Friday, April 11, 2008

Weekend Round-Up

Posted on Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 4:00 AM

It looks like the rain is expected to, finally, let up over the weekend. And though temps are expected to drop into the 50s, that's no excuse to stay in your boring old house. Not when there's so much going on. Get out and do something. Here are some ideas:

Quell your hot flashes with the silly, campy Menopause the Musical at the Orpheum Friday through Sunday night. The show, which has been described as 'The Rocky Horror Show for women."(whatever that means), features middle-aged women singing 1960s hits re-lyricized to deal with things like night sweats and other symptoms of menopause.

Don't miss Brooks Uncorked tonight at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Voted one of the cities top 10 parties of the year by R.S.V.P., the event features 80 fine wines from around the world, a raw food bar, and live music.

Ring in the spring with the annual Spring Market at the Agricenter, which features plenty of vendor booths peddling spring fashions and home accessories. The event is held Friday through Sunday.

Burn off some of those winter calories on Saturday at the High Point Coffee Dodgeball Challenge, where teams will battle it out to raise money for Playhouse on the Square's new building.

After the game, stop by the annual Crawfish Festival in Overton Square on Saturday for plenty of boiled crustacean and live music by Amy & The Tramps, Cedric Burnside, and others.

While you're having all this fun, poor Fido has to stay at home. So treat him to a dog-friendly event on Sunday at Trot for Spot in Shelby Farms, the annual dog walk/run benefiting the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County.

For more weekend events, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Memphis' Million-Dollar Missed Free Throws

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Each of those missed free throws late in Monday night's national-championship basketball game between Memphis and Kansas turned out to be rather expensive for some Memphians. According to the advertising director at Ashley Furniture Homestore, Tiger fans would have received more than $1 million in refunds for furniture purchased over a pair of promotional weekends last winter.

"We had no idea we'd get the response we did," says Ashleys Furniture's Kim Conrad. "People stood in line for a couple of hours at a time, and were happy to do it."

The promotions -- each spanning three days -- were held last December and then again in early February. The offer was for a full refund on furniture purchased during the promotional periods if the Memphis Tigers won the national championship.

Conrad says thousands of customers flocked to the store for a chance to improve their homes and get the Tigers basketball team to pay for it.

And there was little ambivalence among the Tiger-faithful customers. "The deal called for customers to mail in their rebate form after the Tigers won the championship," explains Conrad. "But people were mailing them in as soon as they got home!"

The promotion was insured by S.C.A. Promotions, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Had Memphis won the title, Ashley customers would have received checks by June.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Michael Hooks Jr. Gets 30 Days in Jail

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Michael Hooks Jr. was sentenced to 30 days in prison and four months home confinement Wednesday for a minor crime committed in 2001 that helped set in motion the federal government's Operation Tennessee Waltz two years later.

Hooks, a former member of the Memphis City Schools Board of Education, told U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen, "I have no one to blame but myself."

He said he has "endured the punishment of the negative news that has been spread all over the country" because of his famous name and the link to Tennessee Waltz. Hooks is the son of former Shelby County Commissioner Michael Hooks Sr., who is serving a 26-month prison sentence for bribery.

Benjamin Hooks, the former head of the NAACP and uncle of Michael Hooks Sr., was in the courtroom Wednesday but did not speak. Defense attorney Glen Reid decided not to ask any of the Hooks family or supporters in court to testify as character witnesses.

Reid said Hooks Jr., took part in a scheme "hatched by others" in and around the Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk's office in 2001. Hooks submitted false invoices that netted him less than $5,000. Reid said the crime had nothing to do with Hooks' position as a public official and should not be considered part of Tennessee Waltz. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza said "this was a case of political corruption" because Hooks, Tim Willis, and Darrell Catron defrauded a public office.

Willis later became the central figure and key undercover witness in Tennessee Waltz after the Juvenile Court investigation expanded to bribery and extortion in state government in Nashville.

Hooks said he has earned a masters degree in business, become a father, and is mentoring young men.

"Our young people need to hear from people who have made mistakes," he said.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Memphis Needs More Single Men ... Or Fewer Women

Posted By on Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Well, Memphis single gals, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is: It's not you. The bad news is: It's not you.

According to a nifty chart from urbanologist Richard Florida, the Memphis metropolitan area has a surplus of single women. A surplus of 20,000 single women.

Illustrated by little red and blue balls, ahem, the singles map of the United States shows women skewing toward the East Coast and men skewing toward the West. (Guess lots of men took Horace Greeley's advice.) In New York and northern New Jersey, there are more than 210,000 more single women than men. In the L.A. and Long Beach area, 89,000 more single men than women.

Florida has a new book out entitled, Who's Your City?, that argues that where you live is one of the most important decisions you'll make in your entire life. Well, duh.

Check out the sex-map here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Memphis Magazine Commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Memphis magazine's April issue commemorates the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The issue includes perspectives on the events of spring 1968 and the aftermath in Memphis as only those who lived it can provide. Award-winning writer Hampton Sides, who grew up in Memphis and served as "Mayor for a Day" with Henry Loeb as a youth, contributed a stirring essay on the legacy of April 4, 1968.

Ten local civil rights pioneers, including Rev. James Lawson, whose invitation brought King to Memphis the last time, Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles, who stood steps away from King as the fatal shot was fired, and Maxine Smith, local NAACP executive secretary from 1962-1995, share their first-person narratives of spring 1968.

The story of the making of the National Civil Rights Museum details how coalitions of white and black leaders came together in 1988 the way that they couldn't in 1968 to transform the Lorraine Motel from the broken-down whorehouse it became after the assassination, to the internationally recognized symbol of hope it is today.

Finally, the timeline excerpted below gives us a sense of the swirling activity around King and the city during his last 31 hours, 28 minutes on earth, in Memphis:

In his final years, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had death on his mind. While watching news coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he turned to his wife, Coretta, and told her, "This is what is going to happen to me." All his adult life, this practitioner of nonviolence had been threatened, assaulted, and surrounded by people -- most of them white, some of them black -- who considered him their enemy. The FBI routinely released memos documenting his activities, with the heading "Martin Luther King -- Communist."

Andrew Young, one of the leaders of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, observed that King had questioned "fundamental patterns of American life" and had therefore "become the enemy" to many Americans.

So as he headed to Memphis in the spring of 1968, to hold what he hoped would be a peaceful demonstration in support of the sanitation workers' strike here, King knew his life was in grave danger. "There's no way in the world you can keep somebody from killing you," he told a reporter, "if they really want to kill you."

And he knew Memphis would be a challenge. The sanitation strike had dragged on into its fifth week, and the situation seemed hopeless. Jerry Wurf, international head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) had complained bitterly, "I spent half my time trying to keep that city from burning down, while the god-damned mayor was pouring gasoline on the situation as I ran around pulling matches out of people's hands."

King's supporters had dire premonitions. On the night following the dreadful riot of March 28th, the Rev. James Jordan, pastor of historic Beale Street Baptist Church, woke up in tears. He later told friends that he'd had a nightmare: "Dr. King's picture came before me. I saw the Lord had shown me Dr. King's death."

When King decided to return to Memphis on April 3rd, to salvage his reputation and show the world that he could indeed preach the gospel of nonviolence with a second march on April 8th, a bomb threat delayed his flight. Ralph Abernathy, his second-in-command at the SCLC, reassured him, "Nobody is going to kill you, Martin," but King still seemed deeply troubled. Later that day, however, he told supporters, "I would rather be dead than afraid."

Then came his famous speech that blustery evening of April 3, 1968, at Mason Temple. With the wind howling outside and banging the shutters around the packed auditorium, he seemed to pause and reflect for a few seconds, then said, "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I have seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the promised land ..."

Within 24 hours, he would be felled by an assassin's bullet ...

To follow the final 31 hours, 28 minutes of King's life, from the time he landed at the airport until James Earl Ray's bullet felled him on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, read Memphis magazine senior editor Michael Finger's definitive timeline.

Memphis Week That Was: The Best Panel You Never Heard

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 4:00 AM

In the midst of the Memphis 1968/1985 Flashback Lollapalooza, the best panel you never heard gave Memphis a roadmap for its most important decision of 2008.

The panel was called "Education as a 21st Century Civil Rights Issue," but it could have been called "What Do We Do Next Week?" when we return to our regularly scheduled programming and the messy business of picking the next superintendent of the Memphis City Schools and their 115,000 students.

The local and national media were fixated on Martin Luther King Jr., the bleak prospects of sanitation workers in 1968, assassination theories, sound bites and photo ops, the Memphis Invaders, 1960s radical Angela Davis, the suicide of Baskerville Holmes, the whereabouts of the 1985 Memphis State Tigers and Dana Kirk, Andre Allen's pharmacology report, and the Final Four. Meanwhile, a distinguished group of superintendents, former superintendents, mayors, and former mayors talked about the godawful problems of today's public schools, the bleak prospects of millions of students who attend them, and what if anything can be done about them.

They included Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; Adrian Fenty, mayor of Washington D.C.; Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools; Howard Fuller, the former superintendent of schools in Milwaukee; and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans.

Memphians stayed away in droves. Perhaps 15-20 Memphians in a "crowd" of no more than 40 people showed up for the panel at The Peabody, including school board members Tomeka Hart and Freda Williams and Teresa Sloyan and Barbara Hyde of the Hyde Family Foundations. Otherwise, zip.

The most instructive lessons for Memphis came from Fenty and Rhee, who have teamed up to try to turn around the 55,000-student District of Columbia Public Schools which are demographically similar to the Memphis City Schools. Fenty, 38 years old and a D.C. native, was elected mayor in 2006 with 89 percent of the vote. Rhee, a 38-year-old Korean-American and alumnus of the Teach For America program, accepted Fenty's offer last June to become "the most unlikely person" to lead the school system after being promised wide latitude and authority.

Fenty and Rhee could pass for college students. Their combined age -- 76 -- is only slightly more than Willie Herenton’s 67 years. But in many ways they are on the same page: work as team, eliminate the school board, close underused schools, break eggs if necessary, speak plainly, and focus relentlessly on student achievement and well-being.

As part of the teacher corps, Rhee took 90 percent of her students from the 13th percentile to the 90th percentile in three years. Teachers, she confessed, were able to do little or nothing about the students' home life, diet, or parents.

"What changed was the adult who was in front of them in school every single day and the expectations," she said.

Rhee said public education should be "the great equalizer" but, instead, the "biggest social injustice" is the difference in schools in poor and well-to-do districts. "When I talked to kids at some schools, they said 'we have 15 teachers a day absent. How do you expect us to learn with nobody here to teach us?'"

Fenty, jokingly called "the messiah" in an introduction by Rev. Al Sharpton, said "a lot of people have made livelihoods on a broken education system for a long time." He said he is willing to close schools, cut jobs, and fire people if it helps kids even though "the push-back is enormous." The first step on the road to improvement, he said, was "get rid of the school board" because the superintendent must be able to make quick decisions. He put the district's budget surplus into education and is trying to raise another $75 million for public schools from the private sector.

Rhee said accountability was missing when there was a school board. She said Fenty "has created a dynamic in the District of Columbia which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." The mayor, she said, asked her two questions when she took the job: “How can I help and how quickly can you move?”

In an interview with the Flyer, Rhee said she responded to teacher complaints by suggesting that if they thought their challenges were too difficult then they should move to another school system. She is willing to lose some good teachers if there are greater gains for students. She is comfortable with standardized tests as a measure of proficiency. All her schools have metal detectors and all students must go through them. And she supported a pay-for-performance pay scale. She does not buy the notion that low pay keeps people out of teaching if the pool is expanded to non-certified older candidates and second-career people.

"There is no dearth of people who want to come into teaching," she said.

Asked if there were any deal-breakers for superintendents considering a job in another district such as Memphis, she again said that the relationship between the mayor and superintendent is vital.

"I never would have taken my job without the mayoral control of that man" she said, referring to Fenty.

Other panelists seemed to be generally supportive of most but not all of Rhee's and Fenty's statements.

"Demonizing teachers' unions is not the answer," said Morial, who was mayor of New Orleans from 1994-2002. "We must improve the pipeline of people coming into teaching."

Morial called for the next president to support "universal access to quality pre-school education." And he made a point of introducing Hart, who is an attorney, president of the Memphis Urban League, and chairman of the school board -- the very institution that Rhee and Fenty say must go. Hart left the program before the end of the question period without making any public comments.

Joel Klein, who runs the New York City system with 1.1 million students, said one of his problems is a shortage of math teachers in tough neighborhoods. The achievement gap between racial groups is "breathtaking" he said. He makes principals responsible for recruiting and retaining talented teachers and community support.

"Education is the civil rights issue," he said. "We've got to get it right in education or all these other issues will not be straightened out."

Celebrate MLK's Legacy This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 4:00 AM

On the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, there's much more going on than the usual candlelight vigil. Some events, like the downtown march, happened earlier today. But it's not too late to catch plenty of weekend events honoring the late civil rights leader.

Learn how King's legacy relates to the environmental movement at “The Dream Reborn” Green Conference at the Memphis Cook Convention Center from April 4-6. Panels and workshops will deal with how to grow the economy through “green” jobs, which in turn promotes human equality through more jobs.

Pay tribute to Dr. King in the annual candle;ight vigil held at the National Civil Rights Museum at 5:30 p.m. tonight. Civil rights crusaders will discuss King's dream, and the Philander Smith Concert Choir will perform.

Raise money for the U of M's Luther C. McClellan Alumni Chapter's scholarship fund and check out the latest fashions at the MLK Commemorative High Tea and Fashion Show at the Plush Club on Saturday at 12:45 p.m.

Spend Saturday afternoon perusing "A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The exhibit runs through May 18.

Skip your usual church service on Sunday morning in favor of the one at New Sardis Baptist Church, where the Martin Luther King Jr. Symphony will put on a special show.

And end out the Sabbath with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Commemorative Worship Service at St. Stephen Baptist Church at 7 p.m.

For more weekend events, check out the Flyer's searchable calendar.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fighting the War on Terror in Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 4:00 AM

A man walking through Tom Lee Park pauses to snap a photo of the iconic Hernando DeSoto Bridge. Another man shoots pictures of numerous downtown buildings.

Many would assume the men are tourists taking in the city's sights, but law enforcement officials say they could be terrorists staking out possible targets.

The scenarios were described at an anti-terrorism town hall meeting last week hosted by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department ...

Read the rest of Bianca Phillips' story about the war on terror in Shelby County.

"Untold Chapters of the Memphis Movement" Panel at the U of M Offers Surprises and Emotions

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 4:00 AM

A Wednesday afternoon panel discussion at the University of Memphis promised to showcase some of the untold local stories of the civil rights movement. This it did, although a few emotional outbursts and surreal moments unfolded to boot.

The public address system inside the Rose Theatre played an audio montage of recorded speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and '60s soul music that climaxed with "I Have a Dream" and "Shotgun" by Junior Walker and the All-Stars blaring simultaneously.

To keep things orderly, moderator Michael Honey -- author of the sanitation workers' strike history Going Down Jericho Road -- provided each of the six speakers a 10-minute timeframe to make their points. Angus McEachran, then metro editor at The Commercial Appeal, recalled covering the King assassination and the cleverness of reporter Tom Fox, who feigned a heart attack to avoid ejection from the St. Joseph's Hospital emergency room, where King was taken following the shooting.

Eighty-six-year-old retired sanitation worker Joe Warren made reference to the signs he and his striking brethren displayed in Memphis, telling the crowd, "I am still a man." He shared an anecdote about his visit to then-Mayor Henry Loeb's house a year before the strike to ask for a concession for the workers. Loeb, whose stubbornness prolonged the sanitation workers' strike and helped bring King to Memphis that fateful spring, reportedly told Warren he'd be the first one fired.

John Burl Smith and Charles Cabbage helped found the Black Invaders, a civil rights group. Though their philosophy didn't exactly adhere to King's nonviolent approach, they established some common ground in Memphis during the days leading up to King's murder. "The Poor People's Campaign was King's dream," Smith explained, "to bring poor whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans together in a coalition. He promised us if we worked with him, he would work with us. He wanted to unite Black Power and the nonviolent movement."

Cabbage seemed tired of the old song and dance. "Before I get into this for the thousandth time," he began, "we should talk about the new initiatives in the black community."

The most passionate of the speakers, Cabbage equated our painful local legacy to the present. "We watched the greatest leader in recorded history go down in this city, and stood still. We’ve stood still ever since."

Ed Redditt, an African-American Memphis police officer in 1968, and Jesse Epps, a union representative, discussed their roles in the drama as well.

Despite the location of the event, no more than 20 students attended.

Following the speeches, the moderator opened the floor to questions and comments from the audience. One man calmly addressed the panel as his respected elders before thundering into a rant about the African separatist teachings of Marcus Garvey. Another attendee who slept through most of the presentations asked the panelists about the decision of the King party to stay at the Lorraine Motel, where King was shot, instead of a more secure location. He screamed at panel members, calling them liars before storming out of the auditorium.

Cabbage and McEachran lamented the lack of student turnout. "Next time we do this, we need to bring the kids," Cabbage said. The University of Memphis student body president invited the panelists to return, promising that he'd fill the theatre for the sequel.

Preston Lauterbach ### —Preston Lauterbach

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Poll: Should Memphis Hire Cops Who Live Out of Town?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 4:00 AM

"Everybody is talking about the Tigers. If Coach Cal could only recruit in Memphis … I don't think we’d be in the Final Four right now."

-- City Councilman Shea Flinn.

On Tuesday, members of the City Council's public safety committee discussed recruiting additional Memphis Police Department officers. In addition to offering signing bonuses and a better pension plan, the council is considering relaxing the residency requirement for officers.

In 2004, the council said that all municipal employees must live inside the city of Memphis. Last spring, in an effort to increase the number of law enforcement personnel, the council amended that to allow police officers to live in Shelby County. The council is now talking about allowing officers to live outside Shelby County.

A "Night Out" in Cooper-Young

Posted on Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 4:00 AM

After years of talking about it, members of the Cooper-Young Business Association and merchants in the Cooper-Young Historic District are kicking off a monthly neighborhood night out this Thursday, April 3rd.

The Cooper Young Night Out will take place from 5-9 p.m. the first Thursday of every month. People are encouraged to come out and walk the strip of shops and businesses on Central Avenue, South Cooper and Young Avenue. Most of the 18 restaurants and over 25 retail shops will be giving discounts and specials, and some are even giving away free stuff!

Tamara Walker, director of the Cooper-Young Business Association (CYBA), thinks this will be a wonderful way for Memphians to kick off their weekend and hopes that people will rediscover the treasures that lie in the heart of the Cooper-Young area. The CYBA also wants people to check out the newly opened, diverse shops that have moved into the area. Cooper-Young is home to shops that sell antiques, music, vintage and designer clothing, jewelry, art, pets, shoes, and rugs, and is also the location of some of the most renowned Memphis restaurants and bars.

Taekwondo teachers at Midtown Martial Arts have offered to watch the kids for $5 each on night out evenings from 5-9 p.m. Central BBQ is offering half-price BBQ nachos and beer specials. The Red Room is offering sample hip-hop dance lessons to children and adults from 5:30-6:15 p.m. Both Mothersville and Gents will be administering free massages. Local drummers will perform at Memphis Drum Shop and kids can enjoy a drum circle. Chef Karen Carrier Blockman at Do Sushi has created the Cooper Young Night Out Signature Roll for the occasion. Local musicians will be performing all along the way.

"I believe this will be fun for the whole family. There will be something for everyone," Walker says. "All the business owners are really pumped about this event. Everyone was happy to give discounts and bring musical acts or special authors or artists into their shops to make this night a real draw for the public."

--Shara Clark

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Steven Seagal Joins MPD ... Sort Of

Posted By on Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Professional tough guy Steven Seagal has played police officers in Hollywood films, but his next role with law enforcement might not make it into Variety.

In a meeting of the City Council's public safety committee, police director Larry Godwin said he has met twice with Seagal about doing advertising for the department. "He's committed to doing our commercials," Godwin said. "He gets a million dollars a commercial, but he's agreed to do it free of charge to not only promote the Memphis police department, but Memphis, Tennessee."

Enlisting Hollywood help is only one of the strategies the police department is utilizing to recruit new officers.

Last year, the department struck down its college requirement, which mandated that new recruits have at least some college or military experience to join the department. Since then, Godwin said, about 1,000 people have applied; roughly a fourth of those applicants do not have any college.

The city is also looking at relaxing residency requirements for police officers, offering signing bonuses, and sweetening pension plans.

--Mary Cashiola

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