The city is awash in Tiger Blue today as people across Memphis show support for the U of M basketball team heading into the Final Four. At least, I think that's the deal. I'm not a sports fan, to say the least. Still, it's nice to see Memphians united for once, for any cause. Big Daddy made a special trip to the Tiger Book Store to get the kids shirts, since most of the district's schools granted special permission for students to wear Tiger Blue in place of their regular uniform shirts today. Even Genevieve and Mr. Baby got one. BD wore his Tiger hat. I don't own a royal blue shirt, and I'm not sure I could bring myself to participate in a show of sports fandom on any level, but I hope we're not playing anyone whose colors include red, because that's what I have on.
Nevertheless, it is April 4 in Memphis, Tennesee. It's the day that this city became a notorious symbol of racial divisiveness and violence. Politicians are here to parade through the streets in a show of bipartisan respect for the memory of Dr. King. McCain, Clinton, Obama, and who knows who else will be seen gazing at the wreath hanging from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights museum. I wonder what sound bites they will produce, what photo ops.
At my school, we will be hosting students from Central High Schools all over the country for a Pen or Pencil assembly. The "pen" is short for "penitentiary." I'm not sure what to expect from the two-hour assembly. It's the culmination of two years of work; the press will be here, and politicians are in town event hopping, so anything could happen. I'm gald that the day will be marked in some way, though. It seems wrong to let it pass without taking at least a moment to focus on the legacy of the visionary leader who was felled on our watch, in our home.
One of U of M's most promising players, Andre Allen, won't be on the court this weekend, or ever again, because he failed a random drug test and is now suspended for his final year under NCAA guidelines. Why did he so willingly trade his dream for a cheap, momentary high? His coach was on the news last night entreating the young man's friends and family not to be angry at him, and to pray for him because he's hurting and sorely disappointed. Footage of Andre happily cutting down a net after a good game showed a kid who looks a lot like many of my students. I couldn't help but wonder about the choices they will make as they leave my classroom and head out into the world. Some of them have big dreams. Will they fall just short of achieving them because you can take the kid out of the street but you can't take the street out of the kid? Is there anything I can do, anything I can possibly say that will stick with them, come back to them in that future moment of decision that could ruin everything they hope for?
What will happen to Andre now that his dream has been deferred? Does he have it in him to take responsibility for his actions, learn from the mistake, and move on with his life? I wonder if he has learned anything in school, or if, like so many college athletes, he has been prized only for his ability on the court and allowed to slide on the college part of the package.
What will happen to my graduating seniors over the next ten years? Do they have it in them to dream big and not fall short of their own expecations? Do we as a country have a future to even offer them?
What will happen to this city that still struggles and flounders under the weight of racial tension and a socio-economic divide that persistently falls along racial lines? Do we have any dreams left in us? Or do most of us just dream of leaving and raising our kids in a city with less insurmountable baggage?
I don't know. I just don't know.