As we look ahead to a new year, I have asked some Memphians who care deeply about their city’s future for their resolutions or reflections for 2024. I am deeply grateful for their thoughtful submissions.   

Today’s commentary is by Darrell Cobbins, president/principal, Universal Commercial Real Estate LLC and former vice-president at Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors LLL.  He is also a member of Lambda Alpha International – Memphis Chapter, board member of National Civil Rights Museum, and former chairman of the board of 100 Black Men of Memphis, former chairman of MLGW Board of Commissioners, former chairman of the board of New Memphis Institute, and class member of Leadership Tennessee and Leadership Memphis.  

Darrell Cobbins:

I have honestly struggled to find thoughts or points to share here that I have not stated, at varying intervals, publicly over the past 25 years as a very concerned lifelong citizen of Memphis.  Many of the same challenges and issues still persist, however I remain hopeful that within my next 25 years as a Memphian that Memphis can finally get over the hump.  It is time.

My thoughts keep reflecting back to a 2017 Op-Ed I wrote for High Ground News, leading in to a panel on the city’s economic challenges and opportunities:

Since that time, there have been initiatives that have developed to address our long-standing economic imbalance, most notably in my opinion is United Way of The Mid-South, under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Robinson, via “Driving the Dream.”  This initiative gives me hope, for 2024 and beyond, that there is a coordinated response by grassroots entities that meet Memphis’ most vulnerable citizens where they are, working to help them get to where they need/want to be ultimately.

However, that one comprehensive, coordinating initiative is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.  Now that we have new leadership in City Hall, casting a new vision and direction for our city, we have a window of opportunity to shift into a higher gear.  For the first time in more than 30 years, a new generation of Memphians hold these powerful reins to work collaboratively and inclusively to bring new ideas to bear on these long-standing challenges.

There is not just one singular segment of Memphis/Memphians that holds the solutions.  For far too long, small, monolithic segments of our community have determined the priorities and direction of resources.  Hopefully, it is now evident to us all that a more community-centered, balanced approach is what is so desperately needed.  Solutions that drive resources to and garners ideas from those communities and people of Memphis who have been on the outside looking in for generations.  At this urgent time, that is where I believe the solutions to our most pressing challenges exist. 

The next age of Memphis cannot be business as usual if we expect to soar to higher heights.  It will take all of us.  It is time.  Power to the people.