Hey Mister, Can You Spare a Dime? ...or 10 Bucks?

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End May 16, 2008

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Where I stayed
Lorraine motel

Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Death is not the end. Death is not the period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that gives life more lofty significance."
           Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My visit to Memphis started with a tour of Sun Studio where Elvis recorded his first song. I stood in the same spot Elvis stood. Maybe it'll bring me luck in my writing career. The recording studio is still used every night and is the same as it was 57 years ago when Sam Philips stapled acoustic tiles to the walls and ceilings and glued floor tiles.
My next stop on my Memphis tour was the Fire Museum. After Planes, Trains, and Automobiles I figured it was time for a change and visited Memphis' first fire hall and it's fire trucks. I walked around this part of downtown Memphis for a while then drove to the opposite side of downtown for my next stop. During my walk I saw numerous buildings with interesting architecture and the Memphis Pyramid.
The third stop on my tour was the Gibson Guitar Factory Tour. The next tour was filled so I had over an hour to kill. The Rock n' Soul Museum was close by but I didn't have enough time to see that in the time I had. So I wandered over to the Historic Beal Street with all its Bars and Restaurants. That's where I met Gino. He introduced himself and we started chatting. He was quite personable. As we were walking up Beal Street, Colleen, a bartender in one of the bars was trying to attract customers for lunch. I go over and chat with her and she warns me about Gino. The panhandlers provide all this information, something like a tour guide, than ask for a "donation". I thank her for the information but was already aware of the scheme. Gino and I continue walking and chatting when he directs me to the Civil Rights Museum a few blocks away. It was on my tour list but I was trying to figure out when to fit it in. It was going to be after the Gibson tour but that change put a crimp in my plans. Gino also indicates a boarded up church nearby as the place where Martin Luther King Jr. made his last speech...his Mountaintop speech. (corrected at a later date-The Mountaintop speech was given at the Mason Temple and not in this boarded up church. Dr. King did meet with the striking sanitation workers that day at this location.)  As I say my goodbyes to Gino the funds request comes out. I give him a couple of dollars.
I decided to walk over to the Civil Rights Museum anyway as I had time to kill. Along the way I took numerous photos and came across this beautiful car parked at this disco. I took some pictures of the Lorraine Motel which is where the Civil Rights Museum is located and where Martin Luther King was shot and killed. On the way back to the Gibson Factory I found these beautiful wall murals on a Mexican Restaurant then I ambled over to the Clayborn Temple, the old church that Gino has shown me.
There I run into Marvin Louis Booker. He introduces himself and pulls out this 20 page dissertation that he's written about Martin Luther King called "The Complete Meaning of Martin Luther King, Jr."  He tells me that his father is the one who took Dr. Kings coat the day he made his Mountaintop speech at the Clayborn Temple. We chat a while. He writes "To Paul, Thank you for the love and support" in the dissertation, signs and dates it and writes his contact information in it (that I had requested).  The paper Marvin wrote says $10.00 on an inside page. All I have is a $20. Marvin says he has no change. Marvin is a smooth talker and I decide to give him the $20. He then grabs my hand and starts reciting in a loud voice one of Martin Luther King's speeches. It was quite dramatic. I haven't read his paper yet.
I head over to the Gibson Factory with $22 less in my pocket then when I started my walk. The Gibson Factory in Memphis produces the semi hollow guitars. The production process is quite interesting as each guitar is handmade and they are all unique in some way.
That tour over I decide I have enough time to visit the Civil Rights Museum before they close at 5. My truck was parked a few blocks away so I decided to take it to the Museum this time and then park it closer to the Rock n' Soul Museum as that would be my next stop as it was open until 7 PM. I get to the Civil Rights Museum and as I enter I have to check my camera. No photography permitted. A sign says it's due to copyright rules. This museum is dedicated to the struggle the African Americans have had since the days Slavery was abolished. The main government body in Washington and the northern States provide for the rights of the black population to mirror (to a point) those given to the remainder of the population. The southern states do everything in their power to denigrate anybody and everybody who doesn't fit their ideal of a "supreme" being, using the bible to support their position. Blacks, Jews and Catholics are all beneath them. They enact laws to support their position even against various Supreme Court rulings.
The struggles are documented from 1817 through to 1955 when Rosa Parks refuses to move from her seat to allow a "white" person the seat the law said he could have. She's arrested and the Montgomery Bus Boycott starts the first of many demonstrations. Throughout the following years we have the student sit-ins, the Freedom rides and the March on Washington towards the end of the '60s. The Museum tour continues with a view of the rooms Martin Luther King occupied the day he was killed on April 4, 1968.
This information was fascinating for a Canadian unaware of the full extent of the struggles happening in the southern United States no more than 40 years ago. Progress has been made, though I don't think things have evolved as much as they appear. Something had struck me when I was in Washington DC and I had read the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I found a statistic that stated that for the first American election only 6% of its population was eligible to vote. I guess you were equal as long as you were not black, female or poor! Weren't the writers of the Declaration being a little hypocritical? 
I drive back towards Beal Street and the Rock n' Soul Museum. I find a parking spot on the street nearby. The Museum is closed early due to a private function. I walk back towards Beal Street to take some pictures. The panhandlers are out in full force. I hand out some lose change and a few more dollars. I stop in at BB Kings Blues Club for some supper and then walk up and down Beal Street taking more pictures now that's it's dark. The Neon lights make for some great pictures. I would have continued wandering around the various streets but the constant requests for funds was wearing me out. I had stopped "donating".
When I get back to the trailer I Googgled Marvin Louis Booker. His name came up a few times in various peoples travel blogs after they had been approached by him. One person had a negative experience, another it was positive. In Marvin's   paper there's an "About" section. He states he's homeless, has a grade 9 education, has been in jail for 22 years of his life, calls himself "Reverend" now as he's an associate pastor at the Cathedral of Faith Ministries with his brother as senior pastor.

"God can use any man's boldness and honesty. "
Marvin Louis Booker
Throughout all my wanderings around Memphis I never feared for my safety. I met some colourful people and the $25 I "donated" are funds I consider well spent for the experiences I had.
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cobra1899 on

2 questions response
1-The Pyramid is used for concerts and basketball. Here is a link for more details. http://www.pyramidarena.com/overview.html

2-This was during their struggle and is paraphrased from some exhibits for the period before 1950. My comments are based from a combination of the segregation laws, called Black Code laws, enacted by the local governments and the 'policies' of the Ku Klux Klan which had over 5 million members at one time during this period. The Museum was closing and I quickly finished viewing the exhibits up to the rooms where Martin Luther King was staying. After reading this question I picked up a brochure I had about the Museum and just realized that there were more exhibits in a separate building across the street that chronicles the civil rights movement for the period 1968 to 2000. The answer to this question might have been answered there. I do not believe this is still going on now. Definitely not to the extent of what was happening prior to the mid '70's. The KKK does still exist today but is considered a fringe group of extremists.

cobra1899 on

Thanks for bringing that error to my attention. I wouldn't say the whole blame is on Gino. It's possible it was my memory. Martin Luther King did spend some time at the Clayborn Temple prior to going to the Mason Temple that day to make his speech. It's most probably that that I was told and I forgot.
Scamming & harassing is all in our perceptions. I feel that neither happened at that time.

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