By Stephanie Glaser
Happy 243rd birthday America!
We started off the day by traveling to a very patriotic man’s mansion- Mr. Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll. When we rolled into Graceland, we saw some amazing sights. The first thing I noticed Elvis’s many planes he owned, that even had his brand on it. Very fancy! We watched a video all about Elvis’s legacy as we arrived. I learned some new things about his life and impact as a global icon and also heard a lot of his music. It was very catchy! After the video, we went on a self-guided electronic tour of Graceland. I found it very interesting that Elvis had a twin brother that died at birth, who was inspiration for the character Uncle Jesse on Full House. Graceland was beautiful: extremely decorative, stylish, and modern for its time. One room that especially stuck out to me was the Jungle Room. The room was filled with jungle characteristics such as grassy floors and ceiling, and wooden engraved furniture.
After we visited Graceland, we headed over to Lorraine Motel, which is the historic building where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was infamously assassinated. We discussed how this happened and how the killer was found, which was a sad and engaging story. After we saw the Lorraine Motel and the Boarding House from which James Earl Ray fired his shot, we talked for a short while about how there are conspiracies surrounding who was behind Dr. King’s murder. While observing the neighborhood where this occurred, we also discussed gentrification in cities across America as the location has changed a lot since that fatal day in 1968.
From the Lorraine, we headed over to Beale Street for lunch which has distinguished itself as one of my favorite places in Memphis by far. I ate at B.B. King’s for lunch and got a taste of Memphis cuisine and culture, as the Diversity Band performed music during our meal.
We then left Memphis to head over to Little Rock, Arkansas. We all fell asleep on the bus due to have energy for our day ahead. When we arrived in Little Rock, we went straight to Little Rock Central High School, which is where the Little Rock 9 desegregated the largest high school in America of the time in 1957. I was deeply moved by the horrific accounts of bullying towards African-Americans in the school during its attempt to desegregate. Considering the battle that took place between Arkansas’s Governor and President Eisenhower during this, we then discussed state and federal rights on the steps of Central High on account of what happened right where we were sitting back in 1957.
After that enlightening discussion, we drove over to our hotel where we met with Mason Hargett, a member of the Satanic Temple. He was recently featured in the movie “Hail Satan” that detailed the controversy around putting up a statue of the 10 Commandments at the Arkansas Statehouse in Little Rock. He and his fellow Satanists fight for religious freedom within America and advocate for upholding the principle of separation of church and state as outlined in the First Amendment. After this, we spent time hanging out with each other at the hotel and ate a tasty Pizza Hut and wings dinner. To cap off July 4th, we went to downtown Little Rock to see the fireworks and the Arkansas Symphony in celebration of our Day of Independence. By the Arkansas River we also saw the “famous” little rock – the city’s namesake!