Four years ago a theater actress and storyteller was allowed into the women's prison, the Shelby County Detention Center. She began teaching inmates how to write the true stories of their lives up to the point they were incarcerated. The women bonded with their visitor as if she were the first person who truly had listened to them, which in many cases she was.
Viewers will journey through this outreach program, called "Prison Stories," with a special half-hour documentary airing on WKNO/Channel 10 on Thursday, May 15 at 9 p.m. "Inside Story," produced by local award-winning filmmaker Craig Leake, follows storyteller, writer, and actor Elaine Blanchard and her twelve students through the sixteen-week course. It was funded, in part, by the Department of Communication at the University of Memphis.
Although she is an ordained minister, Blanchard doesn't lecture her captive audience about Jesus. Most of her inmates/students already have been exposed to prison ministries. Some of the "Prison Stories" participants have been baptized as many as four times. Instead of praying over the women, Elaine listens to them and becomes a friend who helps them analyze their pasts and plan for their futures out of jail.
When most people talk about the "King's English," they're referring to a very proper, aristocratic way of speaking in terms of grammar and syntax. That style is far afield from the uniquely African-American phraseology also known as Ebonics.
In fact, the pros and cons of teaching black English has been the subject of debate in recent years, with detractors arguing that it has no place either in the classroom or in polite society. Those naysayers might rethink that position after perusing "What the Word Be: Why Black English Is the King's (James) English. "
For, according to its author, Diane Proctor Reeder, the roots of Ebonics can readily be found in the King James Bible, the text employed by most slave masters to teach Africans English. To prove her point, Reeder simply quotes from scripture, such as "Surely the people is grass," which is found in Isaiah 40:7.
This Week in Memphis !
Greek Food Festival | A Grecian feast of kabobs and gyros joins marketplace goods, music and culture | 1pm-8:00pm | Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Mayor Wharton's Office of Talent and Human Capital |Artists Make Interesting Entrepreneurs| 2pm-4pm | Start Co.
Visible Music In May | Live Music, Food Trucks, & Games
4:30pm-8:30pm | Visible Music College
At the intersection of Union and Cooper, an 11-year-old boy stricken with polio waited eagerly for the convertible transporting the future 35th president of the United States to pass his way en route to the riverfront to deliver a campaign speech. Transfixed by the thrill of seeing Sen. John F. Kennedy, Steve Cohen aimed his camera, framed the senator, and fired the shutter that day in September of 1960.
Today, the vintage black and white photograph of a beaming Kennedy sitting atop the convertible with then-Memphis mayor Henry Loeb and then-Senator Albert Gore Sr. hangs conspicuously among Cohen's extensive collection of photographs, posters, artwork, hundreds of campaign buttons, and other political paraphernalia in his Spanish Tudor-style home on the periphery of Overton Park.
The paraphernalia are decades-long records of events and personalities that inspired and shaped Cohen. His brush with Kennedy subsequently would seal his fate as a public servant in local, state and national politics.
Some would say that we've seen this kind of outreach before from the Republican Party. The year was 2000. President George W. Bush had just "won" a photo-finish presidential race branded by "hanging chads" that led to the disqualifying of Democratic ballots and a painful loss for Tennessee favorite son, Al Gore Jr.
One week after the presidential election, Bishop G.E. Patterson of the Church of God in Christ had been elected presiding bishop. The acrimony between the political parties was palpable.
In late March of 2001, President Bush welcomed key African-American religious leaders, including Bishop Patterson, to the White House. More than a dozen convened with the president to lend their support for a plan to award federal dollars to faith-based programs. Patterson was quoted as saying that he did not vote for President Bush, adding that if the plan worked as intended, "there would be no reason for black people not to vote for him four years from now."
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