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 
Our hymns 
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 
Orange Mound 
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 
Orange Mound. 

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.

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