As hundreds of Memphians packed the Minglewood Hall their spirits were high. The room was peppered with blacks and whites with gleeful smiles. On stage was an enormous sign, "One Memphis." All of a sudden a crescendo of applause began. It was followed with yells and whistles. The new mayor of Memphis was taking the stage.
Mayor AC Wharton, with his family and friends around him, spoke of a cloud free day. He presented a Memphis without strife, without division; a city of hope and promise. As his words filtered throughout the audience you could see in their eyes the weariness of years of discourse fading away.
Memphis is truly a wonderful city, one with endless possibilities. Its citizens hunger for a better day. All they ask are for leaders to step forward and selflessly and with vision… LEAD.
Wharton takes charge of a city in the midst of a war, a war between “Progressives” and “Traditionalists.” Since before Boss Crump, Memphis has been led by one form of political machine or another, always with the support of wealth businessmen in the background. It pitted blacks against whites, middle class against the poor, community against community. This worked fine for those in power. It made a few wealthier and kept the masses “in their place.”
This city and its citizens have paid a high price for this cronyism. We’ve watched as our brightest and most talented packed their bags and moved to more progressive cities. We’ve been left behind by metros such as Atlanta, and Nashville. These cities once looked upon our gleaming shore with envy, now we would be fortunate to even garner a glance.
In my bid for political office back in 2007 I saw something different. I saw business owners who were truly frightened. It was no longer control that was most important to them, it was good leadership. People believe the powers-to-be turned against Herenton because he wouldn’t play ball anymore. Nothing was further from the truth. They turned against Herenton because they didn’t believe he could successfully manage the City of Memphis through this financial crisis. Because when it’s all said and done, “a big fish in a small pond is fine, but a big fish in a mud puddle is dying.” And the big fishes were coughing out the word, change.
Mayor Wharton has an opportunity to move Memphis away from the Traditionalists who are striving to create the next political machine and join hands with Progressives who what greater community involvement, more accountability, an end to race baiting and a greater sharing of the prosperity that will come to all if we wise up.