Why Loving Memphis Isn’t Enough (Unless You Do Something to Back It Up)
Ed. Note: This post was written by Kerry Crawford.
On Friday, my friend Shannon sent me an article from Next City called "Loving My City Enough to Fight for It". It's mostly about author Anne Trubeck's adopted home of Cleveland, Ohio, but a lot of her points can (and should) be applied to Memphis.
If you don't have time to read the whole thing, the idea is this: it's not enough to love a city, you have to turn that love into activism for making the city better.
I couldn't agree more.
I'm pretty sure Memphians just started really loving (and accepting) our city in the past five years. There's been a sea change from apologizing for our quirks to celebrating them while simultaneously working to make Memphis a better, stronger, more fun place to live. (See, for example, the entire Grizzlies' 2013 playoff run.)
Memphis is always going to be a little bit weird, and I'm glad we've stopped trying to pretend like that's not the case. It's nice to see us stop yearning to be some other, "better" city.
In the article, Trubeck writes:
"In and of themselves, the projects going on around town are not headline-making or striking. The things aren’t new, such as bars, developments or non-profits. But the ethos surrounding them is. It goes something like this: disinvestment, “this place sucks,” gave way to cheerleading, “this place rocks.” Cheerleading, though, is often passive and at its root, sentimental. It does not incite change. The mood of the day is more modal: “I should help out.”
I'll admit to picking up the pompoms. When this site started, I was in constant spirit girl mode, writing about how great Memphis is and trying to answer every hater on Twitter with some kind of positive comeback. To be honest, it was a little exhausting.
That's changed, though. At some point, we started ignoring the haters. We've stopped trying to meet every negative comment about Memphis with an impassioned speech about how great the city really is. We've stopped reacting to negative attention. We've accepted – finally – that haters are going to hate.
Four years ago, when Memphis was listed on any one of Forbes' lists of crappy places to live, we'd get all up in arms about it, threatening to boycott them, sharing the story (which really, just gave them pageviews) and getting our collective panties in a bunch trying to prove them wrong. Now, when those lists come out, no one notices.
That's because we've got better things to do. We're too busy building the Memphis that we want to live in to be bothered. That's something to be proud of.
Trubeck also makes this very valid point:
"But we have been here before — on the cusp of something interesting and vital — and we have seen it fail. This time, we sense that the stakes are too high, the promises too promising. This time, it cannot fail. So more people, whether individually or institutionally, are helping out those who are trying new things."
One of my favorite things about Memphians is our hustle. Outsiders (and city leaders) may call it "entrepreneurial spirit", but we know what it really is: hustle. It's the drive that leads us to start things, to find solutions, to step up and take care of business without waiting on someone to do it for us or tell us that its' ok.
All over the city, there are good people fighting to make Memphis better. We're working to overcome apathy, lack of resources and negativity. We're starting things. And whether those things are community gardens, silly holidays, non-profits, volunteer opportunites or parties, we're making the city better every time we do.
But we can't stop fighting the good fight. We can pat ourselves on the back for how far we've come, but we're not allowed to stop now. We have to keep going, because no one's going to do it for us.
What will happen if we don't keep going? I don't know. But I'd rather think of all of the incredible things that will happen if we do.