UTC Students Shed Light on History of MLK Boulevard

By Haley Walker, Staff Writer—


Students of the UTC Podcasting class hosted a preview party for their latest class project called “Stories from the Big 9” at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on January 30.

This is a podcast that talks about the history of East Ninth Street, or M.L. King Boulevard as it is known as today, which became known as “the Big 9” for its nightlife as well as stories of people who live and make a living there now.

One segment titled “Faces of MLK,” done by Jack Ver Mulm, Madison Morgan and Katie Raabe, involves an interview with Kevin Bates who painted murals of blues singers like Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson as well as Martin Luther King Jr. on various buildings along the street.

“It was a very fun project to work on,” Ver Mulm said, “and I’d recommend for anyone who’s going into the COMM (Communication) program to at least check out podcasting to see if they enjoy it or not.”

Other segments previewed at the event included “Live & Let Live,” which is about the businesses on M.L. King Boulevard (with at least one going as far back as the 1930s), and “Me and Bessie Smith,” which discusses Ms. Smith’s career as a blues performer and notable things about her such as “the Bessie Smith Strut.”

Professor Davis, Mayor Andy Berke, and  James McKissick, the current vice president and chief operating officer of the Urban League, were there to give opening speeches at the event before the previews began.

“Creation is about power,” Mayor Berke said, “and when we exercise that power we are acting in God’s image.”

“A podcast is just another way of storytelling,” Professor Davis adds. “A podcast is a series of sounds you can subscribe to. I like to refer to them as ‘sound magazines.’

“I hear curiosity and respect and I hear people listening to each other,” he adds. “Because the world is digital now, it’s smaller, and we should all be closer, but we’re not. We’re polarized and it may be because we’re not listening to each other.

“One of my favorite quotes is by the American poet, Muriel Rukeyser—a poet best known for her works on equality—and she said once, ‘The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.,’” he continues. “I think that’s true. Storytelling is that important. Stories can change the world.”

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