Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Moved To Tears

I've just returned and I mean just as in last twenty four hours...from wonderful Family reunion in Memphis, Tennesee. Mind you..My family meets from around the country every two years somewhere...I have people in Florida, Texas and California...and of course, Philadelphia.

We had many activities planned...A trip to the Stax Museum where Otis Redding, Issac Hayes, The Staple Singers ,Sam & Dave and so many soul greats recorded their classics in the 60's and early 70's, a pilgramage to Graceland... Yes...I was in Elvis Pressley's house and of course a couple of tours to Beale Street...Our hotel was just four blocks from it....(I can't eat anymore barbecue ribs or pulled pork...it was so good and I was such a pig...More on that on another blog post)

The thing that moved me the most though was when I toured the Civil Rights museum....Which is actually...the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered in 1968...It has been turned into a museum...Let me explain the history of this.

The first hotel on the site was the 16 room Windsor Hotel built on the northern side of the complex around 1925 which was renamed the Marquette Hotel. Walter Bailey purchased it in 1945 and renamed it for his wife Loree and the song Sweet Lorraine. During segregation it was an upscale accommodation that catered to a mostly black clientele. Bailey added a second floor and then drive up access for more rooms on the south side of the complex converting the name from Lorraine Hotel to Lorraine Motel. Its guests included musicians going to Stax Records to record hit records.. including Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and Wilson Pickett.

Following the assassination of Dr. King, Walter Bailey left Room 306 outside of which King was assassinated and the adjoining room 307 unoccupied as a memorial to Dr.King. Bailey's wife Loree Bailey, who suffered a stroke hours after the assassination, died five days later. He converted the other motel rooms to single room occupancy.

Walter Bailey worked with Chuck Scruggs, program director of WDIA and attorney D'Army Bailey, to raise funds to "Save the Lorraine" in the newly formed Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation and bought the motel on the Shelby County Courthouse steps for $144,000 following foreclosure in December 1982.

It changed its name to Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation in 1984. The Lorraine closed as a motel on March 2, 1988 when sheriff's deputies forcibly evicted the last holdout tenant, Jacqueline Smith, in preparation for an $8.8 million overhaul.Walter Bailey died in July 1988.

Smithsonian Institution curator Benjamin Lawless created a design for saving historical aspects. The Nashville, Tennessee firm McKissack and McKissack, which claims to be the oldest minority owned architect firm in the United States, was tapped to design a modern museum on grounds of the motel that were not directly related to the assassination.[1]

The museum was dedicated on July 4, 1991 and officially opened to the public on Sept. 28, 1991.

In 1999 the Foundation acquired the Young and Morrow Building and its associated vacant lot on a hill on the west side of Mulberry. A tunnel was built under the lot connecting it with the motel. The Foundation became the custodian of the police and evidence files associated with the assassination including the rifle and fatal bullet which are on display in a 12,800 sq. foot exhibit in the building which opened Sept. 28, 2002.

The Lorraine Motel had not only guests, but residents as well. The last resident of the motel, Jacqueline Smith, had resided there since 1973 as part of her work for the motel as a housekeeper. When faced with eviction for the museum project, Smith barricaded herself in her room and had to be forcibly evicted.

The neighborhood surrounding the Lorraine Motel was a lower-income, predominantly black area. At the time, the area had run-down homes that rented for $175 a month. The homes were demolished and later replaced with more expensive apartments and condominiums, as part of the rejuvenation of the downtown area.

Smith stated that the Lorraine "should be put to better uses, such as housing, job training, free college, clinic, or other services for the poor...the area surrounding the Lorraine should be rejuvenated and made decent and kept affordable, not gentrified with expensive condominiums that price the people out of their community." She has also stated that Dr. King would not have wanted $9 million spent on a building for him, and would not have wanted Lorraine Motel residents to be evicted.

Smith has maintained a vigil across the street from the Lorraine Motel for up to 21 hours per day for over 20 years, regardless of weather. She still holds vigil outside the Lorraine, although not as consistently as she has in the past.

But all that not withstanding... What moved me to tears was going inside and seeing the photos of the civil rights movement and those who participated...Known and unknown...The photos of buses being blown up ,of Freedom riders being hosed down, having dogs sicked on them, being beat and at times killed...

For the right to vote and for public accomodation and an end to racial segregation and hell, just basic rights of citizenship that had been guarunteed to us close to 100 years before (on paper) but never actually put into motion.

It's a sad sad part of American History that I'm only skimming over here as I write this in the wee hours of the morning...I was moved to tears by all of these people who like I said are known and unknown...who are honored at this museum along with Dr. King...I am just humbled and grateful for their sacrifice...What they did makes what I do here sometimes on this blog...All the more worthwhile and meaningful.


James Perkins said...

Wow Bruh, That is something...Glad you had an enjoyable time!

Yvonne Anderson said...

I've been to it...It is indeed moving!

Jazzy said...

Very,Very informative..I feel you!

Sunflower said...

Wonderful and moving post! Glad you had a good time and got home safely!

Brenda said...

Very, very good read...Very interesting...I didn't know about this place at all..Thanks for sharing!

Samuel Bastion said...

Like Yvonne, I have visited the National Civil Rights museum before and have also been as you say moved to tears...

I enjoyed reading your post and the little extra personal touch you added to it.

Toni said...

You were M.I.A. for a few days Keith...I thought ...This is so unlike you...LOL..Glad you're back!

Angie B. said...

Heyy welcome back...Good Post!

Shanita said...

Hey Big Bro! Great post and I too was moved to tears. Truly, we come from great people who's blood, sweat, tears and efforts have not been in vain! I'm glad you had a fun, safe and interesting/informative trip.

I'm back to blogger world and happy to see you still bloggig!

Consultoria RH said...

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