Local parks, not state parks

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Rosalyn R. Nichols

As a Memphian and an African American woman, I do not agree with revising and/or sanitizing history.  In my opinion it is a slippery slope at best.  What happens when other elected officials are in office?  Will they then rename those places and spaces that are controversial to them?

Furthermore, there are clearly other issues that one could say are more pressing than the naming of parks and other public spaces.  I learned about Nathan Bedford Forrest, at least in part, because of the park and the conversation it sparked in my household when I was growing up.

With that being said, however, I am more offended (but not surprised) by the seemingly seditious counter move in Nashville to legislate the authority of our own leaders to make decisions that they deem relevant and important to our city.

As much as I hear of the need for smaller and less government intrusion in local communities, this seems to be a complete slap in the face and counter to all that is espoused by those who hold this position.

Just as Memphis has more that we need to give our attention to it is also true that the state legislature certainly has more pressing matters of legislation to respond to, other than how Memphis chooses to name/rename her historical landmarks.

With that being said, I believe it is bad policy on top of bad policy.  At the end of the day how is the community uplifted by either action and/or reaction?

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Homogenizing history

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Sonia Walker

Number 1
When Jesus called and vetted his disciples for the work of spiritual transformation, he rejected one of his recruits with these words, “Let the dead bury the dead.”  Why is it that when transformational work is required that we use the most vulnerable?  We continue to use children, and their right to a quality education for racial reconciliation. Now we turn to the dead for racial reconciliation.  Really?

Number 2
City Council homogenized our history!  The past is preserved to teach us.  I am adamantly opposed to revisionist history from the hands of anybody or any bodies with the power to shape and reshape our stories!  The deletions and distortions of contributions from African Americans to the building and blooming of our country spurred the need for Black History Month.  Women’s History Month was birthed from the same darkness.  I’m sensitive from double exposure.

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Purpose of a park

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Ore L. Spragin, Jr.

The naming of places in memory of a person’s life is an honored and longstanding tradition. And it is true that this means different things to different people. However, more important than the name of a place is what people do in it, for a place is made sacred or profane by the actions of those who occupy it. A park named “Peace and Love” would mean nothing if the people who visit it are not respectful and loving towards others while they are there, and if that attitude does not overflow and find residence in the community.

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Renaming as recreating

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Carla Meisterman

In the Bible, the naming of people and places expressed hopes, indicated circumstances, offered prophetic vision and divine meaning. Names were important because they were symbolic and revelatory. Changing a name in biblical times meant something significant was happening in a person or a place and that an act of new creation was at play. Changing the names of Forrest Park, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park to indicate where they are located seemed to be an expedient solution to putting the Civil War past in the rear view mirror. But, selecting a name is a big deal. Ask any parent of a new born child. It is hard enough for parents to do and a much more challenging enterprise for a council. So now a committee considers these new names with the possibility for new creation to be at play. My hope would be that if these parks are named once again, that the names, and the explanation of why the names were chosen, would reflect the spirit of our city. Devastated by yellow fever, civil war, racism, and poverty – we have a long history of coming together, working together, and cementing good in the cracks of our brokenness. Maybe the committee will choose new names symbolic of our efforts to be reconciled to one another with compassion and commitment to innovation and equity.

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What would Jesus name it?

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Rick Donlon

The overwhelming majority of Memphians, black and white, identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ, but we routinely reject His teachings on conflict resolution. Instead of turning the other cheek, bearing with one another, and loving our enemies, we resort to raw power wherever we can harness it: in numbers, courtrooms, and legislatures. In doing so, we deepen our divisions and heighten our hostilities.

I fully support changing the identity of Forrest Park. For a large segment of our city, Gen. Forrest represents what we’re most ashamed of in American history: slavery and apartheid.

But not everyone shares that understanding. If we enforce our will because we possess the power to do so, without honest attempts to bear with our neighbors and understand their perspective, we perpetuate the entrenched enmity that is Memphis. This same dynamic is at work in our recent conflicts over school district unification and Cornerstone Prep/Lester.

Jesus’ answer: love one another, submit to one another, serve one another, bear with one another, be willing to be insulted and misunderstood. Use your power not to enforce your will, but to serve everyone, including your enemies.

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Don’t honor traitors

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Randolph Meade Walker

As a historian, I feel very strongly about the council’s action. Thank God the council finally had the nerve to do what should have been done a long time ago. The Dunning school of historians, who served as apologists for the Confederacy’s participation in treasonous activity, rewrote history from its point of view. Many of the parties responsible for the greatest suffering in the nation’s history were presented as heroes. They actually were traitors and the last thing that any true patriot would do is honor these insurrectionists. Indeed, one of the most notorious was Nathan Bedford Forest. Would we think of naming a park in honor of Adolf Hitler? Of course not! Neither should we continue to embarrass the city of good abode with these obnoxious relics of someone’s warped heroic imagination.

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Neutral names are best

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Alex Wellford

When the First and Second Church of our denomination merged a few years ago, we chose not to have an issue about which name to use.  Hence, Third Church of Christ, Scientist.  The name was the least important issue.  The parks are nice amenities with some grand sculptures and monuments. Why have an issue about names that offend a large number of citizens? Neutral names are the better option.

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Thank you, council

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Cliff Bahlinger

Thank you, Memphis City Council. It is time to give thanks and help our city move beyond the horrible mistake that was the Civil War. Slavery was not defensible in any way, shape or form. It is sad that men and women tried to destroy our United States of America over the cause of slavery. I see no need to honor anyone who fought to preserve slavery.

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Our choice, not Nashville’s

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by André Johnson

I am glad our city leaders did not name the park using any combination of the names of Ida B Wells and Nathan Bedford Forrest. To associate Ida B. Wells name with Nathan Bedford Forrest would be wrong. It would hurt the “legacy” of both by improving one and damaging the other. I could not see the supporters of Wells or Forrest wanting any part of that.
However, as we discovered during this vote, state legislators once again have forced Memphis City leaders hands to move hastily. Afraid that two Nashville legislators would have removed the city’s ability to rename parks, city leaders acted quickly in the renaming of the parks. I do believe that despite the “sweet sounding rhetoric” from the governor and other state elected officials, we should expect this type of “governing” this term from our state leaders.

Nevertheless, to the much larger issue — the statue of Forrest — regardless of what we name or call the park. For me, this issue has always been simple. When the Park Commission and other city leaders unveiled the statue in 1905, the people of the city and, indeed, many people of the South, thought that Nathan Bedford Forrest was the epitome of what it meant to be an individual worth honoring. Then, even The Commercial Appeal ran an editorial that celebrated Forrest as a “military genius” and further gushed, “Memphis at last can point with genuine pride to this enduring recognition of the achievements of one of her greatest citizens.”

I am sure that the thousands of people who came to celebrate the unveiling of the statue were pleased and intimated to their children that this was someone you should hope to become. I am sure that the city honored Forrest because, at the time, Memphians saw him as someone to be proud of and someone who was worthy of honor. The question city leaders need to ask themselves now is: Can Memphis now point with ‘genuine pride’ to the achievements of one of her ‘greatest citizens’ in one Nathan Bedford Forrest?” In short: Is Forrest worth celebrating and honoring in 2013 as he apparently was in 1905?

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A vote for Ida B. Wells

February 8, 2013 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Renaming city parks, Spotlight Answers by Fr. Bruce Nieli

I think Ida B. Wells deserves a park named after her.  My maternal great-grandfather, Lewis Bowlus, was an abolitionist who fought here in Tennessee as a Union Major in the Army of the Ohio.  As a contemporary and spiritual soul mate of Ida B. Wells, I feel he would have applauded such a decision by the City of Memphis.

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