Taking Stock →

Richard Fausset, writing at The New York Times:

Keedran Franklin, a community organizer and social justice activist, runs a South Memphis food truck these days called “The Check-in.” The idea, he said, is not only to feed the people of Memphis, but also to ask them how they are getting by, emotionally and spiritually, in one of the poorest large American cities, and one of the most dangerous.

“It’s a combustion chamber of trauma — that’s what Memphis is,” said Mr. Franklin, 36. “We push it down and push it down, until it explodes. That’s what happened with Tyre.”

The funeral this week for Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx employee and skateboarder who died after being severely beaten by Memphis police officers who said they pulled him over for a traffic infraction, triggered a national moment of mourning — for Mr. Nichols, and for the many other Black men brutalized at the hands of American police. At the same time, the bloody incident took its place on an ignominious roster of events that have shaped the story of Memphis as much as its 20th-century musical innovations, justly celebrated for transforming pop culture.

Situated in the heart of the South’s old cotton kingdom, on the lip of the Mississippi Delta, Memphis has always had a front seat to the brutal consequences of slavery and organized racism, tangibly reflected in the city’s 26.5 percent poverty rate for Black residents. And Memphians readily admit that the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel opened a gash in the collective psyche that has never quite healed.

This week, as an ice storm paralyzed much of the city, Memphians seemed to be taking stock, amid their rage and grief, of how far they have come and how far they must still go, if they are to not only endure the latest wound, but heal from it.

No one thinks it will be easy.