TRANSLATION: MEMPHIS: Rethinking Memphis 


I have a friend who almost refuses to come to Memphis. A former transplant/resident, she left here in a flurry, convinced that the city would do anything in its power to keep her here.

To vouch for her sanity it did seem to try.

Memphis, for her, came to be something akin to purgatory. She likened it to a living creature.

Memphis was a living organism, insidious in her mind, with its own personal will.

Well, gosh, you’re probably thinking, that’s awfully depressing.

But in actuality, I think it’s kind of interesting.

A large part of said former Memphian’s response to the city was based on her perception that an extreme focus on the past, on the formidable history of the River City, operated to the expense of the future. She just plain grew tired of Elvis, I suppose.

But though I’ve only been here a short three years, I can see that something is changing--something that might have kept a person like my friend from running off so quickly.

There is an undeniable momentum building in Memphis wherein the redefinition of the city is being actively, not passively, pursued.

Take this week’s Memphis Manifesto Summit, in which the “Creative 100” will work to develop a plan by which cities can attract and retain a creative class of young professionals. I find it hard to believe that this meeting would have been in Memphis even three years ago.

But now it seems appropriate. So what has changed?

For one thing, the amount of development going on here is staggering. Everywhere you look there seems to be something new, from the arena downtown to the homes popping up along the riverfront. Not to mention South Main, the Powerhouse, and a slew of other new additions to the socio-cultural landscape.

But I don’t think development explains it all.

What really seems to be changing at an ever-increasing rate is the general attitude of Memphians in terms of perceiving change as possible, and even good and necessary.

Though I’d hate to say it, perhaps our getting the Tyson fight helped us get over our smaller-city inferiority complex. Maybe it whispered the word possibility into our collective ear. And didn’t bite it off--imagine that!

OK, Tyson doesn’t deserve that much credit.

I think it might just be our own creative class, our own young workforce, themselves creating and implementing the vision for the city that will attract new talent and keep it rooted.

And how exciting is that? How urban and progressive?

Whatever the cause, Memphis surely is actively engaged in the process of creating its new identity--a contemporary identity based upon creativity, talent, and local pride.

And I don’t think that this will be to the expense of our rich and varied history.

It’s just time for a new chapter.

Who knows, maybe my friend will even come visit me sometime soon

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