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Memphis

Sigh. I wanted more. More fun. More great BBQ. More drinks. Just more. It wasn’t giving.

 

I keep hearing that I went to the wrong place for BBQ but I don’t put much faith in that notion. Of course, those from Memphis would say that when you tell them their BBQ sucks.  Sorry Yo Gotti and GloRilla and all Memphians. I barely liked anything about Memphis.  I'll start with the positives though.

The National Civil Rights Museum was a good one. I visit a lot of black history museums across the country. So it was better than Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, MD and the Greenwood Rising Black Wall St. History Center in Tulsa, OK. But, not as good as The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL or The National Museum of African American History in DC. The National Civil Rights Museum is built on as an addition to the Lorraine Motel, which is kinda cool and appropriate.  It's strong point is the Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit, which is towards the end of the tour. They reconstructed the room he stayed in at the Lorraine Motel. Room 306. The iconic picture of Jesse Jackson, Hosea Williams (the grandfather of Porsha Williams formerly of the Real Housewives of Atlanta) and Ralph David Abernathy (he helped to arrange the bus boycott after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat) were pointing from the balcony towards the window across the street after MLK was shot. I had a few tears because Mahalia Jackson's "Take My Hand Precious Lord" was playing in the background. I felt like I went back in time to his funeral.  Little known fact.  Walter and Loree Bailey bought the hotel in 1945.  The hotel was renamed The Lorraine in honor of Loree Bailey and the song "Sweet Lorraine".  Loree Bailey suffered a stroke when she heard the shot that killed MLK and passed on the day of his funeral. Room 306 was never rented again.  

At every museum, I try to hold on to a piece of history that I didn’t have prior knowledge of. This museum spoke a lot about the Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968, in Memphis. The quote ”I Am A Man” was born out of this movement. The strike was based on the mistreatment, neglect and abuse of African American sanitation workers. They worked in horrible conditions with no days off.  Even being killed by malfunctioning equipment with no apology, care or wrongful death compensation from the city of Memphis.  I Am A Man is not some misogynistic phrase. It states the obvious.  African Americans, men and women, are human.  It's very reminiscent of the slogan "Black Lives Matter".  We also visited the rooming house across the street where, on April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray raised a bathroom window, pointed his rifle and shot MLK in the neck on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel before his scheduled speech to the Memphis Sanitation Workers. The bathroom window is still open.  What a great loss of a fearless leader.

We visited Aretha Franklin's childhood home, which is fenced, boarded up and dilapidated. We visited Makeda Cookies (black owned), but not the location where Young Dolph was killed. Their lemon pie was the best I’ve ever had! I was so mad I had to eat it in the parking lot and couldn’t take it home. Their cookies were good too. Their southern hospitality was warm and inviting.  The Withers Collection Museum and Gallery is located on Beale Street.  Ernest Withers was photographer and photojournalist, who captured some of the most poignant images in the 1960s. All in black and white. During the trial of Emmett Till's murderers, he captured the photo of the black man who stood and pointed to identify one of the white men who killed Emmett Till. No cameras were allowed in the courtroom. He was a rebel. He also captured the legendary "I Am A Man" photo at the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike.  His photos are absolutely captivating. We arrived to the Slave Haven too late for a tour but we did walk around the grounds. It was so odd because the Slave Haven is next to and across the street from brand new apartment buildings. We should have gone there before Beale Street, honestly.

The negative. Beale Street was a bust except for The Withers Collection Museum and Gallery . Other than that, it was a dead street. Granted, it was the middle of the day on a weekday. However, I expected some blues music blasting and plentiful cocktail drinking. Nothing was going on. Nothing. We did go to eat a BBQ spot that claimed to be the best in Memphis (not on Beale Street). The food came out and I could have thrown up with the slop they put on my plate. I did taste it. The BBQ spaghetti was disgusting. I'll spare you the graphic picture of it.  The restaurants didn’t serve liquor, only beer  and coolers. We stopped into two other restaurants for drinks and this seemed to be the theme.  No liquor.  Besides the lemon Pie from Makeda’s, I didn’t enjoy any food in Memphis. I left hungry. It was a day trip so we went back to the airport extra early. I don’t have to visit Memphis again.

If you need any suggestions for your future travel plans, please send an email to bagsstaypacked@gmail.com.

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Image by Ryan Spencer