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The Burundi Family Singers

My story in Thursday’s edition of the Daily News featured The Burundi Family Singers, a refugee family of 12 who sing the songs that strengthened their spirits and carried them on the long journey from the mountains of their east-central African homeland, through Rwanda and Tanzania, and finally to Memphis, where they settled into their new lives.

Click here to see video of the family performing at a World Refugee Day celebration in Memphis last year. Enjoy.

Memories of Lehrer

This news about Jim Lehrer leaving his anchor job at ‘PBS NewsHour’ in June reminded me about the behind-the-scenes look I got at the legendary anchor when I covered the presidential debate in Oxford, Miss., in September 2008.

I was with a group of journos from around the world who were settling into position a few minutes before the appointed time when Barack Obama and John McCain would begin their debate.

Jim Lehrer always seemed to have a low-key, relatively quiet presence in the broadcast chair. He was anything but that as he strode onto the stage in Oxford a few minutes before the debate was supposed to begin, on his way to take a seat in the host’s chair.

With about five minutes to spare, Lehrer addressed the crowd.

“It’s going to require my absolute concentration, and I don’t want to worry about anyone cheering and hollering behind me,” he snapped. “This is not a competing pep rally. If I hear (anything), I’ll raise my hand. And that means hush.”

He said there would be five-minute periods of open discussion between the candidates sprinkled throughout the 90-minute debate.

“That’s when it’s going to get hairy for me and for everybody,” he said. “This has to be a credible debate. It has to be fair, and it has to appear to be fair.

“And. No. Cell phones. If you’ve got a cell phone, throw it away or turn it off.”

He then took his seat in the chair, with his back to the crowd, appearing to shuffle some papers.

“Thirty seconds,” he bellowed to the crowd. “The next words you hear from me will be the real ones.”

And then, as promised, “the real ones.”

Announced Lehrer: “Good evening from the Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.”

The President’s Seat Warmer

 

A crowd of 600 on hand for the Rotary Club of East Memphis 8th Annual Bobby Dunavant Public Service Awards today.

The awards are sponsored by The Daily News and The University of Memphis. We’ll have more in Wednesday’s edition of the paper.

The honorees this year are Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich which we noted in a story last week.

The keynote speaker was Gov. Bill Haslam who offered some more behind the scenes material from President Obama’s visit one week ago today.

When the President got off Air Force One, he talked with Haslam and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. for a minute or two about flooding and other weather related disasters in the state before deciding he wanted to hear more during the ride to the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

Haslam recalled Wharton remarking as the President moved on to meet the public at the Air National Guard base, “Did the President say he wanted us to ride in the car?”

As they took their seats in the car, Haslam accidentally turned on the seat warmer for the seat where the President would sit. Before he could react, Obama got in the car.

“And so, I had that instant quick decision, do I reach over and turn it off or do I just ignore it and act like it was already on,” Haslam said. “I reached over just as non- chalantly as I could and switch off his seat warmer. He looked at me like, ‘What are you doing?’

Haslam also said the atmosphere at the last Grizzlies game of the post season at FedExForum was the “most electric” sports environment he had ever witnessed.

Haslam was on hand for the seventh and deciding playoff game between the Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder that saw the Grizzlies season end.

 

Child Advocacy Center Flag Raised

Each time a child in Shelby County dies as a result of abuse or neglect, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center raises its Children’s Memorial Flag both in mourning and as a call to action for the community to help prevent child abuse.

On Monday morning, a crowd gathered on the front lawn of the center, 1085 Poplar Avenue, as the flag was raised in memory of Lennon Lancaster, who was almost five months old when he died recently.

The baby’s mother, Lori Lewis, has been charged by the Germantown Police Dept. with criminally negligent homicide.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to be stronger than before on behalf of the children,” Virginia Stallworth, MCAC associate director said during the brief memorial service.

According to MCAC, an estimated one in nine cases of child abuse is never reported. Stallworth emphasized the importance of encouraging friends and neighbors to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect, and to enlist members of the community to help keep children safe.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich delivered the closing remarks.

“Thanks to all of you for being here, and thank you for being here everyday,” she said, addressing the staff of MCAC, a private nonprofit that delivers a coordinated community response when allegations of physical or severe sexual child abuse have been made.

The Children’s Memorial Flag will fly for one week in memory of baby Lennon.

In case you missed it: Great Memphis Food

NBC’s Today Show, with help from George W. Bush daughter Jenna, did a nice feature recently on Alcenia’s in Downtown Memphis.

Click here to watch.

Dansette

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