I know sanctification is conferred to those patiently tolerating and quietly mourning the brokenness in our neighborhood.
Our lamentable is a heart-torn message to city dwellers, "movers and shakers," who are young and impassioned to open and step through the door that welcomes all to Orange Mound. That door has had a “please come on in” sign for over 10 years.
There awaits a gold medal for the one who wins the war on our poverty…. but the battle is far from over, and the casualties are multiplying.
The poor in our neighborhood have a story to tell. Whether we hear them or not depends on us. Are we reading the signs of God’s hand upon them? Are we applauding their patience and fortitude? Are we grieving the delay of their rescue?
A nostalgic, long-ago after-glow of the golden years abounds in a small section of Memphis called Orange Mound. This year, the community received rare, positive media reports for its Centennial Celebration.
The Commercial Appeal reporter Phillip Jackson recently noted,
“Memphis hit 200 — but Orange Mound reached a milestone, too.”
The development of Orange Mound's self-sufficient attitude in businesses, arts and sports started through adversity before becoming a place of sanctuary during the times of segregation.
Members of the Deadrick family were wealthy slave owners who obtained the land from the Chickasaw Indians. As slavery came to an end, the Deadrick family began losing their wealth, and one family member put in a will that the land was never to "be sold to negros,"
But a residential developer named Elias Eugene Meacham bought the land from the family and sold the 5,000 acres to former slaves.
The community, then known as Orange Mound, Tennessee, starting on May 2, 1890, began flourishing with housing development and new businesses. It was later annexed by the City of Memphis on May 22, 1919,
In truth there were barely 50 years of the golden era. By the 1960”s the “in tact community” frayed and foraged.
The current injustices and pain for the 14,500 residents do not impede the search for joy and hope. But in the daily grind, there is a feeling of permanent powerlessness. The “good years, 1918-1968” are a myth to most all who live here now. There is genuine interest in returning the neighborhood to health and prosperity, but there isn’t a clear plan. Inertia prevails.
The beloved and unofficial Mayor of Orange Mound recently passed away. A memorial service on September 21st for Mr. Tyler Glover celebrated his life and love of his community. He engaged in the neighborhood’s highs and lows for 89 years. He touched many people through prayer, mentoring, and financial support. He was loyal, and he never moved out of Orange Mound. He was one of the few.
The Southern Heritage Classic is the 2nd Saturday in September since 1990. It is reunion central and a mecca for over 65,000 people, many who have Orange Mound roots. The parade route is lined with Melrose Alums and former Orange Mound residents. I wish they would come back and stay for a while, organize and dream about stability, and invest in our future. As the prophet Jeremiah told the Hebrew captives in Babylon: “Quit dreaming of the old days. Build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat their produce.”
Amarty Sen, a development economist from India, writes:
“human well-being is best understood by what people are and do, such as being literate, healthy, economically active and participating in the life of their community and feeling safe.”
We are made in the image of God, and all human beings have the right to function in his way. We are to develop, not just survive. Most Orange Mound residents are on life support.
Too little, but never too late. God’s business card includes in bold print: I come to save and meet needs. There are at least 6 organizations here invested in the well-being of our neighbors. Red Zone, OMOM, Christ Community Health, the Gilberts, Neighborhood Christian Center, and My Cup of Tea are all here to stay. We have a prayer time every Tuesday night to attack the strongholds, tear away the debris of depression and pray for revival.
The Commercial Appeal reported a week after the Southern Heritage parade bands danced through O M that, “Orange Mound real estate values have again deflated, and the uninhabitable houses have multiplied.” We have at least 10% of our houses condemned and abandoned. Property values have dropped 26% over the past decade.
Seventy percent of the vacant lots in Orange Mound are owned by the local government and sit undeveloped in the Shelby County Land Bank. What is the city going to do with us ? We are on the way or in the way to every place the city is promoting from residential to commercial to educational. Now is the time to buy a house or a lot and move in, if you are looking for a sweet deal. Once we are all fixed up again, we could also be a tourist destination.