Black Lives Matter Group Plans Protest Outside Of Graceland During Elvis Week

By Courtney Anderson

Why Graceland?

Memphis,TN residents and the city’s chapter of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens have planned a Black Lives Matter protest outside of Graceland during Elvis Week.

It’s a bold move that has many questioning its appropriateness.

After all, Graceland is a major tourist attraction for Memphis.

Tourists, both national and international, pay good money to travel to Elvis’s home and participate in Elvis Week impressions, tours and vigils.

Protesting in front of it could potentially cause an economic hit to the attraction.

But maybe that’s the point.

According to a statement released by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, the protest is a demonstrative rally against the “social injustice, police brutality, and socio-economic disparity” in the city of Memphis.

The socio-economic disparity felt by many in the city is a major concern for local leaders.

According to the group, that’s why Graceland is an appropriate place of action.

“Graceland was chosen as a protest site because it demonstrates one of Memphis’s most common forms of financial inequity,” the group’s statement reads.

Graceland is located right in the center of Whitehaven, a predominantly Black and almost entirely working-class neighborhood.

And while the museum brings in a lot of money, many citizens of Whitehaven don’t see that money being reflected in the state of roads, housing, and places of employment surrounding the house.

Whitehaven is victim to unevenly paved roads with potholes, empty buildings lining the streets and low-wage jobs moving in and only employing a few people.

The city of Memphis has made a promise to revitalize the area.

According to a report from WMC Action News 5, the Memphis City Council advanced a $43 million plan that would “expand and enhance the Whitehaven community.”

“This is Whitehaven, and the people of Whitehaven care about their community,” councilman Harold Collins said during that meeting in 2012.

The reconstruction is set to take place on Elvis Presley Blvd and includes new restaurants, businesses, new light fixtures and repaved roads.

There is also supposed to be a gate to Elvis Presley Blvd from the interstate.

So far, the only project that is underway and near completion is a new 450-room “Guest House” at the Graceland Hotel.

According to WREG News Channel 3, the Guest House cost $92 million and is set to open on October 27, 2016.

A recent Memphis Daily News editorial also claimed that $38.7 million of that money came from a “5 percent tourism surcharge on Graceland tickets and other Graceland items.”

The Graceland estate released a statement saying that those claims were false, and that the Graceland project has not received any money from the city or county.

“All financial risks associated with the construction, completion and continuing operations of expansion projects in Whitehaven will be borne by Graceland and related entities, not the taxpayers of Memphis and Shelby Count,” the statement reads. “The tax incentives for the project are based solely on Graceland’s performance and are site-specific, limited to the Graceland campus.”

Members of the coalition remain skeptical of the benefits of the Guest House to the larger community of Whitehaven.

“Project developers and city officials promised Whitehaven residents the project would be an economic boon to the community but, as has been case for decades, residents have seen little if any of that money ‘trickle down’ into the middle-class neighborhood’s economy. This is not an uncommon story,” the coalition’s statement reads.

That’s why the Graceland protest, named #OperationBlueSuedeShoes, is still a go for 6 p.m. on Monday, August 15, 2016.

Stay with RISE NEWS as we bring you updates to this story as it develops.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Lindsey Turner/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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