Explore 901: Toyota Steeped in History #letsgoplaces

History was never a point of interest for me during my school years. And after my time with Toyota on a tour #steepedinhistory, I finally realized why.

Toyota set out on a mission to increase awareness around Black history beyond just Black History Month.They reached out to 6 local bloggers/influencers, one of them being my love, Kim Thomas of KP Fusion, gave them each a Toyota Camry, and had Carolyn Michael-Banks (Queen) of A Tour of Possibilities guide them on a drive tour to historical locations throughout the city. Kim was incredibly gracious to invited me along as her plus one on what would be one of the most transformative adventures I've ever had.

Our day started early with a meet and greet and breakfast at Jim & Samella’s House, a family owned restaurant in a historical neighborhood in South Memphis.

The food was AHmazing and so was our introduction to Queen, our tour guide.

Queen, my friends, was just that: a queen of story telling! And as incredible as the tour was, it simply would not have been what is was without Queen. Her ability to embody the stories of the past and tell them with so much reverence kept us tuned in to her every word, even through the car's Bluetooth system in between stops.

Next was a very brief stop at Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, an actual refuge for runaway slaves.

Next was probably my favorite stop of the day: the African American Museum Foundation, located in the New Chicago neighborhood of North Memphis and run by none other than Dr. Carnita Atwater. She has amassed a collection of historical artifacts, but this woman alone blew me away. Her love and passion for preserving all things Black, African and African American in unmatched and she can not be applauded more.

Over the past 35 years, Dr. Atwater has amassed one of the largest private collections of African American artifacts in the world. The blessing is that she shares it openly in her museum/community center. Patrons can walk in and expericence everything from a Tuskegee airman parachute to rusted wrist and ankle shackles to Sammy Davis Jr.'s wardrobe.

To visit the African American Foundation Museum, please contact Dr. Atwater at 901.502.2326 or via email Atwaterc4@aol.com.

Our next stop was to none other than Clayborne Temple, where we were able to see the newly unveiled I AM A MAN monument honoring the 1968 sanitation workers.

Then, we were off to world famous Beale street to check out the home of the "Father of the Blues",  W.C. Handy and take a tour of the Withers Collection Museum & Gallery.

We then jumped back in our cars and made a few rolling stops at Mason Temple, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I've been to the mountain top" speech, and Memphis Slim Collaboratory, a coop of sorts where musicians and artists of all types can come in and create!

And speaking of music, one of the most energizing stops was at none other than Royal Studios. One of the oldest perpetually operating studios in the world is still the machine that cranks out hits and albums from the likes of Al Green, Wu Tang Clan and Bruno Mars!

See that Coca Cola box in the shot above? Would you believe me if I told you that that is THE box that produces the knocking sound in the beginning of Al Green's "Love and Happiness"?

Well, it is!

We rounded out the tour with a nod to the future, stopping at the beautiful Green Leaf garden of  Knowledge Quest, a non-profit organization that promotes community development in South Memphis.

 Knowledge Quest's Green Leaf Learning Garden has been instrumental in taking this area of South Memphis from a food desert to an organic oasis! Not only do children learn how to garden and take care of their community, they also learn healthy eating habits and entrepreneurial basics. They are one of only 3 USDA certified organic organizations in Memphis with the other two being a meat producer and flower farm. And they sell direct to the community for prices better than any grocery store at two farmer's markets in town. 

Our final stop of the tour was the most delicious. We were treated to a late lunch/early dinner at The HM Dessert Lounge. Owned and operated by Chef Fran Mosely, this hot spot sits right across the street from Minglewood Hall and offers up some of the most decadent eats you can imagine!

I dined on some southern fried chicken and waffles, topped off with a tropical bread pudding that tasted like what dreams are made of. 

I'm forever changed by this opportunity and am grateful to Toyota for creating such an amazing experience and to Kim for inviting me along! I tell people that I learned more in one day than I did in all of my years of schooling. To now know the historical gems that sit in my backyard, I can't be more proud. 

P.S. I get a ton of people asking me what they should do when they come to Memphis. Now, you know! Give all of these amazing places a visit!