Thursday, August 27, 2009

Memphis Academy

Posted By on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 at 11:19 AM

Christian Brothers University staffer Aimee Lewis went through the Leadership Academy's Fellows program a few years ago. After CBU's new president John Smarrelli Jr. began work in July, Lewis thought he might benefit from seeing the Leadership Academy's Memphis 101 presentation.

"Our new president is from Syracuse, New York, and when he wasn't there, worked a good deal in Chicago," she says. "I thought the overview would be good so he has a grasp of the community he had moved into and some of its idiosyncrasies."

The Leadership Academy offered its "crash course" on Memphis again earlier this week. The program covers Memphis history from its first charter, through yellow fever, the second charter, Mayor E. H. Crump, the sanitation workers' strike, and the election of the city's first black mayor.

Cotton, yellow fever, the city's location, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. are cited as the main influences of how Memphis came to be what it is today.

"We want to inform new Memphis — and old — about our rich history," says Kristee Bell with the Leadership Academy. "Besides the fact that the information is educational, there is also data to support its use as it relates to retention. A recent Gallup poll states a link between how engaged people are in their community and their decision to stay."

About 100 people, including Lewis and Smarrelli, attended Tuesday's session of Memphis 101. Bell says they don't have another presentation scheduled as of right now, but they offer it about two or three times a year.

Tuesday was Lewis' second time seeing Memphis 101. The Memphis native says she could watch the videos in the program — specifically Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles discussing school integration and being on the balcony with King — again and again.

"I think most of us take for granted that we know our city's history, but we don't really, at least not with any depth or breadth beyond our own experiences," she says. "The Memphis 101 program offers a nice overview with an understandable emphasis on economic and social fronts."

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