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Orange Mound is Black History

Orange Mound is Black History

February is Black History Month. Orange Mound has a compelling chapter in the story of remarkable feats of Black men and women in our country. Original and resolute, the Black Memphians who worked for white Memphians carved out a section in Southeast Memphis in 1890 and built a neighborhood for themselves called Orange Mound.

Melil Powell, a local historian, said:

Orange Mound was built on the John George Deaderick Plantation. Deaderick purchased 5,000 acres of land between 1825 and 1830, and the neighborhood got its name from a local fruit called the mock orange that grew in the shrubs there. The Deaderick Plantation was sold to a white real estate developer, Izey Eugene Meacham, in 1890. Meacham divided the land and created a segregated subdivision for African Americans. Lots were created in narrow grids and sold for less than one hundred dollars each. The neighborhood originally contained 982 shotgun houses. Compared to white neighborhoods, Orange Mound was inferior, but it was still an important symbol of status among Black Memphians during the Jim Crow era. Overall, Orange Mound has faced many hardships, but continues to foster a strong sense of community and identity within a large urban environment. The neighborhood has a long history of resilience, pride, and sense of identity that continues to live on today.  

One hundred thirty-four years ago, along with the pioneers who settled this city within a city, Jesus moved in as well.  Churches, schools, parks, and economic opportunities were spawned and given life here. Though modest in scale, the bold step engendered robust pride, safety, and a strengthening of cultural values. The valiant success to preserve Black community more than a century ago is lamentably now on “life support.” Crime has created a crucible for all who live within our boundaries.

My Cup of Tea’s objective for over a decade is that The House that is our operations hub stabilize and dignify single moms and grandmoms who live in the neighborhood. Though heads of their homes, they are largely devoid of resources to protect them. Fifty years of slack economic resourcing impedes any who desires to vacate the dangerous blocks within our borders and the creep of crime along our sidewalks and streets. The progress we have imagined for their protection is still improbable, but not impossible.

Rather than capitulate, the ladies are bolstering their courage to take back the neighborhood.  Aligning with the fond memories of their courageous forebearers, the women are seizing their moment to stop the evil in our midst. God’s anointed Orange Mound founders’ ‘enterprise is at the grass root where we abide.  Our women are rising to defend our neighborhood and protect our children.  We are connecting with our local police precinct and following the guidelines of Neighborhood Watch.  Good neighborliness unifies, and knowing our neighbors is paramount to protecting our home and the block on which we live.

Nonetheless, knowing neighbors is more challenging here. Rental houses turn over frequently, front doors are intentionally unwelcoming, and sidewalks are hazardous for pedestrians and bikes.  It’s a small beginning but not one without hope.  What God is stirring within us is re-establishing a safe place for children to play, gardens to thrive, and neighbors to fellowship is in view.  The ladies have found the personal firm footing that our many volunteers and programs have offered.  Within that security, a new obligation has been realized, and with the Lord’s guidance and empowerment, they will redeem what is broken on our blocks and bring safety back to the neighborhood.  We are a ministry of equipping women to do the next thing for the Kingdom. We believe we are part of the solution for the safety of our city within the small corner we live and love. We do not shrink back from the call to do as Isaiah has prophesied.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined city. Isaiah 61:4