday, May 23rd from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music featuring former Notre Dame basketball coach and ESPN host Digger Phelps and Grammy winner Kirk Whalum. Tickets are $250 per person or $400 per couple.
"Mr. Phelps was so impressed by the school, its students, and the model of education that he has become an unofficial spokesperson for us on the national level, often mentioning the school on news talk shows, particularly MSNBC's Morning Joe," said Tim Sampson, communications director for Stax and former Memphis Flyer editor.
Phelps will also hold a live remote broadcast about the graduation event on MSNBC's Morning Joe. That broadcast will air on MSNBC at 6:45 CST on Thursday, May 24th.
To purchase tickets to the fund-raiser, call Soulsville Foundation chief operating officer Mark Wender at 901-261-6345 or email him.
The annual Bike-to-Work Day, sponsored by the Downtown Memphis Commission, is Friday. Register to ride here so as not to miss out on your free bike messenger bag filled schwag.
Schwag bags may be picked up at one of the following energizer stations:
* Central Station Pavilion at Front at GE Patterson (7 - 9am)
* Trolley Barn at 547 North Main Street (7 - 9am)
* Church Health Center Wellness Center at 1115 Union (7 - 9am; accessible from Eastmoreland)
* New Olivet Baptist Church at 3084 Southern Ave (6:30 - 9am)
* Downtown Bicycle Expo at Court Square (11am - 1pm)
There's a Downtown Bicycle Expo from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Court Square with live music by Deering & Down, electric bicycle tours, giveaways, and the presentation for the Bike-to-Work Championship Awards.
For information on organized Bike-to-Work day meet-up rides, route planning, or other tips, go here.
To read about Flyer writer Bianca Phillips' first Bike-to-Work experience last year, go here.
This summer, some of the city’s sixth, seventh and eighth graders will have a chance to share their views on Memphis history, culture, and local issues through photography, thanks to the Memphis Tourism Foundation’s “Memphis: Through the Lens of a New Generation Photo Competition.”
Each participant will receive a disposable camera with 27 color shots.
“Although students are young and may not have any significant experience in taking photos, they still will have the chance to display what’s important to them,” said Erica Horton of the Memphis Tourism Foundation. “One of the cool things about the competition is that we’re getting the perspective of people who are really, really young. There are some things that young people see that older people don’t know about, and there are some things that older people see that young people might not understand. We’re just looking for their honest perspective of what they think represents the city of Memphis.”
Before students can participate in the competition, they will have to apply on Memphislens.weebly.com.
As part of the application process, each student must write a three-paragraph essay about themselves and why they want to participate in the competition. Those who have seen the documentary I Am A Man, a short film on the 1968 sanitation strike in Memphis and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s involvement, can write about what they learned from the film instead of why they want to participate in the competition. The application deadline is May 18th.
Up to 50 kids will be chosen for the competition by the end of May. Those who are chosen will meet with foundation representatives and receive tips from skilled photographers.
Participants will have to return their cameras by June 23rd, so their film can be developed. The top three contestants will be chosen and notified on June 30th.
On July 14th, participants will be recognized at an award ceremony.
All three winners will receive a digital camera and certificate. The first place winner will also receive a gift of $100. The second place winner will receive $50, and the third place winner will receive $25.
Deanie Parker with the Memphis Tourism Foundation said the primary purpose of the competition is to acquaint people with some of the city’s art, history, culture and music. She said it would provide kids with the opportunity to engage in something positive at the end of their school year.
“We’re going to encourage them to think broadly and deeply about the city in which they live,” Parker said. [We want them to] examine it in terms of what’s great and wonderful about it and what they’d like to improve about it. And [we] certainly [want them] to learn more about the city’s contribution to so many different things that a lot of us take for granted.”
For additional information, contact Erica Horton at 901-273-3227.