I checked that my car doors were locked before I walked up the steps to my father’s porch. Couldn’t be too careful in this neighborhood anymore.
“Hey, Dad.” I said upon reaching the top. He looked away with a frown.
“Given any thought about what I said about getting out of Orange Mound?”
“I like it here.” Was his terse answer.
“Dad, I know you’ve got pride in your neighborhood, but it’s time for a change. Time to see something new.”
“Feh.” He spat a wad of tobacco into the yard. “I was in the Army. Saw Europe, Japan, Korea. Reckon I seen more of the world than you. And even with all that, I’d rather be right here than any place I know.”
I shook my head and laughed.
“What’s so funny” He asked sharply.
“W.C. Handy said the same thing about Beale Street almost a hundred years ago.”
My father regarded me sternly for a moment.
“So, what you’re sayin’ is if hang onto this house long enough, people are gonna be bang on my door to turn this place into one of them fancy neon light bars?”
That was the first time we laughed together in years.
Orange Mound was formed when a real estate developer bought an old plantation and began to sell the land to African American families in the late 1800s. The area grew into one of the most vibrant predominantly black communities in America. Sadly, the positive act of desegregation was a double-edged sword for Orange Mound. Young people with new mobility chose to move out of the neighborhood, property values dropped and crime moved in. In recent years, Orange Mound has been the target of large revitalization programs that are breathing new life into the historic community.