Two images side-by-side. First image: The I-40 bridge is seen through the glass of the Mud Island monorail. Second image: Two Black men stand outside a large brick building. The man on the left is gesturing with his finger pointed upward as he speaks passionately.
Left: The I-40 bridge from the Mud Island monorail station in January 2022. Right: DiArron Morrison and Rev. Dr. Andre Johnson pray outside of 201 Poplar ahead of a resentencing hearing for Pervis Payne, a man who served more than 30 years on Tennessee’s death row. Judge Paula Skahan would rule that the state had not proven that Payne was a violent offender and would be eligible for parole. Photos by Andrea Morales for MLK50
When I think of home, I think of a place where there’s tenacity overflowing…
It’s the heartbeat of the civil rights movement. 
It’s the center of today’s music.
It’s where the first Black built neighborhood in the United States exists. 
Memphis, the place where we ain’t scared to take a risk. 
Memphis. A place where we stamp the phrase “WHOOP THAT TRICK!”
But we mean it out of love.
We’re just oftentimes misunderstood, but you got to know that IT’S ALL GOOD. 
We’re no lemons off the lot though.
Shout out to all our cousins in Chicago, Atlanta and every part of Mississippi. 
Those places are nice, but they ain’t quite like 
Memphis, Memphis, Memphis!!! 
Two images side-by-side. First image: A Black woman and white woman wearing winter coats embrace. Second image: Two people wave as people march down a street.
Left: Valerie Peavy hugs a neighbor after walking out of a Memphis city council meeting in January where Peavy and others who live in the Uptown neighborhood showed up to successfully protest a proposed St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital parking garage. Right: Guests at a wedding pop out of the venue on Cooper Street to cheer on a march in support of Memphis drag performers and LGBTQ+ folks in September. Family-friendly programming around an exhibit celebrating LGBTQ+ history at the Memphis Museum of Science and History was canceled that month after it caught the attention of a few protestors, some of them claiming affiliation with the Proud Boys.  
Here’s my love letter to you.
This is for all the times you got me through.
The tough love you gave me, and the wisdom of how you raised me.
Yeah-Yeah, I’m from Memphis, no Tennessee, baby. 
For those who didn’t get that last line, I’ll explain it one time.
See we’re a blue city in a red state.
Therefore, the outrageous decisions co-signed by Bill Lee, I can’t relate.  
That’s the wave.
Two images side-by-side. First image: Three people follow a horse-drawn carriage down a street. Second image: A truck drives past a worn wooden building.
Left: A covered wagon leads the march through downtown Memphis during the Poor People’s Campaign visit to Memphis in May. They were on a mobilization tour across the country on their way to Washington D.C. for the “Poor and Low-Wage Workers Mass Assembly and March on Washington and to the Polls.” Right: A truck travels northwest on Lamar Avenue toward Memphis. Lamar Avenue serves as a major corridor for ground transportation to and through Memphis. 
But make no mistake, we are here to stay.
You can tell by the weather we stay ready for whatever.
That’s sun, rain, snow, or sleet…all in one week.
You can tell it’s Memphis, mane, by the way we speak.
Aye, Mane. Say, Mane. Ain’t it, mane? Mane…Mane.
Two images side-by-side. First image: A man wearing a winter coat and beanie hat stands in front of tall shrubs holding a sign that reads "I am union." Second image: A Black man wearing a suit and sunglasses unties a length of cord from a street pole.
Left: Beto Sanchez holds a sign while on the picket line outside of the Starbucks store near Poplar Avenue and Highland Street in February. Sanchez was one of the workers known as the “Memphis 7” because they helped start the unionization effort at the location but were then fired. Their jobs were reinstated in October. Right: The rope unveiling a new sign for the stretch of Fourth Street named after Ida B. Wells is unraveled. Wells was the trailblazing journalist who was run out of Memphis for reporting on lynching in the 1890s. 
There’s no mistaking us when we’re out of town. 
When we slide out to a Grizzlies game, you know it’s going down.
Yeah, you hear the chant. 
You Ain’t Mad Iz Ya?
Shout out to La Chat, Three 6 and Mr. Don’t Play Project Pat!
Because we’re gorilla pimpin’ and it’s a gangsta party.
That’s what’s up, YoGotti!
For signing the biggest new artist of this year,
She’s a go-getta. 
Two images side-by-side. First image: A couple seen in partial shadow kiss inside of a building that is under construction. Second image: Three students seen in partial shadow talk inside a classroom. Two people are standing. One person is seated.
Left: Ursula Martin and Jerrell Spencer kiss while hanging out at the corner store they owned together in January. The BL store (BL stands for Black Lives) on Valse Road opened later in the year. Right: At the BRIDGES USA office, Salina Shamsuddin (center), 16, takes notes while talking with Tydre (left) and Milana Kumar, 16, as they work on the Juvenile Justice reform project they have developed as a part of the Youth Justice Action Council.
That speaks to the hustle, grind and mindset of the people that come from Grind City. 
Where the pride is infectious and will run through you faster than a paper-tagged Infinity.
Yeah, it’s Bluff City, but we dodgin’ all the flodgin’
To keep it PAPER ROUTE FRANK (It’s DOLPH!!!)
People around the world put respect on us, regardless.
Two images side-by-side. First image: A white woman is seen in profile. Her hair is in two braids with flowers entwined. Second image: A Black woman wearing a hoodie is looking down at a small black puppy that's tucked inside the coat.
Left: Flowers were braided into the hair of a protestor at the May action in response to the leaked Supreme Court decision that would eliminate protections to reproductive care. Hundreds marched through downtown Memphis over the summer in protests related to the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Right: Latasha Nisby sits outside the hotel she is staying at with her family in November. The family had to seek emergency housing after crime in their neighborhood escalated. 
I’m talking about more than the Memphis you see on Beale Street.
Don’t let the marketing fool you.
It’s deeper than Elvis.
It’s more than barbecue. 
Memphis is the definition of bold, Black and beautiful.
It’s the soul of the people that keeps my city rich. 
We always find a way to stay up while keeping ten toes down.
Not easily broken is the spirit of M-Town.
This is an ode to us.
And most of all…BIG LOVE. 

T’Arrah Mathis writes under the name T’Arrah Marjé. She is a Memphis native who enjoys writing from the heart and capturing an authentic experience through her words. A University of Memphis graduate, Mathis has published two children’s books, “Still a Rose” and “Big Mad!” under her publishing company, Bay Roses Publishing.

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