thursday, 23 

thursday, 23

I could rant and rave about the Bush administration ignoring the early terrorist warnings and using the photos from that day in an exploitative way to raise money for Republicans and how strange it is that the White House was very quick to try to get out of the mud by following up with a warning that they have learned now that the al Qaeda group might be planning an attack larger than September 11th's and how George W. Bush is a danger to society in his reluctance to even try to improve relations with Cuba, a place he's never even been full of people who have lives just like you and me and aren't simply members of Fidel Castro's regime. But I won't. And while this is likely to make some of you hurl, I just want to take this opportunity to say how much I love Memphis. On Saturday the 18th, I was lucky enough to have been involved in the Soulsville Cleanup Day, a precursor to the opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and Stax Music Academy. Volunteers from all over the city and residents of the neighborhood gathered at 8 a.m., put on gloves, grabbed rakes and shovels and garbage bags, and canvassed the entire neighborhood picking up hundreds of empty bottles, snack-chip bags, old cigarette lighters, and all kinds of other debris littering the streets and sidewalks. There were young people, old people, black people, and white people. Kids were being kids and dancing around and singing while cleaning up the trash. A WMC Channel 5 newsman stayed with us for hours (something usually unheard of). When word got out about what was going on, people started coming out of the woodwork to help, like the tall, thin man from the neighborhood who wore a Former Prisoner of War cap and wanted to know what he and his neighbors could do to help and the group who pulled up in a van, out of which jumped an enthusiastic young man who very formally announced, "We are Yo, Memphis! and we want to do anything we possibly can to help you out today!" There were ministers and stockbrokers and real estate developers and teachers and arts patrons, and everyone was doing one thing together picking up trash and it was something of which this city should be very proud. After that, I went to the Overton Square Arts and Jazz Festival, where the proceeds from all food and merchandise sales will benefit the Memphis College of Art. Standing in the sun and listening to the music, I looked around: The crowd was equally black and white. Racism in Memphis is alive only in the minds of those who dwell on it while the rest of us are having fun. We've got Jerry West now and are the envy of the entire National Basketball Association. Like it or not, we have the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight coming up, and Memphis is going to be in the international spotlight yet again. We have Kallen Esperian and Deanie Parker and the South Main Arts District and Cooper-Young and countless historic neighborhoods and lots and lots of very good people. So there. Just wanted to say that. I'll be mean about something next week. In the meantime, here's a look at what's going on around town this week, and it's just more reason to think this is one damn cool place. Tonight, the big event is, of course, The 23rd Annual W.C. Handy Blues Awards at The Orpheum, with not only the awards ceremony but performances by such luminaries as B.B. King, Dr. John, Charlie Musselwhite, Marcia Ball, Ike Turner, Little Milton, Otis Taylor, Maria Muldaur, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and many others. This has become one of the most important music awards shows in the country and is done with much more class than the Grammys. If you don't make it to that, you can hear the Blues Foundation's 2001 International Blues Challenge winner, Richard Johnston, at the Black Diamond. Or blues/R&B legend Shirley King at the Lounge. Or local blues/jazz diva Di Anne Price at the new Casablanca, in the spot formerly home to In the Grove. Or The Ed Finney Trio at Café Zanzibar. Or The Teresa Pate Jazz Trio in the M Bar at Melange. Or you could catch The Memphis Redbirds playing Colorado Springs tonight at AutoZone Park.

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