The eleventh anniversary of a watershed in the American psyche was marked on Beale Street Tuesday by a Memphis pastor and his congregation.
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum Jr. and the New Olivet Baptist Church took their "Keeping It Real Bible Study" on the road to the Pepsi Pavilion at Beale and Third Streets. Special tribute was paid to the heroes/heroines and the thousands who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York's Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., along with the defiant passengers and crew on American Flight 93 that went down in Pennsylvania.
The Memphis observance included music, speeches, poetry and a live taping of the television show "Bust-A-Move-Monday!"
Memphis' own Food Channel star, Uncle Lou, of Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken, newly published teen author Angel Ray, and former NBA great Penny Hardaway were all interviewed on stage by the program's host, Dr. Whalum.
Carver High School's emerging student leader, Romeo Malone, who recently organized a peaceful protest, made a special surprise appearance.
"It was important to exercise and appreciate our religious freedom in America, especially on this day," said Dr. Whalum.
"Thousands of Americans were murdered that day as the World Trade Center Towers were made twin symbols of freedom under attack. We owe it to those fallen to remember them on this day. God is still so gracious to America, and we appreciate Him for it."
While being interviewed by Whalum, Malone said the protest on Monday was in response to several issues and was dubbed, "We're Not Qualified." That theme was linked to what he said was the Memphis City Schools' release of an instructional facilitator deemed unqualified to operate on the high school level since her certification was for middle school and elementary school.
"So we said, 'What really makes you qualified to love a student? What makes you qualified to be there for a student?'"
Other concerns included schedules and inoperable air conditioners.
"We felt that because our voices weren't being heard, we needed something that would make them sit down and say, 'You know what, Carver High School is serious.'"
Whalum told Malone, "Man, you are my kind of student." He then pointed out that he had just received an email from MCS' media office "explaining everything, straightening everything out, getting the facts out there.
"I am so sick and tired of administrative staff standing in between our children and what our children need," said Whalum to a burst of applause.
Malone said he wants to see changes at every MCS school that is having a problem. Toward that end, he envisions a youth-organized event that would lead to such.
"Before we end up being Shelby County Schools next year, this has to change right now," said Malone.
In an interview later, Malone said the regional superintendent had met with students and was trying to take care of different things. Meanwhile, he said, "We're going to act ourselves to make sure things are done in decency and in order."
(Karanja A. Ajanaku contributed to this story.)