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2 Memorable Black-Owned Businesses in Memphis, Tennessee

April 26, 2024 — Jt Spratley

Before visiting Memphis, Tennessee (TN), the first thing that came to mind when I thought of the city was the 2005 Hustle & Flow movie. Now, there are two Black-owned businesses in Memphis that come to mind.

TONE Art Gallery

I enjoyed the art gallery part of in the Life is Strange video game. I like the sharing of perspectives on a piece of art. A similar, but negative situation occurred in the classic movie Short Circuit 2 where someone called sentient Johnny 5's angular curves "repulsive." So, when I saw the words "black" and "art" in large print on a glass pane, I had to take a peek.

Upon entry, I met an insightful brother who represented the organization. We discussed the organization, their goals, and the current exhibit "What's Your Favorite Color?" before I roamed the art gallery on my own. At each painting and drawing I took a moment to define my own interpretation of the work. In another room were some afrocentric books and a "creative station" where I'd imagine kids and adults create and read together. Further back in other rooms is where I'd assume they host workshops for oil painting, figure drawing, and ceramics.

"What’s Your Favorite Color?" is an exhibition centered on representation and the reclamation of identity, community, and culture. The title is drawn from the local hit single, "Favorite Color" by Memphis, TN natives Da Volunteers & 8Ball, which celebrates Orange Mound, the first Black community built for and by Black People.

Color communicates community identity, pride, and more. We have tasked participating artists to employ monochromatic color schemes. This approach allows the artists to showcase how a single color can evoke a plethora of emothions (sic) and meanings while emphasizing the importance of togetherness and unity.

The TONE Memphis website doesn't capture how I felt while in the art venue. The spacious walk areas and large white spaces redirected my attention to artwork and creative thoughts. Admittedly, the site appears to me as more pro-gay than pro-Black, a vibe I thankfully didn't feel during my visit. They reportedly change themes periodically, so maybe it meshes with a common theme, or they're working on making their website better match their branding. That can be understandably difficult to nail down at times.

If they continue to grow upon what they currently have, I believe they'll accomplish their mission to "shift the culture of Memphis through groundbreaking art, media, and communication that centers Black experiences in our City’s past, present, and future."

Willie Moore's Family Restaurant

Before checking out the TONE gallery, I had an amazing meal at the Willie Moore's Family Restaurant. The interior reminds me of Old Country Buffet and grade-school cafeterias. The meal was delicious. I enjoyed talking with the brothers running the restaurant. If I ever return to Memphis, I'll return to Willie Moore's restaurant.

Tags: black-community, black-owned-businesses

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