The Prodigals j By Tony Hudson
ust like thousands of other people who grew up in the projects of Memphis, Tennessee, Barron Martin and Roderick Shaw ran away. But unlike most everyone else who left, something pulled Barron and Roderick back home. name is Barron Martin. In Frayser, a community
whole world, it seems, is sleeping off whatever sin
where the main export was and still is prodigals,
it got into the night before.
Barron, or “Pharaoh,” was once a famous man.
He’s come carrying armloads of winter coats and
“But for all the wrong reasons,” he says. “My own
baby diapers and microwave ovens. He came last
mama was ashamed of me. I was wicked.”
month, he comes this month, he will come next month, bringing peace offerings to a place that
This is a story about not one, but two prodigal
knows no peace.
sons, Barron Martin and Roderick Shaw. Barron came first. It had to be that way. He had to be
“There are hundreds of churches in this com-
ready when Roderick’s time came.
munity,” he says. “And yet this is one of the most violent places you can be.”
“You ever seen somebody that’s reduced down to nothing?” Barron asks. Barron Martin has. Twice.
“Pharaoh”—that’s what everybody in this North
Once 30 years ago when he looked in the mirror.
Memphis neighborhood used to call him. His real
And then once again when he met Roderick Shaw.
PHOTOS BY ALEXANDRA TOY
He’s not afraid. Saturday mornings are safe. The