Meet my daughter Yates and her BFF Ciara. In this picture they are dressed up to go Trick or Treat last Halloween. Like most best friends, they spend the night at each other’s houses, they giggle at things this mom doesn’t get, they have cute catch phrases they say simultaneously and they finish each other’s sentences.
They are 9 years old.
As most 9 year olds, they have been taught in school all about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, but they do not understand how his death in the city of Memphis ripped this place apart. Nor should they. They deserve to live in a community that embraces them and all its children.
Instead, they live in a community that created two school systems that represent the best and the worst of those who live in the city and those who live in the county.
Over the last few months, since the Memphis City School board voted to surrender its charter, I have read a lot of the worst side of this community as people comment on Facebook and Twitter. Frankly most of the comments have been downright hateful. The adults in this community have resorted to name calling, race baiting, political maneuvers and lawsuits to “do what’s best for the children.”
Of course, often one’s view of what is best depends on your address in Shelby County.
I am a Memphian.
Born in Methodist Central Hospital. Reared in Central Gardens. Educated first in a small Episcopal school down the street from my house and a graduate of Memphis Central High School.
Although my address today is in Germantown, when people ask where I am from I say Memphis. Not Germantown, not Shelby County, Memphis. And I love Memphis.
My daughter and her best friend attend a Shelby County School. They love their school. It has wonderful teachers, a strong administrative staff, lots of activities and highly involved parents. It’s the kind of school I wish for all students in the community.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a school like ours and they should.
We have an opportunity today to do what is best for all the children by working together for the future. No one has all the answers so set aside your fears and listen.
To those in the county, Memphis is not a scary place to be feared. Crime exists in every metropolitan area, not just Memphis. You are missing out on the cool funky vibe of Memphis and the best and warmest people if you’ve never been inside the loop. There are children there who need your attention and time.
To those in the City, many who live in the suburbs are transplants to this area. When they moved here, they trusted a real estate agent to put them in a nice home with good schools. And like a good real estate agent, they put them in the county because it’s an easy sell. So give them a break, they have never had the opportunity to really know Memphis. Show them why this city is referred to as the City of Good Abode.
There has never been a better opportunity to embrace all our children. Let’s use this time not to tear each other down with hateful words and misplaced assumptions but to get to know one another and find the best in all of us to help our children. Because they don’t know our history, they don’t know state law, and they don’t really care.
They deserve our best. Let’s give it to them.