Race, Rape kits, Redbirds 

Race motivated a Beale vote, the ’Birds get a new look, MPD nears end of rape kit backlog

Race played in Beale vote

Some Memphis City Council members said a company was cheated out of a contract to manage Beale Street because the company's leadership is mainly African American.

Beale Street Tourism Development Authority board members recently voted against hiring local company, 21 Beale Street Inc., to run the street, deciding instead to continue with the Downtown Memphis Commission's management. Council members and some elected state leaders said last Tuesday that 21 Beale did not get the contract because its leaders are black.

"This is plain old, plain old, plain old racism," said council member Joe Brown. "It's simple. This is what this is all about."

Casey Shannon, legal counsel for the authority, said authority members were concerned that 21 Beale had little experience managing multiple leases, like there are with Beale Street tenants, and gave examples of situations that posed "red flags" for the authority.

"I can understand everybody's frustration. But there was not one iota of racism, or prejudice, or discrimination of 21 Beale or any other groups," Shannon said. "It was an African-American member of the board who suggested that we end discussion with [21 Beale]."

More discussion on the topic will come to city hall soon. But some council members seemed to want to remove the Beale board altogether.

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Redbirds Rebrand

The 'Birds have left the bat, but they're still red and, now more than ever, distinctly Memphis.

The Memphis Redbirds unveiled new branding last Wednesday afternoon at AutoZone Park. The logos and imagery emphasize the marriage between the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals and a city world-famous for its music, in particular that which originated on Beale Street.

A new hat and jersey will feature an M anchored by a pair of music notes; a jersey's numbers will be lined as though they were neon-lit. All in the interest of further engaging the local professional baseball franchise with the city it represents.

"We set out to capture the soul of Memphis and do it as authentically as possible," said Redbirds principal owner Peter Freund. "And without losing our connection to the St. Louis Cardinals, which is very important to us."

The new uniforms mark the third such transformation since the Redbirds landed in Memphis for the 1998 season, and easily the most significant style change.

Backlog nearly unclogged

The final, untested rape kits from the city's backlog of more than 12,000 should be sent to labs for review in a few months, Memphis City Council members were told last Tuesday.

Memphis Police Department (MPD) director Michael Rallings said his team is sending an average of 200 untested kits to labs per month. At that rate, said council member Martavius Jones, the remaining 1,000 or so kits should be tested by mid-year.

Council member Worth Morgan asked Rallings if he was satisfied with progress on the project in 2016.

"We went from being a disaster to a model for the nation," Rallings said. "[People] say, 'how did y'all get this done?'"

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