Monday, October 10, 2011


Here are some notable facts about the public-private divide in Memphis politics, that, while by no means exhaustive, can provide points of inspiration:

*In recent months, a bloc of members of the city council and the Mayor have launched an all-out attack on city employees, starting with an effort to privatize the sanitation department and continuing with an illegal deduction of 4.6% of the salaries of public workers that came after good-faith negotiations and contracts already signed. Such policies mean reduced services, salaries, benefits, and numbers for:

*police *sanitation workers
*firefighters *parks services

They’ve even outsourced towing, which, like all privatization efforts, means laying off workers and costs the city more than keeping such services in-house.

*The city has claimed a ‘budget crisis’ even though it is sitting upon over $75 million in its reserve fund and gives millions to private ‘development’ efforts. They have used this so-called crisis to slash funding to public services, which has meant reduced facilities, workers, and hours for:

*parks *libraries
*code enforcement *community centers

*The city’s donation of $215 million to Bass Pro for its planned takeover of The Pyramid has led once again to questions about why our city continues to fund private businesses and buildings with public funds. As public assistance (‘welfare’) is disappearing, such ‘corporate welfare’ is becoming the norm.

*Most decisions about the city’s spending of large sums of public monies are undertaken with absolutely no public input or debate. The voices of the people who will be most affected by such policies -- the raising of bus fares or the displacement of people in areas of ‘redevelopment’ (i.e. gentrifcation) – go unheard.

*Through the PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) program, the city has given away a quarter of a billion dollars since 2007. Companies receive huge tax breaks – public money being given away – to provide a certain number of jobs, etc., with no system of accountability, as businesses are just supposed to monitor themselves.

*While 40% of Memphians do not have private transport, our city’s bus system is deficient, providing inadequate services and an outdated system of routes that were originally designed to take African-American ‘domestics’ out to suburban homes in East Memphis. Instead of improving bus services, the city is working towards the development of an expensive ‘light rail’ system that will primarily move businesspersons and tourists from the airport to the Central Business District (i.e. downtown).

*The priorities within housing issues are similarly skewed, as federal grant projects provide excuses to tear down public housing in areas that developers find appealing, and to displace and scatter long-time residents to the outskirts of the city. There is no pretense that public housing needs will be served by the city, as head of Memphis Housing Authority, Robert Lipscomb, declared to The Memphis Flyer that he hopes Memphis “will eliminate public housing from our vocabulary” (18 March 2011).

*The local chapter of Food not Bombs has been serving free meals to the homeless in Court Square every Saturday afternoon for over ten years. In 2010, the Center City Commission started taking steps to kick Food not Bombs out of Downtown. The CCC’s Jerome Rubin told a Food not Bombs member that the group was encouraging unruly behavior in the park and thereby discouraging people from renting the $1500 condominiums that line the park. Meanwhile, a recent city ordinance confines panhandling to a 2’x2’ mat, while the Mayors’ own Plan to End Homelessness goes unfunded.

*We acknowledge that there are instances in which the divide between ‘public’ and ‘private’ is not as neat as we have outlined here. For example, in city officials’ schemes, ‘business’ is equivalent to ‘big business’, such that the interests of local small business owners are rarely considered.

Artists and practioners, individuals and collectives, can address any of the preceding dimensions of the public-private divide in our city and in the city government’s priorities or suggest your own topic along these lines.

The event will be comprised of offerings that people can peruse as well as performance pieces. Submissions may include:

*paintings *dance
*video *music
*projected images *slam poetry
*installation art *narrative or monologue
*photography *posters or other graphic design/art
*film *sculpture


Branston, John. “The End of Public Housing in Memphis.” 18 March 2011.

‘Food not Bombs harassed in downtown Memphis’



private: adj. 1384, pryvat. distinctive, set apart, apart from public life, belonging to an individual, to deprive one of

public: adj. pupplik. open to general observation, sight or knowledge, concerning the people as a whole, pertaining to the people

The ‘public’ is under assault in cities across the country, and Memphis is no exception.
Whether in the attempted privatization of our city's sanitation department, the consistent under-funding of the public school system, or the city ordinance confining panhandling to a 2’ X 2’ mat, the script remains the same: our local government privileging the private at the expense of the public, therefore greatly diminishing the quality of our collective life.

We want to reverse this trend; this multi-disciplinary artistic and performance event aims to expose the terrain of the problem, including its raced, classed, and gendered dimensions, and to suggest possible avenues for its resistance.

We seek all forms of artistic texts, including visual art, performance, dance, music, or installation, by individuals or groups, that address any aspect of this topic.

Any artist(s) needing specific information or statistics about examples of privatization in Memphis can check the blog: or consult with us at


via email-
Send -photographs of proposed works
-dimensions of proposed works
         -a short artist statement
-your contact information: name, address, email address, phone number

OR via daily mail
Send all items listed above to

3780 Shirlwood Ave.
Memphis, TN 38122

*Please note that photographs and information will not be returned



Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Memphis 1968 and Now" Performance Piece outside of City Hall


Imagine a large wooden board that stands alone with the word “Sacrifice?” across the top; numbers and the explanations of the statistics* they represent are posted all along this board.  Extending out from the board are strips of white duct tape that run on the ground from the board to four metal trash cans, staggered at various points from the board.  The entire performance space is around 10’ X 10’.  Each trash can has a large number on it, which corresponds to one of the statistics on the board.

A man in a suit, carrying a briefcase with ‘corporate privatization’ painted on the side, enters the space and sees an “I AM A MAN” sign propped up against one of the trash cans.  In disgust, he throws the sign into the can.  As he places the lid on the can, you hear the muffled oration of Dr. King's last speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop." A lid on a nearby trash can pops off; the speech becomes loud and clear.  Shocked and embarrassed, he runs over and replaces that lid, while another can’s lid pops off and we hear speeches from the recent union press conference.  This cycle continues, with ‘the suit’ replacing lids, and audio from sanitation workers’ speeches and from Dr. King’s speech being heard as trash can lids pop off with increasing rapidity.  Eventually, he places his briefcase in one of the trash cans and sits down in defeat.

*numbers on the four trash cans and their corresponding statistics:

0% = the amount of salary increase to which the sanitation workers have agreed for the past three years.

$0 = the amount of a sanitation worker’s pension

1300 (crossed out) with 500 underneath represents the number of sanitation workers in 1968 and today, respectively

550= the number of households whose trash one worker is responsible for every day (average)




Monday, June 13, 2011


Hi everyone,
We'll be meeting tonight at 7 at Caritas (2509 Harvard Ave)
The meeting is open to all who are interested, so feel free to bring friends!

here is a tentative agenda for the meeting. Feel free to add anything to the list. hope I didn't skip over anything.

Upcoming Events

1. discuss help with Adhoc Collective performance art project.
2. Potential exhibit geared at a sort of labor history of Memphis, a dialogue of it's ideological and concrete relevance to our city today. Potential of using images/ documents and audio from the labor archives at Uof M.
3. Talk about the potential of Guerrilla Theatre
4. 21st sanitation demonstration- maybe make 4X 6 signs on the stage me and natalie built.

1 Catch up with Manifesto.
2. Re state the structure of the group, as we will be working with more and more people (hopefully) and will need to have a clear understanding in the function and goals of the group.

Discuss groups/communities/individuals to build connections with
1. Discuss it.

Third Image
1. Further discuss the possibility of a Film sub-commitee of RAM
2. start discussing/planning future screenings/discussions.

Community Poetry Workshop
1. Should we, should we not? bring up ideas.

New Ideas
1. discuss and brainstorm any new/potential ideas. Would be good to start a collection of ideas virtually ready to go so one we are rolling we will have lots of options.



-PS- Bennett wants to know if anybody has or knows where to access a sheet of either fabric or paper that is 5X30 feet.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Face Homelessness Guerilla Art

As of yesterday, 6 life size, faceless cutouts which represent people experiencing homelessness were installed at different locations in Memphis, including The National Civil Rights Museum, The Memphis Housing Authority office, and Overton Park's Veteran plaza.  Over the next three weeks, we would like to continue to dispense more of these around town.

posted by: Keith

Friday, April 29, 2011


Hello all, 
this show looks amazing, be sure to catch it tonight! 

The photography exhibition of photographs taken by members of the Memphis homeless community.

Disposable cameras were passed out to empower through artistic expression and this is the show of the unique perspective of our Memphis. We hope it will can be a catalyst in the discussion about homelessness in Memphis.

Check out our website for more info // Pictures from last year's show!

Look forward to seeing you there!

Trolley Night! <2 blocks from MusicFest!
                                                                   409 S. Main
                                                                   Memphis, TN

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Juliano Mer-Khamis, Palestinian peace activist and theatre director, killed yesterday

about Juliano's project, The Freedom Theatre:
The Freedom Theatre - a theatre and cultural centre in Jenin Refugee Camp - is developing the only professional venue for theatre and multimedia in the north of the West Bank in Occupied Palestine. Since it opened its doors in 2006, the organisation continues to grow, develop and expand, enabling the young generation in the area to develop new and important skills which will allow them to build a better future for themselves and for their society.

Empowering Children And Youth

Having grown up amidst a violent military occupation, the young generation in the Jenin area struggle with ongoing fears, depression and trauma. At the same time, few opportunities exist for these youngsters to find positive and creative outlets for their emotions which can allow them to develop a healthy and meaningful sense of themselves and their surroundings.
The Freedom Theatre therefore offers children, youth and young adults in the Jenin area a safe space in which they are free to express themselves, to explore their creativity and emotions through culture and arts. It provides them with opportunities to develop the skills, self-knowledge and confidence which can empower them to challenge present realities and to speak out in their own society and beyond.

Creating Change

The benefits of cultural activities nevertheless go far beyond the individual. Having endured the hardships of an ongoing, violent military occupation, Palestine today is a shattered society and the population struggles with increasing isolation, fragmentation and disillusion. Countering these trends, The Freedom Theatre believes that theatre and the arts have a crucial role to play in building up a free and healthy society.
By encouraging freedom of expression and respect for individual rights, cultural activities break taboos, stimulate cooperation and enhance understanding of the other. Both for artist and audience, the creative process consists of imagining alternatives, rearranging reality and accepting new ways of life. In societies that reward obedience over initiative and following rules over experiementation, this is radical. In theatre it can also be magical.

Care And Learning

The vision of The Freedom Theatre builds upon a unique project, Care and Learning, run by Arna Mer Khamis in Jenin Camp during the First Intifada. Her work was documented in the film Arna's Children , directed by Juliano Mer Khamis - Arna's son who is today the General Director of The Freedom Theatre.
Arna's project focused on using theatre and arts to address children's immediate trauma, chronic fears and depression - all results of a violent Occupation. At the same time, the fierce and energetic humanity of this woman, who was born to a Jewish family and who had chosen to live and work among the Palestinians, challenged the children with possibilities for an alternative reality. The Stone Theatre, which was built as part of Arna's project, was destroyed in the Israeli invasion of the camp in 2002.

About the death of Juliano Mer-Khamis: