Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thought - 20 December 2007

As a person who was born in the South, I used to hate my birth area. I had thought that people from my region of the country were uneducated, religious zealots, and limited in their thinking capacity. I refused to consider myself as a Southerner and even took great pains and claims to inform everyone that I went to college up North. I wanted to talk like Northerners and even tried to absorb my father’s accent (he is from Massachusetts) when speaking to others. In doing so, I wanted people to know that I was an intelligent being who, after realizing that the South would never be on any stimulating intellectual level, wanted to make myself a child of the North / New England. However, after yesterday, my whole outlook changed. During my lunch, I walked down Main Street downtown to the post office, walking by the store for the Center for Southern Folklore. I had walked by that store for years with barely a passing interest for going in, but for some reason I wanted to yesterday. So, once I sent my paid books to their happy destinations, I walked across the street and into the store. Immediately, I was greeted by a young woman with white blonde hair seated behind the counter that had a sign boasting of good peach cobbler and ice cream. As I walked around, I noticed the many black and white photographs of different people from Memphis’ past, black and white, whose faces told of a different time, a happier time, a sadder time. I found myself staring at two photographs in particular: a young white woman from the 30s who stood next to a bale of cotton and two black women from the 40s who were in a beauty shop. My heart began to thump wildly as I walked around the store, noticing the pictures of long ago mingled with blues music pumping from the speakers all around. Artwork took up every corner of the store and even Elvis had a part to play in the d├ęcor. Food items of the South lingered on tables and small plates and books speaking of myths and legends of the South, the Blues, and famous Southerners, filled the shelves. Suddenly, a thought I had never had before crept into my mind: I felt proud to be a Southerner. There is no other place in the country that can speak of men selling their souls to the Devil in exchange for guitar lessons, or birthplaces of music heard around the world, or even food that will kill you while you are smiling. I walked out of the store, promising to return to purchase the two pictures, my heart leaping with joy and pride. Whether you hail home as cosmopolitan and fast paced Atlanta, jazzy and spicy New Orleans, soulful and yet tense Memphis, or laid back and genteel Savannah, be proud of your roots now and forever. I know I am, finally.

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