Whatever it’s called – M-Town, Bluff City, The River City, Big M, Home of the Blues, Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll – Memphis is well loved by those who know her best.

This month’s launch of a new campaign calls on Memphians to join city government to fight the litter and blight. The “901 Keep It Clean” is the new “Clean Up, Paint Up, Fix Up” initiative of the 21st century.

“Litter remains a pervasive concern in urban centers,” said Eldra White, executive director of the Memphis City Beautiful Commission. “Memphis is already beautiful with its trees and wonderful canopy. But our effort to keep Memphis clean will enhance the natural beauty we have all come to love.”

Local, celebrity spokespeople will lead the way on multiple media platforms, such as: University of Memphis Basketball Coach Penny Hardaway, the Grizz Girls, Christ Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Gina M. Stewart, and Spoken Word Artist Sebastian Carson.

“As I have moved across the city and spoken with older Memphians, they remember when Memphis won awards for its cleanliness,” White said. “They feel that something was lost the day Dr. King died in Memphis. Truth or not, we want to bring back a strong sense of pride for our city.”

Stewart said she was “humbled and happy” to be a part of the project.

“The videos were shot back in the summer,” Stewart said. “I felt honored and thankful to speak on behalf or our city. Memphis has the best people you can find anywhere. We can do better, and we can be better. A litter-free city will benefit us all.”

Criminals tend to gravitate toward areas where garbage and other debris is dumped in residential communities where people live, White said. “But if we can eliminate those areas, there is no place for criminal activity to go on. This improves the quality of life for everyone.”

Billboards, television and radio ads will be played, using one of the chosen spokespersons.

“We show that we really care for our home town when we make sure we don’t litter and challenge others to do the same,” Stewart said. “Memphis City Beautiful tried to choose a cross-section of local figures to drive the message home. Keeping Memphis clean helps us all.”

White said once Memphis City Beautiful has promoted a call to action and Memphis once again reflects the pride felt by all of its people, businesses will feel comfortable building here.

“We need new jobs for employees to care for their families,” said White. “Caring about Memphis is a win-win proposition.”

The 901 Keep It Clean initiative will open up dialogue about litter and how to move forward toward eliminating the issue altogether, White said.

“Mayor Strickland promised to reduce the areas of blight and trash. …This is one way he is delivering on that promise.”

Noting that Memphis is rich in cultural history and significance, Strickland said, “It is our obligation as citizens to not let blight and litter create a barrier between us and opportunity. People come from all over the world to patronize our city and we want that to continue.”

(To learn more, visit www.memphiscitybeautiful.org. Join the discussion at #901keepitclean.)