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The Bar-Kays at 50

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Event of the year celebration Dec. 4th.

by Tony Jones

Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Of all the musical icons and careers built in Memphis, no one – and no group – has embodied the history of this city and its African-American population like the Bar-Kays, who will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary with a huge benefit gala at the Cannon Center on Dec. 4th.

Just as the Grizzlies’ “Grit and Grind” now captures our modern groove, the Bar-Kays were our home team when it seemed like we would never have anything to cheer for collectively.

As it was with their first sellout of the old Mid-South Coliseum decades ago, expect an emotional moment that no Memphis music fan should miss, if at all possible, when founding member James Alexander and lead singer Larry Dodson take the stage to close out the performance at the anniversary show.

More than 15 industry peers are scheduled for the salute, including George Clinton and a reunion of the United We Funk All Stars, which includes the S.O.S. Band, ConFunkShun and The Dazz Band. The event has been structured under the Bar-Kays Foundation to benefit their “Fab Five” community service organizations: Down Syndrome Association of Memphis, United Way of the Mid-South, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Stax Music Academy, and the Allen Jones/Marjorie Barringer/Bar-Kays Scholarship Fund.

The fatigue of seemingly a million details connected with the upcoming gala was masked well by Dodson during a recent conversation with The New Tri State Defender.

“This is not your normal day on the ranch, but it’s going well. Ticket sales are good, and being involved with the five charities has kept us very busy, but it’s very rewarding. The media has supported us very well,” said Dodson.

“We’ve never seen Memphis respond like this. From the mayor’s office to the governor’s office to the congressman’s office, it’s unbelievable how everyone has come on board to help make this happen. We’ve been through so much. We’ve seen so much. And to still be healthy and performing and to still be relevant after all these years. James and I have just been very humbled by all of this. I’m just…grateful.”

‘We chose to go forward’

The Bar-Kays’ first big hit record, “Soul Finger, reflected the masterstroke of producer David Porter pulling in kids off the street to shout on the record. Later, our hearts sank when we heard the news that several of the original members of the group had died in a plane crash with Stax superstar Otis Redding.

The flame was relit when the documentary film “WattStax” not only showed our boys were rebuilt and strong, but from the way they tore up the stage, about to burn it up again. It was here that the Bar-Kays whose music we came to know and love were introduced. The performance was a major breakthrough.

Decked out all in white, the sound was black but beyond R&B, foreshadowing possibilities evident from the energy Dodson used to kick off the now iconic show. Then tragedy struck again as Stax closed, tugging on the Memphis community’s heartstrings.

Decades later, Stax has resurfaced in a new form and the Bar-Kays, now comprised of Alexander, Dodson and a formidable backup band, are riding the wave of another major hit record as they prepare to throw the show of the year, again. 

Dodson said the group owes much to deceased mentor and great manager, Allen Jones.

“We were there on the very day Stax closed. Literally, the IRS came and shut the doors. Allen came to us and said, bluntly, ‘Well, you have two options. You can break up, or you can go forward. We chose to go forward.”

Swallowing it all was tough. Original member Alexander had lost his best friends (in the plane crash) before he was 20. His fellow original member Ben Cauley, who survived the crash, had decided he could not continue. Alexander and Dodson, who had been brought in to core the second formation, forged on past the IRS debacle. They were barely into their twenties.

‘We’re going to pull out all the stops’

With a weekly gig at a nightclub called the Family Affair, the Bar-Kays legend started to build. 

“It was literally a hole in the wall, tiny. We also rented a place on Cooper and it was between those two places that we wrote the album “Too Hot To Stop” (1976 release) and we were signed with Mercury Records one year later,” said Dodson.

“We had a saying, one day we would go from the Family Affair to Madison Square, and it became so ironic. We were playing at Madison Square Garden when we were interrupted by our record label and they gave us our first gold album.”

Led by the single “Shake Your Rump To The Funk,” the Bar-Kays were off and running, burning up stages across the country as the premiere opening act in R&B.   

“Every other album went gold, and the album with “Freakshow” has been our only platinum album. We’re recording our 31st album now. We have enough material for it, but we’re not rushing it,” said Dodson.

“‘Grown Folks’ went Top Ten in the nation, and our new single “Up And Down” is doing pretty well. We knew it was a record (his way of describing a hit) when we finished it, but we didn’t know how big it would become. We didn’t know if our audience would accept it because it’s so different. There’s a lot of people that don’t know it’s us to this very day.

“We wanted to sound different to appeal to a younger audience,” said Dodson. “It shows that we are still relevant after being in the business this long, and pretty wise about the music that we’re putting out. We’ve been selective about our producers and the sound we are making and a lot of artists are not open to that.”

Harking back to that first time they packed the Coliseum, Dodson shares another memory.

“That was just an amazing night. We had just played in Dallas, so we had all bought cowboy outfits, everybody. We learned on the way home that we had sold out, and also that we had broke the attendance record, which I believe had been held by Elvis. It (the anniversary gala) is going to be one of those nights. We’re going to pull out all stops, believe me.”

'Still relevant and…' 

Now 63, Dodson is looking forward to his next birthday, which he plans to celebrate at the 2015 Trumpet Awards. And on June 14, 2015, the Bar-Kays tare to be inducted into the R&B Hall Of Fame.

“People ask me am I too old to be doing this. Never! We’re a brand. We have our own label. God has given us good health and good strength, wonderful wives, family and a support team,” said Dodson.

“Our sons are successful and they keep us and the sound young. James’s son – Jazze Pha – is one of the top producers in the industry. He gave us ‘Grown Folks’ and he has another one for us now he’s working on. My son, Larry, is a marketing professional. We have our own booking agency and we own the Master of Funk Tour, which is doing very well. They keep us young,” he said.

“So no, we’re not stopping. You can’t stop us. It’s just wonderful to be still around. Still relevant and,” he pauses, “pretty smart I believe.”

Yeah, but where’s Cecil, his snake?

 “Oh, he’s going to be there, trust me! Believe me, we’re going to pull out all the Bar-Kays’ bell and whistles. This performance is going to be very, very special.”

  • Written by Tony Jones
  • Hits: 124

Memphis honors ‘strong brother’ Marion Barry on Nov. 28th

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Memorial service set for Monumental Baptist Church.

Marion Barry

by Tony Jones

Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Marion S. Barry Jr.’s legacy of contributions and his deep Memphis-area roots will be saluted during a special memorial service at Monumental Baptist Church on Friday.

Former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton will give the eulogy at the memorial gathering for Barry, who died at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington on Saturday. He had been released from Howard University a few hours before he passed. He was 78.

The service, which is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., is being hosted by the Memphis Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Referred to as DC’s “Mayor For Life,” Barry, who was elected mayor four times, helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and still was serving as a City Council member when he died.

Taped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room in the early ’90’s, Barry was castigated and publicly ridiculed. He served six months in prison following the incident, overcoming to be reelected to the council for several terms. 

For many familiar with the accomplishments he achieved during his lifetime, his legacy of contributions cannot be wiped out by his high-profile downfall.

The Rev. L. LaSimba Gray, head of the local Rainbow Push Coalition, said the memorial rightly is being held to salute Barry’s lifetime of activism on behalf of the African-American community.

Gray’s thoughts are repeated time and time again by those who knew him personally, and in news outlets totaling his many accomplishments as a leader for African-American progress.

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The Washington Post noted that he “plowed hundreds of millions of tax dollars into job training and employment programs, senior centers and social-welfare endeavors. Rank-and-file workers were hired by the thousands to serve under Mr. Barry’s newly-appointed supervisory corps of African American middle and top level managers.”

It was in his capacity as DC’s mayor that Barry is credited as a success in creating real black power.  On her station’s hourlong tribute to Barry, TV One’s Cathy Hughes said, “There was no middle class until he came here and worked to create it.”

On the same show, Omar Tyree, the writer who helped Barry pen his recently released biography. “Mayor For Life,” said, “It was revolutionary just to be around him.”

According to several compatriots from his youth and professional life, the author’s statement is no exaggeration. Dr. Herenton felt the news personally. 

“I had to drive down Latham when I heard about his death,” said Herenton. “I remember him as a young man, and remember the work he did for our people. We grew up together in South Memphis. I received advise from him, Andy Young and others when I became mayor. His mother died several years ago, and both of our mothers were so proud of us. 

“We shared the same struggle, it’s just the economic strata of Washington, D. C. was larger, but Marion was a champion,” said Herenton. “He propelled African-American business to thrive. He was a strong brother.”

Barry’s upbringing fed his ambition. Born in Itta Bena, Miss., his activist roots sunk into the soil here in Memphis as a student at Booker T. Washington High School and LeMoyne College. He was president of LeMoyne’s NAACP, and his organizing and networking skills suited him to take part in the creation of SNCC, which became one of the pivotal organizations of the civil rights movement.

As Barry traveled from city to city energizing African-American youth to fight for their own futures, he returned often to Memphis, where his reputation and work inspired local community activist Coby Smith to become a member of The Invaders, a Memphis-based youth activist group.

“I was a couple of years younger but I fell under his influence through the organizing he was doing throughout the city. He had been trained at the Highlander School, which is located here in Tennessee. It was kept quiet back then, but a great many of the civic rights leaders were trained in non-violent, passive resistance there,” said Smith.

“He brought that training back to Memphis and trained us in it. It was Rev. James Bevel who came up with the idea that the youth should be the front line troops because most of the time they would not lose jobs if they got arrested. But it was Barry that promulgated the idea and put it into effective action,” said Smith. 

“He understood black power long before it came to the forefront, especially the fact that the political power that we were fighting for needed to be tied to economic power. I traveled extensively working in the movement and everywhere I went Marion Barry was there. When Emmett Till’s mother came to Memphis, he was there to meet her. We had a conference at Lemoyne. He was head of the D.C. government and made time to come.

We loved Marion Barry. A lot of people did.”

Smith’s Invaders compatriot, Minister Sukara A. Yahweh, met Barry while in D.C. working on the Poor People’s Campaign.

“They were trying to destroy Dr. King’s reputation after sending provocateurs to sabotage the peaceful protests and Marion was right there organizing. I remember riding the bus with his mother. He was an example of, and the reflection of, the African-American male struggling to reach positive heights and the struggles and pressures that you have to wrestle with when trying to challenge wrongful structures and ideals.”

The final word goes to a colleague that worked directly with Barry in his second term as mayor,

Dr. Kilolo Ajanaku, a consultant in the behavioral health field, worked directly with Barry during his second term as mayor. 

 “I was an intern, then later came employed under his administration, and I worked under his administration throughout my employment with the city. Whenever Mr. Barry walked into a room, everybody would stop and give him a standing ovation,” she said.

“I met people everyday whom his work touched. I set aside my class today to honor him. Fully 50 percent of the people in that class had family or knew someone that he had helped, either through his office or (he) had given them money personally. Personally!”

  • Written by Tony Jones
  • Hits: 123

The shopper’s guide to a happy, cost-effective holiday: the sequel

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Approximately $56 billion dollars was spent nationwide over the course of the four-day “pre-Black Friday weekend.” And that was just the warm up.

by Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell

Special to the New Tri-State Defender

If you’re now reading this article, it means that you survived the dramatic foretaste of frenzied things to come. Approximately $56 billion dollars was spent nationwide over the course of the four-day “pre-Black Friday weekend,” Friday through Monday.

And that was just the warm up.

Now, it’s time to suit up for the real deal. Many more millions are expected to converge on malls, department stores, boutiques, specialty shops and everything in between. Stores already open for Black Friday deals will be open on Thanksgiving. Some will begin their holiday bonanza of bargains on Wednesday, and still more open just after Thanksgiving dinner around the table is done – 6 p.m.

The frenetic onslaught of relentless shoppers scrambling for the big bargains will be out in full, frenzied force. Please accept my condolences if you plan to climb aboard this year’s holiday crazy train. Many will be singing the “I-said-I-wouldn’t-do-this-again, maxed-out credit blues” long after the Christmas lights have been turned off and decorations are back in the attic.

Now that you know better, you can cast an all-knowing eye on those poor saps at work, in your church, and at your neighborhood association meetings moaning about spending most of 2015 paying off the debts of 2014.

First, there are some always-remember-and-never-forget rules of engagement, and some sure-fire suggestions on choosing the perfect gift for loved ones and friends. Then, it’s on to some great places to find the best deals for your pocket.

* Begin with a serious budget that does not include credit card limits and signature loans. Use only what has been set aside for holiday shopping over the course of the year. Or, if purchases cannot be paid off in full immediately when credit card bills come in January, don’t buy. Using bill money to shop will put your family in an unnecessarily, precarious position.

* Make a list and check it twice. Gifts for immediate family, small children and young people in your clan, your spouse or “lil boo,” and long-time family friends go first. Favored co-workers, church members, and valued acquaintances should go on a secondary list. They would feel just as special with the gift of a phone call, lunch date, or some other gesture of kindness. (As you go down the list and purchases climb closer and closer to budget, it may be necessary to take the last few people off the gift list and add them to your secondary list. They will still appreciate you: it really is “the thought that counts.”)

* Join forces with a couple of sisters or favorite cousin to share the cost of some big-ticket item for the kiddos. You will all stretch your dollars so much further.

* Stick to your budget and your lists. Remember: you really are not Santa Claus, and there is no little army of elves making Christmas gifts for you to pass out to everyone.

* Resist the temptation to make high-dollar purchases for the household. New appliances, furniture and automobiles should not be bought during the holiday season. If you think these bargains are great, just wait until December 26th. Big-ticket items are going to drop in price like you wouldn’t believe.

* Don’t fall for the okey-doke. It sounds good that you can get a 50-inch television for $218 somewhere. Thousands are reading the same ad you are, and the store didn’t stock but 35. A vicious early morning scramble to be “among the first” is not an emotionally healthy start to the holiday shopping season. There will be more, and you will see those savings again. A little patience can mean a big payoff. 

* Keep in mind the three “n’s”:

  1. Navigate wisely through the unyielding bombardment of never-before-seen, unheard-of savings every merchant will declare. You have a limit, and you have a list. Don’t violate either.
  1. Negotiate in this commercially charged, empty-the-shelves dance with merchants. Everything is negotiable, if you take the time, especially in boutiques and specialty shops. If you offer to buy five of a certain item and ask for a discount on the purchase, you will likely get it. Who understands the concept of buying in bulk better than store managers and merchants? Items marked as “irregular” may not have met the manufacturer’s standard, but are perfectly sound and visually flawless to you. Ask for an additional discount. You’re the shopper. You hold all the cards.
  1. Novelties will be the thing that your loved ones will remember. Leave the hideous ties and dreadful socks in the store. They already have a mountain of both at home they wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. Let your gift be thoughtful. It can pertain to a favorite hobby, like golf or bowling, tools for the do-it-yourselfer, omelet makers and baking utensils for those who love the kitchen, a counter grill for winter barbeques, gardening tools for gardeners, nostalgia items for history buffs – the possibilities are endless. Choose a novelty gift, and then sit back and enjoy the praise coming your way throughout the coming year.

Brick and mortar:

Couples with small children, lovers strolling through the mall, hoards of teens out enjoying the music and crowds, and the serious bargain shopper hoping to score big on holiday savings – they’ll all be out shopping this weekend. Everywhere the eye can see, there will be people and their cars. If you must brave the coming invasion, then you must.

Here are some of the best places to go:

* Walmart, K-Mart, and Target:  Discount leaders all year ‘round will offer a ton of savings on clothing, jewelry, toys, games, and more. But be prepared for waiting in checkout lines for multiple hours. One couple last week waited five hours in line to make their purchases. Five hours. (And that was just the preview.)

* Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Ross, and Burlington’s:  Watches, jewelry, winter sweaters, dresses, costume jewelry, and household furnishings and home décor are being offered at prices that are absolutely too good to pass up.

* Nike Outlet, Old Navy, and Banana Republic:  For that hard-to-buy-for “tween,” teen, or young adult, check out the buys and bargains, especially the buy-one-get-one and buy-one-half-off-second offers that abound everywhere. (We wouldn’t even think of wearing these rags, but the kids love this stuff!)

Novelties:

Give the gift of drama:  Unlike the real-life, unsolicited drama of family and friends, our City Beautiful offers an impressive array of stage productions to suit even the most demanding critic on your list.  Purchase tickets for an upcoming play or consider season tickets from:  Playhouse on the Square, TheatreWorks, Hattiloo Theatre, Theatre Memphis, New Moon Theatre Company, and Bluff City Tri-Art Theatre.  Go online or call for additional information on each.

Give the gift of pampering: There is nothing – and I mean, nothing – like luxuriating in the de-stressing confines of a great spa with an attentive staff. Memphis has quite a few to offer: Serenity Day Spa, for full spa treatments, is presently running 50-80 percent off specials through Groupon. The Rejuvenation Center is also running up to 56 percent off specials on Groupon. Go to Groupon online and give a spa day to a loved one for pennies on the dollar. (They’ll think you paid too much.) Go to Massage Envy online and check out their dirt-cheap offerings:  One hour massage, $49; Sugar Foot Scrub Therapy, $10; Aroma Therapy, $10; Deep Muscle Therapy, $12.

Give the gift of travel: www.vacationstogo.com offers 82 percent discount on last-minute cruises. Call and book one for a ridiculous rate, and then gift-wrap those tickets to surprise that special someone.

Give the gift of wine: CorksCrew Wine Club offers a membership for everyone. You specify the number of bottles per month, what you would like to spend, taste preference, and duration of membership. They will handle the rest. This is the perfect gift for the wine connoisseur in your life.

Give the gift of sports:  ESPN’s “30 For 30 Fifth Anniversary Collection” is being offered to the sports fanatic in the house. The price is $149, regularly selling at $250.This will be a gift that keeps on giving.

Give the gift of barbeque:  Remind family and friends who live out of town why Memphis is the arguable barbeque capital of the world. Send a mouth-watering package from any of the following (Shipping options are available as well).:  Central BBQ, Corky’s Charles Vergos Rendezvous, and Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q. Remind them of why nobody does it like Memphis.

And last, but certainly not least, buy up a ton of bubble bath, spa facial wash, lipsticks and eye shadow, lotions and potions from your local Avon and Mary Kay representatives. At the end of the year, they will have a ton of items that were never picked up, or surplus merchandise. These will make wonderful beauty baskets you can put together and wrap yourself. You can also pick up a hefty stash of other items at dollar stores and beauty supplies for incredible savings. Creativity is a gift to be always given away.

There, you have it; all my tips and trips for surviving this holiday season. Trust me. You’ll get the big payoff on Christmas Day just watching those faces light up when they open your gift.

Revel in the joy – the real joy – of this season: a time of enjoying family, reflecting on the goodness of God over the past year, and celebrating the birthday of all birthdays.

Be blessed and happy this season. Imagine the possibilities in 2015!

  • Written by Dr. Sybill C. Mitchell
  • Hits: 58

Event: World Aids Day Dec. 1

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In observance of World AIDS Day (Sunday, Dec. 1), free HIV/AIDS testing will be offered Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 in conjunction with support from Rep. G.A. Hardaway, Mayor AC Wharton Jr. and the City of Memphis, the Memphis Police Department, Friends for Life, Best Nurses, Inc., the Shelby County Health Department and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. Testing sites and times: Dec. 1 – City Hall from 10 a.m. 2 p.m.; Orange Mound Senior Center from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Hollywood Community Center from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 2 – Tillman Police Station from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Airways Police Station from 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

Event

The Memphis and Shelby County economic development plan is set for a 3 p.m. announcement on Monday (Nov. 24th) in the Bornblum Library at Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Macon Campus, 5983 Macon Cove. Details will be announced by co-chairs Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. and FedEx’s Christine Richards, along with other guests, including Nike’s Willie Gregory, and national public policy partner, Brookings Institute’s Amy Liu.Evnet

  • Written by Leah
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Funding on the way for Southbrook Mall renovation

by Tony Jones

Special to The New Tri-State Defender

A grant earmarked to assist in reviving the once-thriving Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven was announced today (Nov. 20th) at City Hall by Mayor AC Wharton Jr.

The grant would provide $2.1 million in funding to the mall’s owners – Southbrook Corporation – for “energy efficiency improvements,” which translates into much-needed repairs to the roof, lighting and heating and air conditioning infrastructure.

The funding marks the first positive news for the facility, which will be renamed Southbrook Towne Cener, for quite some time. Once buzzing with a multi-plex movie theatre, hot boutiques and consistent foot traffic, the facility has long been dormant.

After forming their non-profit corporation and winnowing down several facility studies, market surveys and renovation plans, Southbrook Properties made several unsuccessful applications for funding to the Memphis City Council. Extensive meetings kept the process alive, leading up to this week’s announcement.

The New Tri-State Defender connected with Southbrook Corporation’s Board Vice Chairman Cherry Davis prior to disclosure of the grant’s details.

“What had to occur is that we had to have a meeting of the minds to come together as a group to create fresh thinking and define our goals,” said Davis. “Our first request was for $1.5 million but we found out that our project did not qualify for the particular funding stream as it was structured. But this is expected to be what we really need to move forward. No more guessing, no more speculation.”

Davis said Southbrook’s board is looking at more than “just a retail facility. (Our) goal is to create something that will last. We had to understand what we were qualified for and where potential funding was available.”

She credits Memphis Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb as a great energizer.

Lipscomb credits Wharton’s full commitment to the process.

“We have been meeting for months with the goal to create the highest and best use of that facility for the people of Whitehaven. They deserve the best we can achieve and that is our goal,” Lipscomb said.

 “Another important aspect is that this is just a first step and there are potentially more to come in the future. Whitehaven has a lot of upsides that have not been maximized. That’s why we wanted something really nice to go with Graceland and let the people in Whitehaven know they are really important. And that includes Southland Mall as well. There’s great potential here we intend to tap.”

The award is part of the Memphis Green Communities Program launched in September 2014. The program’s aim is “investing in energy conservation building retrofit projects that show strong opportunity for environmental savings and economic gains for the community.”

Federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) fund the Memphis Green Communities Program. Forty-eight applications were received through “a highly competitive process,” eoyj four applications were selected for funding. The remaining three will be announced when finalized in coming weeks.

The program was offered broadly to commercial and private property owners throughout the City of Memphis.

“We are pleased to commit this investment to the Southbrook Mall project to not only improve the energy efficiency of the building, but help revitalize this important area of the Whitehaven community,” Wharton said in a statement released Thursday morning.

The building upgrades are estimated to save 30 percent in energy consumption, with the renovations expected to make the Southbrook Mall space “more attractive to tenants, creating opportunity for new job growth and economic impact in the Whitehaven area.”

  • Written by Leah
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LEGACY: Timothy Lee ‘El Espada’ Matthews

Visitation Friday with services Saturday for “thinker and fine writer” that Dr. Cornel West credited with “a unique gift of bringing to life characters whom we come to know and love.”

by Wiley Henry

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“El Espada is a fascinating thinker and fine writer who has a unique gift of bringing to life characters whom we come to know and love. This grand highlighting of the rich humanity of everyday people is powerful and poignant.”

Dr. Cornel West’s endorsement of Timothy Lee Matthews’ book, “The Purple Tiger,” is also a reflection of the man whom others have touted for his writing ability – not just as El Espada, Matthews’ pseudonym, but as a gentle, unassuming personality who possessed inordinate skills and talent in other areas.

Aside from writing, Matthews was an educator, songwriter, novelist, performing artist, certified paralegal, community activist, and actor whose stage credits included “Ain’t Nothing but the Blues,” “Aida,” “Marry Christmas” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He also released two CDs – “Songs for the Greats” and “Mistic Blues.”

Matthews recently finished another book, a memoir entitled “Confessions of a Proletarian.” The book is unpublished due to Matthews’ death on Nov. 14 at Methodist University Hospital. He’d suffered a stroke on Oct. 31. He was 66.

Writing and music fueled Matthews’ creative spirit. He had works published in “Kulture Kritic,” “Jewels Magazine,” “Chicken Bones,” and “Homespun Images: An Anthology of Black Memphis Writers.” A song he co-wrote, “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” catapulted him in the blues genre.

After earning his Bachelors of Arts in creative writing from Vermont College’s Norwich University and a Masters of Fine Art from Fairfield University in Connecticut, Matthews opted to teach English at Wooddale and Raleigh-Egypt high schools.

When he died, Matthews’ family and friends still were mourning the loss of Matthews’ brother, Orlando Matthews, whom they eulogized Oct. 4 in Hernando, Miss., after he suffered a stroke.  

Maurice Walker, who befriended Matthews at Lincoln Elementary School, described him as “a good brother and solid citizen” and good for the liberation movement in Memphis.

“We grew up in Memphis where racism was the law of the land. In adulthood, we dedicated our lives to making life a little better for others,” said Walker, a resident of Dallas. “He was very focused, sharp and intelligent.”

Cornelius Chambers met Matthews in Los Angeles in 1991, where he’d spent three years “in search of stardom.” “We were roommates for about two years,” said Chambers, an entrepreneur. “He was into music and introduced me to the underground music scene. He was always writing plays…anything entertainment.”

Matthews was bodacious, too, he said, and recalls an experience he’d never forget. “We were at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif., and El Espada got up on stage and did one of his blues numbers. I didn’t know if I should be embarrassed, but they gave him respect. He always believed he was a star.”

Matthews was a star in his son’s eyes. Edward Matthews III said his father taught him the pros and cons of being a black man in America. “He didn’t sugarcoat anything. He would give it to you straight. A lot of my friends would reach out to him for advice.

“He was my best friend, motivator, mover and shaker. I’m proud to carry on his legacy. He will be remembered through his music, writing and his memoir,” said Matthews, founder of Independent Artists Media Group in New York of which his father was a board member.

Another son, Tracy Matthews, followed his father’s lead as a filmmaker and schoolteacher. “While I worked at ABC News at night, I taught school during the day in New York,” he said. “He was my best friend. He gave me good instructions and I’m going to miss him dearly.”

Timothy and Carolyn Matthews were married 34 years.

“He was very perceptive of the most mundane situations to the most complex situations of life,” Carolyn Matthews said. “He saw irony in a situation and found it amusing.”

For example, while recovering in the hospital, Carolyn Matthews said her husband had texted his “mentee” a message that he’d had a stroke on Halloween.

The Matthews were a creative team.

“He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He always rooted for me,” she said. “He never displayed envy or jealousy of someone’s ideology. If it were a spark of brilliance, he would applaud it. He would encourage it.”

The visitation is Friday, Nov. 21, from 5-7 p.m., at Christian Funeral Directors, 2615 Overton Crossing St. The body will lie in state from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 22, followed by the funeral at Morning View Baptist Church, 1626 Carnegie St.

The interment will be in Elmwood Cemetery, 824 South Dudley St. 

  • Written by Wiley Henry
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The shopper’s guide to a happy, cost-effective holiday

The Christmas Tree already is up on Beale Street – another indication that the holiday shopping season is upon us.

by Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell

Special to the New Tri-State Defender

OK, let’s face it. We’ve all done the max-out-every-credit-line approach to holiday shopping. After the New Year, we spent the next 10 months paying off the balances.

Then, it’s back on that holiday crazy train for the next year.

Gift cards can be great, except that doling them out to all the grandchildren, nieces, and nephews can get pricey. And quite frankly, that $20 gift card to Macy’s won’t go very far for your 21-year-old grandson. He’ll still have to add another $20 of his own money to get a keychain he likes.

The truth is that we, consumers, are in a power struggle with the merchants and shopkeepers. They woo us out of our hard-earned money and credit worth for what is purported to be the lowest prices for the highest-quality goods. It’s easy to be caught up in the whirlwind rapture of searching for the perfect gift for everyone we love.

We can moan all day about how Christmas has been commercialized, and that people forget that the birth of Christ is “the reason for the season.” But who doesn’t love to receive a gift, or watch the face of a loved one opening a package of that thing for which they have wished the hardest?

Alas, a solution that fits everyone’s budget, no matter how meager. Take full advantage of the virtual bonanza of bargains and specials being paraded in television ads, store mailers, discount coupons and competitor-match offers.

The amount of savings we glean this season will depend solely on the time and thought we invest in price shopping and intentional, non-impulsive buying. No matter what is budgeted for holiday shopping, we can all come out big winners in the merchant wars. Below is a guide for the smart shopper this holiday season.

Brick and mortar

The infamous Black Friday has spread its pervasive influence over the week prior to its arrival. In other words, the week leading up to the day when we’re supposed to be reflecting on how thankful we all are has been invaded with pre-Black Friday sales, early Black Friday discount announcements, and all manner of “specials” and “bargains” designed to lure us to plunging into the holiday shopping melee earlier than planned.

The usual suspects are the big-name stores, which are running pre-Black Friday sales beginning Friday, Nov. 21st. Walmart is not only jump-starting the holiday shopping season early with a pre-Black Friday sale, it is offering to match any competitor’s Black Friday prices that happen to be lower than its own.

Big-ticket items such as electronics and jewelry make it the place to shop this season. This is huge for consumers. No matter what competitors are offering to sell their merchandise for on Black Friday next week, Walmart challenges shoppers to bring in any ad specials from their competitors, and they will match those prices, beginning this Friday.

This means no buyer’s remorse next week when some item will be available for lower than you buy from Walmart this week.

Specialty shops and boutiques are also grabbing for more market share this season.

Catherine’s – Shop for the plus-size woman this Friday. Additional discounts will apply during the pre-Black Friday sale this week.

Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Ross – From household goods to clothing for the whole family, markdowns leading up to Black Friday next week make all three stores worth a look this weekend.

Burlington Coat Factory – Offering so much more than just coats. Holiday wear, shoes for the whole family and reduced costume jewelry make this the place to find dresses and outfits for all the holiday parties. Coats of every kind for every member of the family are half the price of any other store. Faux fur coat styles are favorites for women. Hit “The Factory” this weekend.

Victoria’s Secret – Find pretty little “intimates” for sisters, moms, cousins and girlfriends with buy-one-get-half-off and other coupon offers this year. The ads will be “leaked” prior to Black Friday, along with downloadable coupons for Angel Collection bras and panties.

Milano’s Men’s Fashions – Men’s wear on sale at great prices, but look for fine men’s watches at unheard of savings on Black Friday. Great gifts for the men you love.

Stein Mart – Quality items being offered on Black Friday at discount store prices make this a must-stop for the wise shopper: 24K jewelry under $10; ladies’ coats, 50 percent off; and 50 percent off holiday decorations.

Hickory Farms, Honey-Baked Ham, Holiday Ham – Black Friday sales on gift baskets and packages are always welcome during the holidays. Shipping options are also available for loved ones far away.

Take note!

Next week’s Black Friday shopping guide will focus on taking advantage of huge savings on unique gift ideas online. Theater packages, spa gift sets, wine memberships, the gift of travel, smoke shop items for the pipe smoker, and giving the gift of barbeque, just to name a few.

It’s the holidays. Don’t get soaked this shopping season.

Here’s to happy bargain hunting!

  • Written by Dr. Sybill C. Mitchell
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