Choose 901, unless you're black and will show up to a protest
On July 10th 2016, the entire world heard Memphis. The entire world saw Memphis. This is one of the most inspiring moments I have ever witnessed in my 23-years of life. For 6 hours, every news station, publication, writer, journalist, and lover of Memphis was informing the world of the events that were taking place on the Hernando-Desoto Bridge. But there was one glaring absence in particular.
There is a huge cheerleader of #Memphis that many people turn to for Memphis news and updates about jobs, local arts, concerts and more. That cheerleader is known as Choose901. Here is their mission:
Something great happened in Memphis last night that echoes the fact we are indeed already a great city. Hundreds of protestors showed up, blocking the I40 bridge both ways, choosing 901 with their bodies and trying to make Memphis a better place. They did so peacefully, at one point walking arm and arm with the interim police director. I think that's important information that Memphis' Megaphone to the world should be sharing. CBS news didn't mind covering Memphis. USA Today didn't mind covering Memphis. Even the Tennessean, based in Nashville, didn't mind covering Memphis. But an entity that is responsible for all things Memphis, goes radio silent and says nothing.
Why would the city's largest proponent of Memphis' greatness go radio silent during the 6 hours of protests by #BlackLivesMatter activists and everyday Memphis citizens? This is not only a moment of Memphis' greatness, but also a great moment in civil rights history being made. The publication failed to inform its 100,000+ person audience of this historic moment in Memphis. It made me wonder who the branding and messaging behind Choose901 is for, if it didn't do it's part to showcase the historic greatness that happened in Memphis last night.
As someone who is aware of the influence that a brand like Choose901 can have on Memphis, I was especially dismayed not to see them use their platform in this way, and I let them know on Twitter.
Perhaps part of the problem is that Choose 901 is a predominately white organization (17% of the staff of its parent organization, City Leadership, is black in a city that is 65% black) that promotes the idea of a utopian city for middle-class whites and their respectably middle-class POC counterparts. That utopian idea doesn't have room for protest of racial inequality. In this utopian idea racism and racial inequality don't exist.
Something isn't adding up. But maybe someone on staff forgot the Choos901 twitter password during the 6 hour protest, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Organizations that claim to represent Memphis need to represent all of Memphis, particularly when they can be a critical voice in shaping policy change and improved outcomes for all Memphians. If you are unable to do this work because you don't have the staff, make more intentional diversity choices and get the staff. Dedicate a staff member to a justice beat, where the grit and grind of what makes Memphis great now and in the future is on display. Partner with existing organizations that are already doing this work in Memphis and fund their efforts. Ask them how you can support and be better. Make Choose901 a space that includes more than just upwardly mobile middle-class professionals who life craft beer.
Choose901 came late to the party but the city of Memphis needs you to show up on time. To fulfill your mission.