As it emerges, Memphis’ Orange Mound tower builds black ownership and community wealth
On a trip to Memphis, I completely immersed myself in a community of black innovators who are intentionally and shamelessly reclaiming their home.
Thanks to the Memphis brand, BLACK CORPORATE had the pleasure of meeting with a group of rave creators to share their perspective on the city’s thriving black arts and culture.
From moving performances by artists to an art exhibit that showcases the exploration of black fun and storytelling, the community of creatives and supporters does not ask permission to exist. It is about harnessing individual and collective power to sow the seeds of what is possible.
In Memphis, I witnessed the love and support shared between the creative space of the black community. He is unshakable. One creator elevates the other and the ripple effect continues.
Two game-changing black arts organizations, UNAPOLOGETIC and TONE, have joined creative and visionary forces to not only uplift black artists in Memphis, but to pave the way to community wealth and ownership.
“Well, yes, there’s always a competitive nature, but I think overall we’re in a time where we want this change so badly that we’re leaning on each other to build and create synergy,” IMAKEMADBEATSa.k.a James Dukesartist/producer and founder of UNAPOLOGETIC, creative label, tells BLACK CORPORATE.
Dukes recalls, “We used to get together pretty regularly to just talk, basically be CEOs, and complain about the current atmosphere and the way we’re handling things. And one day we got together in my own studio. We just had the idea to stop adding and start multiplying. Three and three don’t have to be six. It could be new.
An Orange Mound tower in the making
After the meeting Anasa TroutmanExecutive Director of Clayborn Temple and CEO and Founder of The BIG We Foundation, I quickly learned how much the Memphis community stands for each other.
While executing his own visions, Troutman helped UNAPOLOGETIC and TONE secure a matching grant from the Kataly Foundation, a nonprofit that moves resources to support the economic, political, and cultural power of Black and Indigenous communities and all communities of color.
The matching grant encouraged local funders to join us and the rest is history. UNAPOLOGETIC and TONE now own the vacant United Equipment facility at 2205 Lamar in the historically black neighborhood of Orange Mound. They also secured the massive tower that stands as a centerpiece.
“We talk about ownership all the time, but we have this opportunity to push our people to think about what’s even possible, victoria jonesexecutive director and CEO of TONE, says BLACK CORPORATE.
“Much of this wouldn’t have happened had it been based only on my personal, limited understanding of what was possible.”
The site was not the first choice for the pair. They tried to buy a mall nearby, but according to Jones the property was sold to someone else for half the price they were asked to pay, but that didn’t blur the line. vision.
With continued help from the community, Dukes and Jones are building a new center for black business and innovation in the first neighborhood in the United States built for and by black people.
“You walk up to the property and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is it,'” Jones recalled when she first visited the property across from TONE.
“There is a heartbeat, and we have to imagine what that blank canvas could be. Stories, innovation and the future of Black Memphis, all embedded in the heritage of this neighborhood.
The Orange Mound Tower inspires as it emerges
The ambitious project is a 7-acre mixed-use development to “convene, celebrate and accelerate black innovators,” according to the website.
The unveiling began with a June 19 celebration that drew thousands to the site over the summer of 2021. This year marked the second annual June 19 Family Reunion celebration and gala, where a Memphis’ talent slate ignited the stage and the audience went wild with pride.
According to Dukes and Jones, the tower’s official induction into the community sparked an abundance of inspiration to claim opportunities in Memphis.
“I love the opportunity that’s been given to us,” Jones said. “I know this project is going to be its own standout moment, but I think its success depends on those standout moments happening in other neighborhoods.
“We see it and it feels very real, but it inspires others to do it in their own neighborhood, with the convenience store that may need updating and has been vacant for a few years. There are just these different levels of opportunity in these other neighborhoods that we watch people access and enter. It’s been really, really exciting.
Dukes, who grew up in Orange Mound, firmly believes that Memphis never really set up the infrastructure for black ownership, especially in the music industry.
He explains, “Because we didn’t have the infrastructure or the setup to say, ‘Hey, actually, we did that. In fact, it comes from here. In fact, that’s how much we’ve changed the game. And between those two situations, it’s just, for me, that it’s become extremely important that we do things right, so that when we’re successful, the blacks appropriate it.
The future of the Orange Mound Tower
For the next three years, plans for the tower include residential and office space as well as art galleries, a performance hall and incubator space where black creatives and cultural organizations can live, collaborate, build and occur. UNAPOLOGETIC will continue to build its artistic and cultural ecosystem in a three-storey office and recording studio complex.
The future is bright for the upcoming hub as deeper collaborations and partnerships are forged.
For Dukes, he thinks of the younger generation.
“I’m also thinking of this 14-year-old boy walking down the street, let me go fast to the tower,” Dukes says
“What’s it like to have a new generation of kids who just have a very different idea of what’s possible?” he is asking himself. “Because even though Victoria and I, and everyone involved in this are dreaming, our dreams are based on repairs. What’s it like when kids don’t have to do that repair, they just start with new slates of what’s possible? »
Jones adds, “And I think I hope James and I play the role that my mom played, like joining the navy so we can offer the privileges so the next band can say, what do we want to do? Who do we want?
“We are not here to create new artists. It’s about seeing people do things that expand what you think is possible for yourself.
The journey may not be easy, but the Orange Mound Tower still rises!