Black history can’t be contained by a calendar month.
In Memphis, it is every day, everywhere. This city is nothing without its Black people and that is perfectly embodied through the living legacy of the Orange Mound neighborhood.
The community was born out of former plantation parcels sold to Black people in the1890s for less than $100 each. These people became property owners not long after a time when they were treated and traded as if they were property themselves.
It is a community built by Black people for Black people. They made their space one where collective vision, faith and care blossomed as a refuge, away from the discrimination and segregation they faced elsewhere. They found power in birthing culture, in autonomy and in each other.
Filmmaker Zaire Love’s family has been rooted in the Orange Mound neighborhood for several generations. She created this short film for MLK50 as a visual poem to honor the Mound’s tradition of self-determination as we celebrate Black History Month.
Watch the film and read along below:
Blackness is the embodiment of self-determination
Making the undesirable something that you desired
Making the inedible something that you found delectable
Making the style said to be ghetto, high fashion
Our rhythms make you feel vibrations in your body
I love the Lord, he heard my cry
Makes you feel God in your soul
High steppin’, beat thumpin’, slow livin’ is the heartbeat of our community
What’s ya favorite color?
Now where you from?
A status symbol for Black folks in its heyday
Where Black folks owned; not rented
Where Black doctors, lawyers and sanitation workers were neighbors
One of the oldest African American communities in America
She’s seen better days
The ‘80s and ‘90s swept through her stripping her of her people and affluence
But… Never her talent. Never her pride. Never her culture.
Athleticism, musicality, innovation, culinary arts, and culture has always remained
We not givin’ up on her
And she ain’t givin’ up on us
One of the oldest African American communities in America.
You are Black history.
Before Rosewood, Greenwood, or Harlem
You stood… in the South, in Memphis
Your name was, is, and will always be
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.