Power of A Story

Working with the Crossroads to Freedom Project for three summers now, I have learned the value of the an individual’s story.  One summer our motto for the Crossroads to Freedom Project was “Stories of Struggle, Stories of People, Stories of Memphis,” and I still find that statment to be profoundly true when it comes to this year’s focus. This year, I am working with the Cotton Carnival and the Cotton Maker’s Jubilee team to find out the stories behind these two different Carnivals in Memphis.  Going into this project, I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  I knew that the Cotton Carnival was for the whites and the Cotton Maker’s Jubilee was for blacks, but last week, my team had the opportunity to interview two different people who had two totally different perspectives about the carnivals. With only interviewing two people, I have come to realize how important the individual’s story is when it comes to this project.  To some the carnivals were seen as lavish and enjoyable among all people whether white or black and to others, it is seen as a celebration of cotton among the social elites in the city.  And I am sure as we move throughout the rest of the summer, we will find out other perspectives.  I am particularly interested in finding out how these two carnivals shaped segregation in Memphis and what impact it has left on the city and those individuals that lived during the time that the two carnivals were segregated. 

I am particularly interested in the formation of the Cotton Maker’s Jubilee, it has been criticized as still being a celebration of cotton to some people because the name is associated with slavery, but through the research that I have done this summer, I have learned more about Dr. R.Q. Venson’s vision and how it began. During one carnival, he took his nephew to see the Cotton Carnival and when he asked his nephew did he like it he replied no because “all the negroes were horses.”  This inspired Venson to create what was originally called the Cotton Maker’s Fiesta and then it changed to Jubilee in celebration of Negro men and women.  I hope to learn more about how this carnival shaped the black community and how the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King affected both of the carnivals. For now, the cotton team is seeking more stories and constantly learning more about these two events.


Published in: on June 29, 2011 at 10:16 am  Comments Off on Power of A Story  

Cleaborn-Foote Team

Amanda Smith

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crossroads to Freedom/ Dr. Bonefas

Reflection #1

The fieldwork my group has done independently and then with Professor Jamerson has painfully reminded me of the difficulties of community organizing. The dilapidated condition of the Vance Neighborhood warrants the interest that St. Pats and HOPE VI have shown, but what good is that interest or money if the residents of Vance do not care to be involved?

The history of that neighborhood, and of similar neighborhoods in Memphis with housing projects, is one of little community involvement. Outsiders come in and create change, with no input from the residents. This relationship with non profits, churches, and city and federal governments leave the residents with no sense of agency; no control over the future of their community. So how do you inspire residents to get involved? Even with the HOPE VI Evaluation Dr. Jamerson is leading, few community members show up to the Vance Avenue Collaborative Meetings. It is mostly a white, outsider and academic crowd.

So even with a project model constructed around the involvement of residents, the relationship of outsiders with the Vance Neighborhood doesn’t seem to be changing. With such a long history of no agency, how do you convince the residents otherwise?

Published in: on June 29, 2011 at 8:46 am  Comments Off on Cleaborn-Foote Team  

Crossroads Reflection 1

These past few weeks here at Crossroads have flown by and I did not expect that I would have had such a variety of experiences this quickly. We were able to impart our knowledge onto the kids we held a workshop for from Reverend Morton’s camp troop and I was shocked by how easily we were able to connect with them. I also had the privilege to participate in two interviews so far and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed these experiences.

This week I was able to learn about a woman I have known for years on a totally different level. She was open, vibrant and she laid bare her whole life before us. I was privileged to get to know her in this way and Reverend Morton also gave us an interesting perspective. I have gained a new appreciation for Memphis by hearing their histories and I wish I could have gotten the chance to speak to a few more of my family members who have lived here all of their lives. I’m interested to see what else I will discover as a member of the Crossroads team!

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm  Comments Off on Crossroads Reflection 1  

A Wonderful Learning Experience

Since beginning Crossroads to Freedom, I  have learned so much information that to pick just one thing is slightly challenging. Nonetheless, I am to pick something that I have learned and share it with you all. Memphis itself is nothing but a history landmark, so much has taken place here that it might take one a lifetime to fully grasp the scope of everything. My group is a part of the Cotton Carnival Project. Having not been from Memphis, I knew nothing about them, and conversing with my fellow partners, many also knew nothing about this extravagant event. It is hard to believe that back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s this was an event that was celebrated by people who essentially did no work, but from the work of others. It was shocking to understand that this was exclusive only to the rich and people whose name meant something, excluding the people who helped get them to the position they now occupy. Not at anytime where these people recognized for their hard work and labor. However, I am glad that there were individuals who felt that, just as much as you all were able to celebrate money and status, we (African-Americans) can do the same.

The celebration of the Cotton Makers’ Jubilee was slightly different, in that it did not exclude people, but rather welcomed everyone to be a part of something in which the community could enjoy. The division was still clear as the Cotton Carnivals still continued to operate with their exclusivity, but never did Dr. Henson and his wife (the founders of Cotton Markers’ Jubilee) not support the Cotton Carnival or try to make it something that only select individuals attend. It was about coming together and enjoying the company of the people and celebrating achievement and forward progression. It brings me great joy that I have and still am learning so much about Memphis, which at one point in time was a city that I did not think much about and thought it was nothing but crime infested. However, seeing the different areas, talking to various people, understanding time and progression here, I have come to appreciate Memphis and everything that it has to offer the people here, the city and the rest of the world. I could continue about the Sanitation Workers Strike, Martin Luther King, Jr., Beale Street, or even the Record Industry here, but I suppose that is for another time. Overall, I have learned and am learning that history is everywhere, and one must not be afraid to learn about it, because you never know how you will be able to connect with it or be the change that it requires.

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm  Comments Off on A Wonderful Learning Experience  

David Yarbrough

These past three weeks I have learn a huge amount about the Civil Rights movement,
and about the history of Memphis. Before now I had little more than a vague
impression of the Civil Rights Movement left over from middle school Social
Studies classes. I learned about the history and current events of the Highland
Heights neighborhood, an area that I have driven through every day but have
never known anything about.

The most
important realization I have had since I began working at Crossroads is that
things are seldom as black and white as they appear. I thought the conflicts
between the different black leadership groups was fascinating, as was the
dynamic between the Civil Rights leaders and the labor unions. I learned to dig
a little deeper and to tease out the nuances of history.

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm  Comments Off on David Yarbrough