Memphis Flyer 12/16/2021

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JESSE DAVIS Editor SHARA CLARK Managing Editor JACKSON BAKER, BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN Senior Editors TOBY SELLS Associate Editor CHRIS MCCOY Film and TV Editor ALEX GREENE Music Editor SAMUEL X. CICCI, MICHAEL DONAHUE, JON W. SPARKS Staff Writers ABIGAIL MORICI Copy Editor, Calendar Editor LORNA FIELD, RANDY HASPEL, RICHARD MURFF, FRANK MURTAUGH, MEGHAN STUTHARD Contributing Columnists AIMEE STIEGEMEYER, SHARON BROWN Grizzlies Reporters ANDREA FENISE Fashion Editor KENNETH NEILL Founding Publisher

I’m one of the lucky weirdos who is both right-handed and left-eye-dominant. I discovered that fact when I was about 10 years old, and I was allowed to join in the “target practice” in the hills behind my grandparents’ house. When my uncle handed me a light rifle, I took it with my left hand and raised the sight to my left eye. Either my dad or my uncle corrected me, but I responded with something like, “It feels wrong,” and frankly “wrong” isn’t the half of it. It feels downright unnatural for me to shoot right-handed. I’ll never forget my uncle laughing out loud at his bookish, right-handed nephew shooting like a southpaw. I remember my dad shrugging his shoulders with that “What are you gonna do?” expression on his face. I share this story to underline this fact — I was raised around guns. I was never one of the cousins who really got a kick out of shooting, but I don’t think of a gun as some sort of mythic creature that can act of its own accord. I haven’t only seen them in movies and on TV. So I can only hope that you won’t write me off when I share this next story. When I was about 10 years old, I lived with my mother and younger sister off Jackson Avenue in Midtown. We lived in a little gray duplex that, in my memory at least, sat on a small hill. Late one night, my mom had to run an errand. I don’t remember what the errand was. Maybe she just desperately wanted a Pepsi. My mother has a fondness bordering on mania for Pepsi. I’m not sure where we were going, and I’m not sure why she decided to take us with her. It’s likely this was after our house had been broken into, so maybe she felt safer letting us sit in the car while she ran PHOTO: (NULL) (NULL) | DREAMSTIME.COM inside. So she woke me up and stuffed me into a coat and rolled my sleeping sister up in a blanket like a burrito, and, with me in the lead and my mother carrying my sister, we made our way to my mom’s beatup old Toyota. I was sitting up front in the passenger seat and my mother was bent over sliding my sister into the back seat when a man ran up and grabbed her purse. He had a gun, a handgun, and he was pointing it at my mom. She screamed, hands up framing her face like a cartoon character who’s seen a mouse. I was frozen. But the mugger ran off and my mom eventually stopped screaming. This story has a happy ending. We survived, and we lost only a cheap faux-leather purse and its paltry contents. It can happen so quickly. That’s what I’ll never forget, even though in reality, this is something of a non-story. No one was shot; no one was killed or even hurt. Still, people are shot and hurt and killed every day. There’s the thinnest of membranes between a regular day and the worst day of your life. And, unlike with disease or catastrophic storms, this is a problem of our own making. I admit it’s not a problem with only one solution. It’s not even a problem with only one symptom. There are so many kinds of gun violence, and so many causes. It will take effort and expense and coordination to fix. Last week, a 24/7 Wall St. study was published; it cited Memphis as the most dangerous city in the United States. Reports such as that one aren’t helping anyone. Writing off a city — or a community or neighborhood or ZIP code — as N E WS & O P I N I O N inherently dangerous is in itself a kind THE FLY-BY - 4 of violence. It says it’s socially acceptable NY TIMES CROSSWORD - 6 to ignore that problem, to judge or avoid POLITICS - 7 a place and its people. And of course, AT LARGE - 8 legislation like Tennessee’s “permitless FINANCIAL FEATURE - 9 carry” bill, which Governor Bill Lee signed COVER STORY “THE GRIM PARADE” into law earlier this year, isn’t helping BY CHRIS MCCOY - 10 either. We will have to do challenging SHOP LOCAL FEATURE - 15 work, on multiple levels, from different WE RECOMMEND - 16 angles, to have a hope of living in a safer MUSIC - 17 country, state, and city. CALENDAR - 18 There’s no silver bullet. FOOD - 19 FILM - 20 Jesse Davis C LAS S I F I E D S - 22 jesse@memphisflyer.com

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MEMernet Memphis on the internet. GTFO The other Nathan Bedford Forrest statue fell last week in Nashville. Hey hey hey! Goodbye! POSTED TO FACEBOOK BY THE TENNESSEE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

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Work continues to remove Ku Klux Klansman Clifford Davis’ name from the federal building Downtown. The fence around the project (which reads “Restoring Memphis”) was knocked over last week, long enough for @thefilmfriendo to capture it and post it, saying, “Oh delicious irony.”

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LEGAL C H I C K E N? By the Brewery posted this photo of its Tennessee Street chicken biscuit, and we’re not sure it’s even legal. POSTED TO INSTAGRAM BY BY THE BREWERY

MAG I CAL C O N C O U R S E Crosstown Concourse posted video from its holiday lighting ceremony to IG last week and, honestly, it’s magical. POSTED TO INSTAGRAM BY CROSSTOWN CONCOURSE

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Questions, Answers + Attitude Edited by Toby Sells

W E E K T H AT W A S By Flyer staff

Orpheum, Zoo, & the Border Council mulls theater sale, a new splash pad, and Lee sends our troops to Texas (again). R H O D E S P R E S I D E NT Jennifer M. Collins will become Rhodes College’s 21st president. The selection comes after a months-long national search that saw the school consider more than 200 prospects and receive over 100 applications for the position. Collins will begin her tenure on July 1, 2022. She succeeds Marjorie Hass, who departed this summer. Carroll D. Stevens will continue to serve as interim president until next July.

PHOTO: COURTESY MEMPHIS ZOO

UTH S C C HAN C E LLO R Peter F. Buckley, MD, will become the 11th chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). Buckley begins February 1, 2022. Memphis Zoo unveils plans for new Egyptian-themed splash pad. O R P H E U M SALE Memphis City Council members punted sale of the Orpheum overdose deaths in 2020, which was a 45 percent increase from Theatre to its next meeting in two the previous year. weeks. The Orpheum Theatre Group, which operates the building, Z O O S P LAS H PAD told council members it needs to own the building for fundA new splash pad is on the way for the Memphis Zoo in the raising reasons. They are not now able to “raise the capital to spring. keep going unless they actually own the dirt and the building,” The AquiFUR is now under construction in the area that said council chairman Frank Colvett. once housed the zoo’s hippos before they were moved to the If approved, the sale would be for $1 and the building would Zambezi River Hippo Camp in 2016. revert back to the city if the Orpheum closes, goes bankrupt, or Th e splash pad will be an immersive, zero-depth water play in the case of other events that would leave the building empty. area with slides, dump-buckets, interactive water toys, and a special section just for toddlers, according to the zoo. It will TR O O PS TO TH E B O R D E R also feature luxury cabanas and party rooms. Tennessee National Guard troops will, once again, be sent to the Texas border on orders of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. D OWNTOWN G R O C E RY Lee sent 300 troops to the Texas border in early July “in Work continues on South Point Grocery, a new grocery store quelling the most severe border crisis we’ve seen in 20 years.” on South Main, but Covid has pushed the opening schedule This time, Lee is ordering about 50 guard members to the back to early 2022, its owners said. Castle Retail Group, parent border to curb “a surging drug crisis.” But the crisis can wait until the holidays are over, apparently. The troops won’t be sent company of Cash Saver and High Point Grocery stores, will bring the new store to South Main at 136 Webster sometime to the border until early 2022. early next year. For the move, Lee made a connection between border drugs and Tennessee overdose deaths. In the statement, he Visit the News Blog at memphisflyer.com for fuller versions of called fentanyl and methamphetamine the “leading drivers of these stories and more local news. drug overdose.” Lee said Tennessee recorded over 3,000 drug


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Crossword ACROSS 1 The challengers 5 Sailor’s quaff 9 Presidential perk until 1977 14 Speck 15 Roof feature 16 Jibe 17 Roald who wrote “James and the Giant Peach” 18 Sea nymphs, in Greek mythology 20 Like Edward Snowden 22 Tear in two 23 Rank for Jay Landsman on “The Wire”: Abbr. 24 Munch Museum city 25 Gives comfort 27 Generation ___ 29 Had by heart 32 1,000 in a metric ton 33 Certain operating system

35 Check closely 37 Gobble down 39 Muckraker Tarbell 40 An American abroad 44 Like Brutalist architecture 47 Top-notch 48 Utah’s ___ Canyon 50 Annual Austin festival, for short 52 Prince George, to Prince William 53 Like a dog on a walk, usually 55 Haul 57 Tuna type 58 Nonhumanities subjects, for short 60 Immature 63 Vain queen who boasted that she was more beautiful than 18-Across

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43 Base ___ 45 Handle 46 Where a river meets the sea 48 Sit quietly, perhaps 49 Cereal fruit 51 Took gold 53 Gets ready to play hockey, with “up” 54 Train stop

56 Guessing a number an audience member has thought of, e.g. 59 Office note 61 Alexander who wrote “The Dunciad” 62 Besides 64 Norm: Abbr. 65 English novelist McEwan

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DOWN 1 It ebbs and flows 2 Hoodwink 3 Where 63-Across ruled prior to her banishment 4 Locales for many food courts 5 Finish 6 “Go, team!” 7 Finished 8 Big factor in longevity 9 Football field marking 10 Mature 11 Shortening brand 12 Garden dividers 13 Lab work 19 Long, thin mushroom 21 Herd at Yellowstone 26 “She” responds to voice commands 27 Director Van Sant 28 Writer Beattie 30 One end of a maze 31 Moves like a heron

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The Kellogg Co. labor dispute gained national attention last week, especially after Redditors crashed the company hiring site, flooding it with false applications for jobs to replace striking workers. About 1,400 employees at four Kellogg plants — Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis — have been on strike since October 5th. The striking workers say they want equal pay and benefits for new hires. The company said it’s had 19 negotiation sessions with the workers and the union that represents them. The employees with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ (BCTGM) International Union rejected a new five-year contract Tuesday, December 7th. The Kellogg Co. said that the contract would have offered “an accelerated, defined path to legacy wages and benefits for transitional employees, and wage increases and enhanced benefits for all, among other items.” Chris Hood, president of Kellogg North America, said the decision to reject the contract left the company “no choice” but to move forward to operate its business. That includes hiring workers to replace those on strike. “The prolonged work stoppage has left us no choice but to continue executing the next phase of our contingency plan including hiring replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers,” Hood said in a statement issued last Tuesday. “While certainly not the result we had hoped for, we must take the necessary steps to ensure

PHOTO: CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL OF MEMPHIS AND WEST TENNESSEE

Kellogg’s labor strike continues. business continuity. We have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love.” A Facebook post from the Central Labor Council of Memphis and West Tennessee last week said it is willing to continue negotiations with the company in good faith “despite their update to their site.” “We are open to modifying some of our proposals as long as the company is willing to do the same,” reads the post. “Bargaining a sustainable agreement that benefits both company and union is our sole desire and we will stand firm until our goals are met.” After the company announced it would hire replacement workers, a Reddit user said, “We need to make sure this does not work out for them.” Thousands of users from the r/antiwork subreddit applied for jobs on the company website, with no intention of taking them. Instead, Redditor u/BloominFunions said the move was “to clog their toilet of an application pipeline.” The post was flooded with responses of others who said they’d pitch in or derisive sentiments to the situation, like u/Boeings707 who said, “Fuck that company.” Thousands in the r/antiwork subreddit took a victory lap later, claiming the scheme had worked. “Kellogg’s application pages are down,” claimed u/ eesaray in a post.


POLITICS By Jackson Baker

Kudos for Dick Klenz And some welcome holiday tidings on the education front. A poll worker since 1996, he has served as an election judge for the Shelby County Election Commission. One of his longest-standing commitments is with the Germantown Democratic Club, which he has served as an officer for decades, including 14 recent years as president. He has been largely responsible over the years for the healthy turnouts at meetings and activities of the club, which serves as an umbrella organization for Democrats living throughout Shelby County. Dick Klenz has had sadness this year, having lost his wife of 71 years, Marilyn “Mickey” in August. He was reminded, on his 90th birthday last week, of how revered he is, and not just on one side of the political aisle. At the annual holiday party last Friday of the Germantown Democratic Club, Klenz was presented with four elaborate proclamations in his honor, all of them a surprise to the recipient. One came from Speaker Cam-

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eron Sexton of the state House of Representatives and was presented by state Representative Dwayne Thompson; another came from Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and the County Commission and was presented by Commissioner Reginald Milton. Two more were, respectively, from Sheriff Floyd Bonner, who did the honors himself, and from Congressman Steve Cohen, through the good offices of current club president David Cambron. We add our own kudos and best wishes. • Two educationally related items at year’s end, both of which will warm some cockles: (1) The Tennessee Department of Education, the state Achievement School District (ASD), and Shelby County Schools (SCS) have made a joint announcement that four schools previously administered by the ASD — Frayser Achievement Elementary School, Corning Achievement Elementary School, Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary

PHOTO: JACKSON BAKER

Thompson, Cambron, and Klenz School, and Whitney Achievement School — will return to Shelby County Schools following the 2021-22 school year. The shift was welcomed by SCS Superintendent Joris Ray, as well as by state Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), who has made the return of Memphis schools to local administration a major focus over the years. Said Parkinson: “I’ve always said, ‘If school improvement was easy, SCS would’ve already done it.’” (2) Despite the state legislature’s having made a point during the recent special session of authorizing partisan elections for school board seats, the chairs of both Shelby County parties, Democrat Gabby Salinas and Republican Cary Vaughn, have said, at least for the coming year, “Thanks, but no thanks.” For which responses, we say thanks.

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Dick Klenz was honored with four proclamations at the annual holiday party of the Germantown Democratic Club. Klenz became a U.S. postal inspector, serving in locations like Washington, San Francisco, Duluth, and Memphis — choosing to retire in the latter area. He settled in Germantown with his family. Dick, as he is universally called, is president of the Retired Postal Inspectors, both locally and nationally. He served for years with Barnabas Builders, Service Over Self, and Habitat for Humanity, and is on the boards of all three organizations. He is a member of the Racial Reconciliation Council at Christ United Methodist Church and has assisted in projects of the Public Issues Forum and the League of Women Voters.

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n 2005, Cormac McCarthy released a novel called No Country for Old Men, a relentlessly brutal tale of a man who stumbles onto a drug deal gone wrong on the Mexican border and makes off with the loot he finds on a dead man. It doesn’t end well. Almost everybody in the book eventually gets murdered. No one gets a happy ending. The characters in the novel (and the subsequent movie) are driven by greed, revenge, grief, and blood-lust. There is no love story, no kindness, no forgiveness, no hero. Only senseless violence and death. We learned a couple weeks ago that Memphis was no city for Young Dolph, a rising rapper who was assassinated at, of all places, Makeda’s Homemade Cookies. It was reportedly the third attempt on the artist’s life in the last five years. The first two were suspected of being the work of a rival rapper whose name I won’t mention here. But Young Dolph was nothing if not resilient. Following a 2016 attempt on his life in Charlotte, North Carolina, which involved more than 100 shots being fired at his bullet-proof vehicle, he released an album called Bulletproof, which contained such songs as “100 Shots,” “In Charlotte,” “But I’m Bulletproof,” “I’m Everything You Wanna Be,” and “So Fuk’em.” Young Dolph’s response to a murderous attack on his life was to boast about his superiority to his attackers in his music and to gloat about their bad shooting. Let me issue a “trigger warning” of sorts here: I — an old white guy — dug into the lyrics of Bulletproof, seeking to learn more about the art of Young Dolph, a performer who is revered by many hereabouts for his good works in the community. His was a name I’d heard, but I didn’t know his music. Unsurprisingly, I guess, I found Young Dolph’s lyrics revolting. I get that the brutish misogyny, the profanity, the porn-ish sexual swaggering, the celebration of money, drugs, and violence found in Bulletproof’s lyrics is performative. I understand that it’s a genre, a trope; it’s “gangsta” — a celebration of outlaw life similar to Mexican corridos — songs that celebrate cartels, coyotes, and drug-runners. And I get that outlaws have been celebrated in country music and rock-and-roll forever. In “Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash brags that he “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.” But this stuff seems next-level and not a

healthy next-level. The language is disgustingly demeaning to women; it glorifies casual violence, avarice, and death. And it’s depressing to me that so many of America’s young people love this stuff and take it to heart — like whoever shot and killed two high school girls at a gas station drive-by shooting in Memphis recently. Gangsta. But, here’s the thing: This toxic version of humanity is everywhere, and it crosses the country’s ethnic and cultural divides. You want to see another soulless, empty celebration of the cult of death? Look at Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert’s Christmas card tweet, wherein she poses with her young male children, all of whom are gleefully brandishing firearms. Listen to her intentional racism in video clips, read her blindingly stupid tweets. What the actual “fuk” is wrong with her? And with us, a country that contains districts in which a majority of the citizens vote for humans like this asshole?

PHOTO: BOEBERT’S TWITTER

Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Christmas card And how do you explain Ethan Crumbley, the Michigan 14-year-old who took a gun his parents had just bought him and murdered four high-school classmates. I’d venture to say that his folks were not influenced by gangsta rap. They are more likely members of the far-right, white-supremacy death-cult that infests the Trump wing of the Republican Party. White American boys committing mass murder is no longer considered unusual. It’s just another trope. Like gangsta rap. We are a wounded nation. We need to quit glorifying those who appeal to our basest instincts — guns, greed, racism. We need to rediscover the power of kindness and generosity, and do better. Or soon we’ll have no country for anyone.


FINANCE By Gene Gard

Up and Up? The stock market vs. Bitcoin.

speculate others will want to buy more in the future and the price will go up. This leads to a speculative cycle of ups and downs that is exhausting. Bitcoin as an investment is very similar to other “nonproductive” assets like gold, silver, oil, or art. While they might appreciate over time because people either need them or want them, they exist only to be consumed or owned. Supply and demand influences stocks as well, but there is much more going on behind the scenes when you think about investing in a publicly traded company. One way to think about a stock is that it is a black box. To get it started, you have to open up the box and put some money (capital) into it. Then, as long as everything goes well, money starts coming out of the black box — like an ATM — over time. You’re not just getting your money back. Over time, you can take out a large amount of money as

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Is Bitcoin worth the investment?

profit and that initial capital can grow far beyond the amount you put in. The income that flows out of the black box of a publicly traded company is special. It tends to increase over time as productivity, population, and GDP grows. It tends to rise as inflation increases. It benefits from technological advancements. If you diversify into a lot of these different black boxes, they can be a pretty reliable way to make money in the long run, even if sometimes the money slows down or even stops for short periods of time. There might be a lot of demand for Bitcoin in 10 or 20 or even 100 years — or there might not. It’s almost impossible to know whether or not interest will continue or the next big thing will come along and make it obsolete. We can say with much more confidence that there will be interest in 100 years in stocks. Tastes change, but people are likely to always be interested in black boxes that create money! Black boxes of Bitcoin or gold might have more money in them when you open them in the future, but they don’t produce any sort of earnings. There are no guarantees in investing — it’s easy to lose money in the short term. But in the long term, stock prices are not a random squiggle of lines representing a meaningless random process (like Bitcoin). There is an almost gravitational force that has pulled stock prices upwards over our lifetimes, and it’s likely those same forces will continue to pull stock prices up into our retirement years and beyond. Bitcoin, gold, oil, or art might make a lot of money for you, but in our opinion, a diversified portfolio prominently featuring stocks is the most reliable path to a secure financial future. Gene Gard is Chief Investment Officer at Telarray, a Memphis-based wealth management firm that helps families navigate investment, tax, estate, and retirement decisions. Ask him your question at ggard@telarrayadvisors.com or sign up for the next free online seminar on the Events tab at telarrayadvisors.com.

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or many people, the stock market is a big casino. Stocks go up, stocks go down, and there’s no telling when it will happen or why. That’s true to an extent, but unlike truly random processes, there are many forces at work that reliably pull stock markets upwards over time. Bitcoin is an example of a market that does not work like stocks. While some have suggested “fundamental” reasons that crypto assets rise and fall, at the end of the day they go up because more people want to buy them, and they go down when more people want to sell them. Given the nature of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the main reason people want to buy them is because they

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GRIM PARADE

PHOTO: SERGII SVERDIELOV | DREAMSTIME.COM

As gun violence reaches epidemic proportions, Memphians search for answers. COVE R STO RY BY CH RIS M CCOY

F

December 16-22, 2021

all brought a grim parade of violence to Memphis. On September 23rd, 29-year-old Uk Thang was fired from his job as a sushi vendor at the Collierville Kroger. He returned to the store with a gun and shot 14 people, one of whom, a widowed mother of three named Olivia King, died. Thang turned the gun on himself before police arrived. On September 29th, a 13-year-old at Cummings K-8 Optional School shot and injured a classmate in a stairwell. Then, in the early morning of October 3rd, 36-year-old Rainess Holmes and three others broke into a home on North McLean occupied by several students at nearby Rhodes College, looking to steal electronics. When he and Andrew “Drew” Rainer scuffled over an iPad, Holmes shot him in the chest. Rainer 10 died at the scene, and a second person was injured.

Then, on November 17th, Young Dolph, one of the most successful Memphis rappers of the last decade, was in Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies on Airways when two men rolled up in a white Mercedes. Armed with an assault rifle and an automatic handgun, they fired through the store’s front window. Young Dolph was pronounced dead at the scene, leading to an outpouring of grief for the man who had become known in the community for his generosity. No suspects have been arrested. These high-profile stories of gun violence are the tip of the iceberg. In 2019, there were 237 homicides in Memphis. In 2020, there were 327, a 38 percent increase. By early December 2021, 310 Memphians had become victims of homicide, virtually guaranteeing that by year’s end the final toll will be higher than 2020. But killings alone don’t tell the whole story. So far this year, there have been more than 5,000 violent assaults in Memphis. The alarming rise in gun violence is

not purely a Bluff City phenomenon. According to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, the rate of firearms killings in the United States rose 24 percent from 2019 to 2020. Mass shootings rose from 417 to 611 over the same period. Curiously, this rise in violence comes at a time when all other crimes are trending downward. Property crimes like larceny and burglary are at their lowest rates since the mid-1960s. “We’re seeing cities across the country that had a bad year in 2020, a very violent year,” says County Commissioner Mick Wright. “But it seems to be continuing here in Memphis, and that’s very concerning. I think it should be concerning to all elected officials, as well as everyone who lives here in Shelby County. We see it on the news every day. I think people are certainly tired of the shooting and looking for answers.”

WHAT’S GOING ON?

There are a lot of guns in America. In 2017, the Small Arms Survey found that there were about 393 million firearms

in the United States — 122 guns for every 100 Americans. A 2020 survey by the RAND Corporation found that Tennessee ranked 14th in the nation in terms of gun ownership, with 51.6 percent of adults saying they had a gun in the home. The two states bordering the Memphis metro, Mississippi and Arkansas, ranked seventh and sixth, respectively, with 55.8 percent and 57.2 percent of households owning a firearm. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, there is a strong correlation between the number of guns in a state and the state’s gun death rate. Alaska, the state with the highest gun death rate, has the third-highest rate of gun ownership. Tennessee’s gun death ranking is 12, two positions higher than our ownership ranking. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, tied with New Jersey for the lowest gun ownership rate, is also the state with the lowest rate of gun deaths. “Gun crime is top of mind everywhere we go,” Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich told a Rotary Club audience on November 30th.


PHOTO: COURTESY ERIKA KELLEY

Erika Kelley and Pastor Brian Kelley

PHOTO: COURTESY ERIKA KELLEY

PHOTO: COURTESY CHARLIE CASWELL JR.

Erika Kelley

Charlie Caswell Jr.

BEYOND STATISTICS

Michael LaRosa, associate professor of history at Rhodes College, says the murder of Drew Rainer “has had a real chilling effect on the campus, and on that neighborhood, and on the whole city life, I think, because of how visceral it was. I’ve been working at Rhodes for 27 years. I’ve never seen anything like this. … The students are afraid, you know? They’re not afraid in the sense that they’re not going out or staying in their rooms barricaded. But they’re worried about their own personal security in what is really a very safe neighborhood.” LaRosa does not hesitate to blame the proliferation of guns, thanks to what he calls an “antediluvian” attitude of Tennessee state lawmakers. “Everybody has a gun and that affects the way we interact with one another on the street, and it obviously affects the way the police do their job,” he says. “That’s why we had seven murders [in Memphis] this weekend.” For Erika Kelley, gun violence is a personal issue. On March 18, 2016, she was preparing for her father’s wake. “The day before I buried my father, I got a call

PHOTO: COURTESY ERIKA KELLEY

Dontae Bernard Johnson

that my son, Dontae Bernard Johnson, had been found dead in a parking lot. We later found out he was robbed, shot, and killed due to senseless gun violence. This happened in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. At the time, he was 23 years old. In my last conversation with him, as he was preparing to come home for my father’s funeral, he shared with me that he and his high school sweetheart at the time were expecting their first child. He was so excited about that. My granddaughter is now 5 years old. He never got a chance to meet her.” Soon afterward, a friend who had also lost her son to gun violence reached out to invite Kelley to a meeting of Moms Demand Action (MDA), a grassroots group founded in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. She is now the local group leader for the Memphis chapter. Kelley and her group spent the last year lobbying against the “constitutional carry” law. “We have been back and forth to Nashville, going to the governor’s office, talking to him, trying to stop them from passing that law. There’s already enough gun violence. Constitutional carry is just asking for more. And as you can see, that’s what’s been going on.” Ultimately, the group’s meetings with lawmakers were fruitless. “They would listen to us and say, ‘Well, we hear you.’ But obviously, that’s all they did because you see that law they passed. … We were with the chief of police and different local community leaders here in our city … The sheriff, he shared in a town hall meeting a couple of weeks ago that he drove all the way up there and met with the governor for five minutes. Basically, they didn’t care. They were already going to do what they want to do.” Last June, Governor Bill Lee, who made permitless carry a top priority, called the law “long overdue.” He made the remarks during a ceremonial bill signing at the Beretta USA gun factory in Gallatin.

SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS

Charlie Caswell Jr., executive director of Frayser’s Legacy of Legends CDC, is on the front lines of the fight against gun violence. Growing up in the Dixie Homes public housing projects, Caswell was no stranger to violence. “At 14 and 15 years old, both years, I witnessed my friends being murdered in front of me. It had a traumatic impact on my life that led to me acting out with anger over the years. That led me to want to reduce and mitigate that in the lives of other children.” At the core of Caswell’s program is the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) continued on page 13

COVER STORY m e m p h i s f l y e r. c o m

And yet, the Tennessee Legislature is dead set on relaxing gun laws. In 2014, they passed a bill making it legal to store any firearm, loaded or unloaded, in a motor vehicle, as long as it is kept from “ordinary observation.” Weirich called the law a “contributing factor” in the escalation of gun violence. “Back in 2010, we had less than 300 guns stolen from cars,” she said, referring the audience to a chart her office produced. “You can see as of October 12, 2021, we’ve had 1,286.” Weirich advocates for several measures that would streamline the process for the 150,000-200,000 criminal cases that pass through her offices every year, allowing prosecutors to focus on getting violent offenders off the street. She said the permitless carry law that went into effect on July 1st is a step in the wrong direction. “It takes away the ability of law enforcement to come up and ask to see your permit, if you are openly carrying in a restaurant or walking down the street or going into Home Depot. And that is an issue for law enforcement and will continue to be an issue. You know, there’s a lot of talk about penalizing and criminalizing car owners that don’t lock their gun up in their car safely, and that type of thing. My philosophy is always let’s punish the people that are stealing the guns to wreak havoc in our community, and let’s be serious about that. But I don’t know of any common sense legislation that’s floating around.”

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December 16-22, 2021

continued from page 11

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questionnaire, which is administered to determine if people have experienced violence, abuse, or neglect; have seen a family member die by suicide; or are growing up in a household with substance abuse, mental health problems, or chronic instability due to parental separation or incarceration. About 61 percent of adults who take the test have experienced at least one ACE, and one in six say they have experienced four or more. ACEs disrupt the development of young brains. High scores on the ACE test are predictive of chronic disease, depression, and violent behavior. “Trauma comes in different capacities. It doesn’t have a color to it, or a gender, or a socioeconomic capacity. It happens. ACE tests that show physical abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, and household dysfunction before their 18th birthday, if you have four or more, you are 1,200 times more likely to attempt suicide, and 40 to 50 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol.” Caswell says that thousands of people in the predominantly Black neighborhoods of Frayser and South Memphis are caught in a cycle of poverty, neglect, and violence. “When these children and families are referred to us, we basically sit down with them to assess the trauma that they have experienced in their lives, and then we assess their resilience. We begin to focus on their strengths, which many of them, because of the trauma, have never really paid attention to. … What we recognize through this work, is that many of them have generational trauma. Some of the things that these young men and young women are going through, when we sit down and talk to the parents, the parents went through the same thing.” Christina Gann is the program director for in-home services for Youth Villages, a Memphis-based nonprofit. “We work with a wide array of young people who are at-risk, and I see a lot who have juvenile justice involvement,” she says. Gann and her Youth Villages colleagues say they have seen a change in the populations they serve. “I think one thing that did not help was the pandemic,” Gann says. “Kids are back in school this year, which has helped tremendously, but I think that that also made things more challenging for families, and then also for the kids. We saw an increase in a lot of different behaviors. But something else that we’ve experienced is, there’s a lot of exposure to trauma, whether it’s direct or indirect. There’s so much violence in the communities our families live in, and those kids are experiencing the effects of being exposed to that trauma, whether it’s defiance or their concern for their safety.

So they feel like they need to get a gun to protect themselves.” Caswell believes the social upheaval of the pandemic exacerbated his community’s existing problems — but he is quick to point out that his services have been in demand not just in Frayser, but all over the city, and a recent trip to the predominately white, rural community of Crossville, Tennessee, revealed the same problems of poverty, drug addiction, and generational trauma. “I say, there was an epidemic before the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control, the same people who told us to wash our hands, stay six feet apart, and kept us in quarantine, were the same people who came out with the research in 1995 on the impact of trauma. When you take the people who are dealing with dysfunction, and you keep them in the house all year — they didn’t go to school, they didn’t go to work, they stayed in with the same family — all that trauma and negativity, just like a volcano, it then erupted. What we’re seeing is an eruption of what was already building up and was not being addressed, before we left them in that mess.”

“IT’S NOT A MYSTERY”

On the streets, the grim parade continues. Friday, December 3rd, three teenagers and a nine-month-old baby were ambushed while sitting in their car at a Marathon gas station on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Breunna Woods, a 16-yearold cheerleader, and Phillexus Buchanan, a 15-year-old student at Hamilton High School, were killed, while another 16-yearold and the baby were wounded. Twentytwo people under the age of 17 have been murdered in Memphis so far this year. Kat McRitchie, a longtime MDA activist, believes a public health approach is the only way forward. “It’s not a mystery, what causes gun violence. It’s a question of whether or not we have the political will and are willing to commit the resources to preventive measures that don’t always campaign well. They take lots of work, lots of coordination of multiple offices at various levels of government, nonprofit, healthcare, and education. It’s hard work, and sometimes, it’s expensive work. But in similar cities like St. Louis, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, we have seen success when they treat gun violence like a public health epidemic and treat it strategically and take prevention very seriously. In Memphis, we’re used to taking a lot of problems for granted and accepting them as things we just have to respond to because they’re a given. Gun violence, like many other problems facing our city, can be prevented. It does not have to be this way. And if we, as a community will come together, it won’t be this way.”


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Wrap It Up

CHRISTMAS SALE

December 16-22, 2021

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Celebrate the holidays with Afternoon Tea at 17 Berkshire. Reservations can be made online. For more information, please call: (901) 729-7916 • 17berkshire.com 2094 Trimble Place - Overton Square


Graphix II Height Adjustable Work Station Angled 42” x 30” top. Height adjustment: 30.5” -- 38.75” Split surface for versatility. Heavy gauge steel construction. Retail $329.99 SALE $209.00

SUBURBS This holiday season, we’re asking readers to support local and consider these and others for their gift-giving needs.

Black Crest Drafting Chair

Full height is 39.5” Seat to floor adjusts from 25” -- 30” Thick contoured back and seat for comfort. Black and chrome footrest included. Retail $219.99 SALE $129.00

More Than Words Jewelry, home decor, ceramics, lounge wear, 901-themed art, and so much more — there’s something for everyone here. The shop’s Spirit of Memphis collection features postcards, shot glasses, mugs, and magnets. Or add some fun to your holiday gathering with this deck of playing cards ($9.95). Visit More Than Words at 2135 Merchant’s Row #4 in Germantown or morethanwords.com.

Mabef Lyre Easel

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Grivet Outdoors For outdoor enthusiasts or athletic types — from sunglasses to sports watches, footwear to hiking gear, find practical items your giftee will actually use. This Amphipod Unisex Profile-Lite High Five-K belt ($40) can hold a phone or other small essentials in its zip pocket, and an insulated thermal sleeve keeps water bottles cool on the go. Visit Grivet Outdoors at 9067 Poplar, Suite 101, in Germantown (or the Cooper-Young or Olive Branch locations) or grivetoutdoors.com. Sheffield Antiques Mall With more than 72,000 square feet of antiques, collectibles, furniture, vintage clothing, lighting, and more — from more than 360 dealers — you’re sure to find one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones here. To add to the fun, shoppers will enjoy treasure hunting in this space “where the past meets the present.” Visit Sheffield Antiques Mall at 684 West Poplar in Collierville or sheffield-antiques.com.

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Live music at

New Year’s Eve

steppin’ out (& stayin’ in)

We Recommend: Culture, News + Reviews

Feliz Navidad

By Abigail Morici

If anyone has a good holiday playlist, it’s going to be Opera Memphis. They know how to do Christmas carols, trust me. When asked for her favorite carol, Kerriann Otaño, Opera Memphis’ marketing and public relations manager, answers, “I would say ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ has really taken on a special meaning in the past couple of years.” Meanwhile, Bethania Baray, director of education and civic programs, claims “Mi Burrito Sabanero” as her favorite holiday tune, a Latin American song about traveling on a donkey to Bethlehem to see baby Jesus. Both songs have a common thread — that of searching for a place of belonging. PHOTO: COURTESY OPERA MEMPHIS Following that theme, Opera Memphis and Cazateatro Bilingual Theater Opera Memphis carolers Group are hosting a Christmas Fiesta at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens. The event holds a dual purpose: to educate and to welcome. “The goal is for the Spanish-speaking community to see their community represented and feel at home,” Baray says. “It’ll be a full celebration of all Latin American Christmas traditions.” Opera Memphis will sing carols in both English and Spanish, and in a special performance, Carlos Romero will sing traditional Mexican carols while other performers will sing Venezuelan, Brazilian, and Puerto Rican tunes. “There’s going to be a lot of Latin music,” Baray says. “And a lot of Latin food. Cazateatro has been in charge of all of the vendors. There’s going to be a plethora of things. Lots of artisans, crafts. “We also have a scavenger hunt around the garden for kids to be a part of,” Baray continues. Plus, she adds, Cazateatro has arranged for the Three Magi Kings to join in the festivities and to hand out a surprise present to each child in attendance. The two groups have also put together a panel discussion for guests to learn more about the traditions in Latin America and the Caribbean. Otaño says, “It’s just a fun opportunity for these two organizations that are so community-minded to get involved and reach new audiences and share in such an exciting time of year.” In Otaño and Baray’s point of view, every tradition is worth sharing in, from piñatas and poinsettias to parrandas and posadas. CHRISTMAS FIESTA, DIXON GALLERY & GARDENS, 4339 PARK, SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18, 11 A.M.-3 P.M., FREE.

december 18th - 8:00pm

December 16-22, 2021

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8 Ball and MJG

railgarten.com

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2 1 6 6 C e n t r a l Av e . Memphis TN 38104

VARIOUS DAYS & TIMES December 16th - 22nd Ballet Memphis’ Nutcracker Orpheum Theatre, 203 S. Main, Fri.-Sun., Dec. 17-19, various times, $13-$17 Grand jete into the Christmas spirit with Ballet Memphis’ Nutcracker. Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the Mouse King have returned to the Orpheum stage. As ballerinas and ballerinos dance upon the stage in their festive costumes, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra will delight audiences with Tchaikovsky’s score that you know and love. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 901-525-3000. Friday’s and Saturday’s performances will be at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Barnes Family Holiday Show Crosstown Theater, 1350 Concourse, Sat., Dec. 18, 7:30-9 p.m., $20-$30 After a five-year hiatus, the Barnes Family will reunite on stage at Crosstown Theater. Although the Barnes Family got their start in gospel music, this concert will be a melting pot of old and new as they share their favorite Christmas carols. Holiday Action Double Feature: Die Hard and Batman Returns Black Lodge, 405 N. Cleveland, Wed. Dec. 22, 7 p.m., free You’ve probably debated whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. But what about Batman Returns? Find out what you really think as Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza and Batman takes on Catwoman and Penguin in a snowy Gotham City in this double feature.

Holiday Wonders at the Garden Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry, through Thurs., Dec. 23, $8-$20 This unique and expansive outdoor holiday experience is a delight for all ages to experience the magic of the season. Enjoy signature cocktails, hot chocolate, and apple cider; visit the festive, sparkling attractions the garden has to offer; and be on the lookout for themed days. Friday, December 17, guests should wear the ugliest holiday sweater hanging in their closet for Ugly Sweater Night. Sunday, December 19, John Angotti will perform some holiday favorites to get you in the spirit. Wednesday, December 22, guests are encouraged to wear their best jammies for Jingle Jammies. Both advance and same-day tickets should be purchased via Ticketmaster online.


MUSIC By Alex Greene

Tim’s Battle of the Bands

PHOTO: JESSE BUTCHER

Tim Prudhomme Forcing players to grapple with unfamiliar bandmates and material is the kind of aesthetic experiment that’s perfectly suited to Crosstown Arts’ residency program, which gives artists in various media an opportunity to stretch out beyond their usual creative practices. But after Prudhomme was accepted into the program, things went awry. “I came up with that idea two years ago, before there was such a thing as Covid,” he explains. “I was supposed to do it last fall, but they canceled that. This spring, it looked like things were getting better, and they decided to resume the residencies this fall. Then the Delta variant came up, and I realized, ‘This is ridiculous.’ Because cramming people into a 12-by-14 room for a few hours — it’s just not the time in history to do that. I don’t want anyone to die for my art, or even get sick. I don’t want anyone to get so much as a head cold from playing music with me.” In the end, he did end up assembling a band of players who’d never worked together, through sheer happenstance. Dustin

Reynolds, who’s drummed with the likes of Jack Oblivian and Marcella Simien, reached out to Prudhomme, wanting to collaborate, and guitarist Keith Cooper (The Sheiks, the Tennessee Screamers, Model Zero) did the same soon after. When bass player Andrew Geraci was recruited, Prudhomme found himself with four players approaching the material and each other for the first time. The songs they’ve been recording at “Grandma’s House,” one of two buildings reserved for Crosstown Arts music residents, complete with soundproofed tracking rooms, have been on the upbeat side. As Prudhomme notes, “When I first talked to Dustin, he said, ‘I’m really sick of playing all this Americana crap.’ So I thought, ‘Hmm, he doesn’t really know my music, does he?’ [laughs] So I picked songs that were more upbeat, and not Americana. Although a lot of them really are. I cannot deny my Americana-isms. I’m a traditionalist.” Prudhomme had a new band, but as plans coalesced for staging a show at The Green Room on December 15th, he had even more would-be collaborators knocking on his door, including longtime associate and friend Steve Shelley, best known as Sonic Youth’s drummer. Prudhomme and Shelley produce the WYXR radio program The New Untitled Show, and the two can often be heard playing impromptu gigs whenever Shelley visits Memphis. “I told him about the residency two years ago, and he said, ‘I’d love to come down and help out with it,’” Prudhomme says. “But I didn’t want to tell these guys I’d been working with for the past three months, ‘Sorry, I’ve got Steve Shelley coming — Dustin, you’ll just have to step aside.’ So, since I have played with Steve before, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll have a second band at The Green Room.’ This won’t be the band of strangers, but more of a family band. I also called up Tripp Lamkins, who’s played with Steve and myself.” The “family band” will emphasize moodier material. “Steve really likes morose tunes. And, because the past year was so depressing, most of the new songs I’ve written have been awfully depressing,” Prudhomme notes. In the end, the performance this Wednesday will resemble nothing so much as a kind of musical showdown. “Yeah, it’s a battle of the bands,” he explains. “And I’m playing in both of them. So it’s all about me! I’m anxious to see who wins: my rock side or my melancholy side.”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

F

ile it under, “It sounded like a good idea at the time.” When Tim Prudhomme, known for music he’s made with a series of one-word bands like Fuck, Staff, and Boink!, applied for a Crosstown Arts music residency two years ago, he had a novel concept. “My original idea was to find people who had never played together and give them one of my songs,” he explains. “I would play it for them and have them work up a version. I would be more in the producer chair, they would come up with whatever they would come up with, and I’d record it. And then I’d bring in another group of people, same song. I was thinking I’d do it seven to nine times at least, maybe more.”

m e m p h i s f l y e r. c o m

Crosstown’s resident muso brings far-flung friends to The Green Room.

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CALENDAR of EVENTS:

December 16 - 22

ART AN D S P EC IAL E X H I B I TS

“Everything That Rises”

Photography by Jenn Brandt. Gallery visits available by appointment, Tuesdays-Saturdays. Through Dec. 29. OFF THE WALLS ARTS

“FADED”

ART HAPPE N I NGS

A Holiday Juke Joint

“Meditations and Microcosms” Reception

HATTILOO THEATRE

DAVID LUSK GALLERY

Pieces by Jimmy Crosthwait, complementing The Little Shop of Horrors. Through Dec. 29.

A story of first-generation immigrants from all different parts of the world, crammed together in tenements and hustling every day. $5. Thursday, Dec. 16, 7:309:30 p.m.

PLAYHOUSE ON THE SQUARE

CROSSTOWN THEATER

“Tight Register, Loose Change”

H O LI DAY EV E N TS

TOPS GALLERY

A River City Flutes Drag Christmas

Victorian Yuletide

Enjoy lovely decorations and old Southern Yuletide customs from a bygone era. Through Jan. 9.

Hamilton

The story of Alexander Hamilton. Tuesday, Dec. 21-Jan. 2. ORPHEUM THEATRE

OTHERLANDS COFFEE BAR

F I LM

Exhibition of work by Kara Hamilton. Through Dec. 31.

A montage of dance, singing, music, and acting. Through Dec. 19.

Photography by Fields Flacone, Murray Riss, and Eric Swartz. Wine and hors d’oeuvres on the patio. Thursday, Dec. 16, 4-7 p.m.

Exhibition of paintings by Jared Small. Through Dec. 23.

“Fearsome Flora and Graveyard Flowers”

Send the date, time, place, cost, info, phone number, a brief description, and photos — two weeks in advance — to calendar@memphisflyer.com. DUE TO SPACE LIMITATIONS, ONGOING WEEKLY EVENTS WILL APPEAR IN THE FLYER’S ONLINE CALENDAR ONLY. FOR COMPREHENSIVE EVENTS LISTING, VISIT EVENTS.MEMPHISFLYER.COM/CAL.

Little Shop of Horrors

When a man-eating plant lands in your flower shop, what do you do? Through Dec. 22.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Come for flute music, stay for a drag show! Monday, Dec. 20, 7 p.m. LAMPLIGHTER LOUNGE

WOODRUFF-FONTAINE HOUSE MUSEUM

ORPHEUM THEATRE

The Toymaker’s Apprentice

A holiday show. Through Dec. 22. CIRCUIT PLAYHOUSE

To All A Good Night: A Holiday Cabaret

Honor the songs and talents of Black artists. Through Dec. 22. CIRCUIT PLAYHOUSE

Playhouse on the Square’s production of Little Shop of Horrors will have its last performance this week.

Porter-Leath Toy Truck

Drop off new, unwrapped toys for children, ages birth to age 5. Saturday, Dec. 18, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 19, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. IKEA

T H EAT E R

A Christmas Carol

The journey of Ebenezer Scrooge. Through Dec. 23. THEATRE MEMPHIS

Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory”

A fun and festive mix of a reading of Capote’s “Christmas Memory.” Friday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m. TENNESSEE SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Bene�iting Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital

Nov. 20 - Dec. 31

December 16-22, 2021

WWW.MOSHMEMPHIS.COM

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Holiday Movies & Planetarium Shows Get your photo made with Santa.


FOOD By Michael Donahue

I

nstead of hearts, flowers, and birds, the logo for Allie Trotter’s bakery is a skeleton in a black hood carrying a whisk. “It’s kind of a play on the grim reaper,” says Trotter, owner of Whisks of Doom. “I’m not a nice and floral person like a lot of bakeries are … very sweet and gentle. I wanted to make a brand that was more me. I’m very into metal music and tattoo culture.” Her pies, which she sells online and at pop-ups, come in black boxes. “People love it. It’s definitely something different. It’s kind of like the same reaction people have to Halloween. They love creepy stuff. I love the heavy metal vibe. That’s what I’m going for.”

PHOTO: COURTESY ALLIE TROTTER

Allie Trotter as Frankie LaFemme; Whisks of Doom pie Trotter is also a professional burlesque dancer known as Frankie LaFemme. And she’s the assistant taproom manager at Wiseacre Brewing Co. on Broad. “Three Bs rule my life,” she says. “Beer, burlesque, and baking.” The bakery idea began about five years ago when Trotter, a native Memphian, entered a pie contest while living in Albuquerque. “There’s a town in New Mexico called Pie Town, and the only things there are four or five different pie shops. They have a big pie-baking contest and pie-eating contest.” Trotter won first place. “I was like, ‘Holy cow!’ That pie was a sweet potato pie with coconut pecan streusel, which is something like my mom makes every year for Thanksgiving. “I think after winning that award it was a nice affirmation: ‘Oh, you’re talented at

this. You should pursue it a little bit more.’” Trotter, who’d been in the brewery and beer business for six or seven years, decided to do bakery pop-ups at different breweries. Her bakery, still “a work in progress,” features a limited menu from her 50 flavors of hand pies and slices at Whisks of Doom on Instagram and Facebook. “It’s usually all social-media based now. People order some pies, and I’ll either deliver them or give them a pick-up location.” Trotter also does bakery pop-ups at least once a month. Red Chili Chocolate, a red chili chocolate ganache pie, is the most popular. “That’s from living in New Mexico. They put green and red chilis in everything. A lot of chocolate things have a little spice and kick. I don’t like things that are over-cloyingly sweet. It’s nice to have a little kick.” She also makes savory pies. “My friend in New Mexico came up with a flavor, but I love making it. It’s a red Thai curry chicken pot pie.” Trotter began her burlesque career about 10 years ago. “I would go to Memphis Belles shows, and I was just entranced by it. A young 20-year-old, it was really nice and exciting for me to see different bodies being displayed in such a nice and affirmative way,” she says. “I’ve always loved the vintage culture. It was something I’d never seen before. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I want to do this. I want to have all the confidence these girls do.’ It just woke me up.” Trotter, who began putting on her own shows at the Hi Tone, is more of a “solo performer,” but she also performs in Memphis Burlesque Productions and with Velvetina Taylor. “As Frankie LaFemme,” Trotter says, “I have a big 1940s platinum blonde wig. I have different vintage showgirl outfits. Lots of feathers, rhinestones, and big feather fans. All the beads, the sparkle.” Trotter, who describes her act as “vintage striptease,” says, “ I love long gloves and big ostrich fans. Like a blast from the past. Then we also do a lot of theme shows. Like we used to do a heavy metal burlesque show and sci-fi theme show. It’s really a very open world. It’s fun to do a different character and transform.” She says baking and burlesque is “a crazy balance.” Trotter hopes to go the brick-andmortar route with her bakery business. “I definitely hope I can own a little bakery in the future. That’s kind of the goal.”

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FILM By Chris McCoy

American Dream Steven Spielberg triumphs with a rapturous reimagining of West Side Story.

O

ver and over again in Steven Spielberg’s stunning adaptation of West Side Story, people face off against each other from the opposing sides of the screen. The Sharks and the Jets do it, as you would expect from theater’s dancing-est street gangs. Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler) do it, first underneath the bleachers at the high school dance, then in the church where they declare their love. And the men and women of New York’s Upper West Side Puerto Rican immigrant community do it as they sing about “America.” West Side Story is about the contradictions at the heart of the American experiment. Yes, we’re all created equal and, since we have the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we are free to love whom we want. But, as lyricist Stephen Sondheim put it, “Life is all right in America/If you’re all white in America.” Sondheim, who passed away at age 91 just days before Spielberg’s film was released, was the newcomer in 1957 when he co-created West Side Story with composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins. It was Robbins’ idea to set Romeo and Juliet in what was then

the poor neighborhood on Manhattan island and transform Shakespeare’s feuding “two households, both alike in dignity” into the Jets and Sharks, two groups of poor New Yorkers separated mostly by the timing of their ancestors’ immigration to America. Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s adaptation, makes this explicit when he has police Lieutenant Schrank (Corey Stoll) call out the Jets as the last white people who can’t make it in America. Most of the onus of updating West Side Story for a 21st century America falls on Kushner as the screenwriter, and the Angels in America scribe succeeds beyond all expectations. This film is not a remake of the 1961 Best Picture Oscar winner; it’s an adaptation of the original play. The order of the songs reflect the play, which makes a lot more sense, plot-wise. The difference with the Robert Wise/Jerome Robbins version begins immediately. The camera pans across an urban wasteland of demolished buildings until it lands on a sign announcing the upcoming construction

Ariana DeBose, Hamilton alum, stuns audiences as Anita, even as she plays opposite Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for playing the Shark girl in 1961. of Lincoln Center. The little square of turf the Sharks and Jets fight and die to control is doomed from the start. Later, in the Gimbels department store where Maria works as a cleaner (another Kushner addition), one of her co-workers expresses the hope that they will be able to stay in the neighborhood and live in a nice, new apartment. Another maid shoots her down — those apartments will be for rich people and we’ll have to move. Spielberg has never made a musical before, although he has dabbled, such as the opening “Anything Goes” number in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I figured he would

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FILM By Chris McCoy do a good job, but I didn’t think his first foray into the genre would be a perfect film. His staging and camera moves are on another level from everyone else working today. The dance at the school gym where Tony and Maria meet rivals the kinetic action sequences of Mad Max: Fury Road. There’s not a sour note in the acting. Rachel Zegler is a first-time film actor who was one of 30,000 people who auditioned in an open casting call; her last role was as Maria in a community theater production of West Side Story in Englewood, New Jersey. She is absolutely radiant. Hamilton veteran Ariana DeBose nails the picture’s

most difficult role as Anita, the Shark girl caught between love and anger. Just to add another layer of difficulty, DeBose has to play opposite Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for playing Anita in 1961. Moreno takes on the shopkeeper’s role as Valentina and delivers a showstopper in a show made of nothing but showstoppers. In Moreno’s hands, “Somewhere” is transformed into a paean for an American dream of equality that always seems just out of reach. West Side Story Now playing Multiple locations

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All That Jazz

PHOTO: ARONBRAND | DREAMSTIME.COM

Two music instructors featured in our recent “School Grooves” cover story respond to the question: “Should jazz be taught in school?”

THE LAST WORD

I am an advocate for music education and the teaching of improvisation in our school systems. I wanted to make sure that my statements were clear, as I am a product of school band programs. I truly enjoyed all of my junior high and high school band experiences. Additionally, I played in marching bands, orchestras, jazz bands, and wind ensembles throughout my collegiate career. Improvisation and understanding music in relation to history and culture are skills that are one of the first tenets recommended by the National Standards for Music Education and were developed by the National Association for Music Education. With that said, Memphis is widely regarded as one of the most culturally rich cities in the world, and its music legacy has been verified by gospel, blues, jazz, rock-and-roll, R&B, and hip hop legends. Memphis’ legendary musical status is connected with American Root Music, and it is a language worth continuing in our schools today. I am a fan of the current band directors/music teachers in the greater Memphis area because a lot of them are friends of mine and they have an incredibly difficult job. Locally, there are several professional jazz bands that provide opportunities to play America’s original art form. There are even two New Orleans-style brass bands that use improvisation to extend their arrangements. There are music support programs in Memphis like the Stax Music Academy (where I teach), which is an after school music program that offers classes to middle and high school students on how to improvise and play Memphis’ legacy music of both R&B and jazz. Additionally, Stephen Lee is founder/executive director of the Memphis Jazz Workshop and has one of the best youth jazz programs in the country. Learning about improvisation through jazz offers the opportunity to deepen your musicianship in the area of self-expression. You have the chance to be spontaneous and create new ideas in the moment. Jazz encourages musicians to work together, and I have found that there is great joy that comes with emotional musical expression. In conclusion, it is imperative that we support our music and fine arts programs, and it is my sincere hope that we continue teaching Memphis’ legacy music to all of our students of music. — Paul McKinney Victor Sawyer is a trombonist who works with Stax Music Academy and oversees music educators for the Memphis Music Initiative; Paul McKinney is a trumpet player and director of student success/alumni relations at the Stax Music Academy.

m e m p h i s f l y e r. c o m

A small choir shuffled through a throng of guests to take the “stage,” a corner in an office, performing for its grand opening. They honed in on their director Demetrius Robinson and launched into a gospel song. I don’t remember the song, but I remember the silence that fell over the crowd as these young people sent their voices to the heavens within the genre of gospel. The word “transcendent” comes to mind. A recent article may have suggested that jazz and its incorporation in classroom instruction is a key marker of quality in high school music programs. Though I’m a lifelong student of jazz music, I still believe the following statement to be true: An educator’s lack of background in jazz should never be considered a hindrance to realizing the dreams of students or predicting student success in music. Memphis undoubtedly left its mark on jazz history, but honing in on jazz as the sole predictor of teacher and student efficacy ignores the multitude of educators with no background in jazz who have helped students realize their dreams. The best educators of Memphis come from a variety of backgrounds, as diverse as the musical legacy of the city in which we live and treasure. I’ve seen popular music, music production, and show-style marching band programs grow and expand in high schools. Are we in the educational field really committed to saying that jazz is the only way and any lack of it is a detriment to the level of quality a music program can reach? I firmly cannot nor will not. My jazz background is invaluable, but so are my experiences playing the blues, classical music, and with rock bands. In high school I joined the Ridgeway High School choir. There I felt connected to music in a way I’d never felt. Literally resonating with classmates as we sang together was a revelation — a turning point that further convinced me music would be my path. My choral teacher Jeff Brewer never professed to be a jazz musician, yet he is one of the finest educators to ever lead young people to musical excellence. Jazz is not the only path to success and to suggest otherwise discredits the efforts of music educators and students who choose a different path. So what indicates potential future success? A fierce commitment to young people and the pursuit of musical excellence regardless of genre. — Victor Sawyer

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