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Enjoy & Learn About Hometown African American History

Co-authored by Nita Black and Paula Milner

Communities all over the globe have experienced significant change due to Covid-19.  Most of us are searching for enjoyable ways to spend our time and learn from where we have been, what is different, and where we want to go.  The untold story of a small business ATOP shows what you can do to overcome hurdles during a Pandemic.

Have you ever visited Memphis, TN?  If so, you have surely heard about Elvis, BBQ, and Beale Street. However, have you spent any time digging deep into the rich and vast history of where Memphis began and what it is today?

As a native of The Bronx, NY, Carolyn Michael-Banks is known as “Queen” and Founder of A Tour of Possibilities, ATOP Memphis for short .  Six years ago, Carolyn moved to Memphis, set up shop, and did her homework as she organized unique African American history tours for tourists as well as Memphis area residents.  ATOP takes you to places in the city that you have never been before or in some cases you have been there but were not aware of what happened there years ago.  The tours show you areas of African American history that speak to the importance of the City of Memphis and why it is a place that people can be proud of as well as understanding what happened in the community over the years.    

Compared to what happened to black slaves years ago, then working hard and yet being told what to do while being excluded from the freedoms and opportunities that others enjoyed, the tragedy of COVID-19 and the negative economic impact experienced by many are just as real today.  In March 2020 there was an abrupt halt to social gatherings which was a huge hit to Carolyn’s business and the entire hospitality industry. She was forced to cancel all tours, refunding all clients who had prepaid.  With the passion for sharing her love of the city she now calls home; the impact was emotionally taxing.  However, after several days of unbelief and shock, Carolyn put her faith in the vision of a hopeful outlook for the future.  

Within six weeks of the initial Pandemic hitting Memphis, Carolyn launched her first caravan tour. This was a new concept using digital tools that allowed a caravan of cars to hear the tour narrative about Memphis.   On the turn of a dime, ATOP transitioned from stalled out to what many businesses refer to as the “new normal.”

Although challenges in 2020 continue, ATOP is operating full steam ahead.  And it is all about following your passion, staying connected with resources in your community, and helping out when you can.  

If you would like more information about ATOP Memphis and how ATOP is overcoming hurdles during a Pandemic, please contact Queen to hop on the next tour.  And who knows, she might be willing to help you with your own hometown tour.

We hope you enjoyed this blog – co-written by Nita Black with NitaBlack.com and Paula Milner with Kelem VA

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