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“Memphis Majic: The ‘J’ is for Jookin’ ”

Eddie Bailey

“Memphis Majic” takes a look at the DNA of Memphis through the lens of a 30-year-old Memphis-born street dance called Jookin’. The documentary created by Memphis-born Eddie Bailey was selected for the 21st annual Indie Memphis Film Festival and will be playing on Sunday (Nov. 4).

Bailey was raised in Atlanta. After Howard University, he pursued a television and film career in New York, where he has been rooted for the past 15 years.

The “J” in “Majic” is for Jookin’. “Memphis Majic” is his third feature documentary film. He and his mother were part of the exodus out of Memphis in the 80s and 90s. With family here, he would return occasionally.

“As a younger person, I didn’t have a full appreciation for the city, even though I knew a lot of things that came from Memphis, like blues music, soul music and all this good stuff…I didn’t really have a full appreciation for the city because you were blinded by the progressiveness of Atlanta,” Bailey said.

“When I saw Jookin’, I knew it was something special. To me it looked like urban ballet. I said how can something so original, so breathtaking not be a household name.”

He asked questions of the dancers, who told him the dance had been around for 30 years. He wondered why it was not known as widely as breakdancing, which had been around about the same length of time.

“The answer is that Memphis does not have a lot of avenues. That’s when it hit me. I said, ‘Wow. This documentary that I am about to do really isn’t about Jookin’. It’s really about the infrastructure of Memphis; how you can have a dance that is so magnificent and so breathtaking around for 30 years and hardly anyone knows about it.’”

“Memphis Majic” intertwines Memphis history into present-day Memphis.

“When you think about Jookin’, you think about this dance from the inner-city of Memphis, North Memphis mainly. You think about street dancing you think about the neighborhoods where these kids grow up. You start asking questions like, ‘Why is North Memphis the way it is? Why is South Memphis the way it is?’

“Then you start to re-track back into history and get into politics. You start to get into Robert Church…Boss Crump…you get into these things that have paved the way for Memphis to be what it is now.”

So where is Memphis now?

“I think Memphis is in a very critical position right now. I captured the takemdown901 rallies. You have these new political people like Pastor Earle Fisher, who is in the documentary, Tami Sawyer, who is in the documentary, that are kind of leading this charge …these new black political voices…kind of rising up taking charge of Memphis.

“Though Memphis is still 65 percent black – and of that I believe 26 percent of the population is below the poverty line – you still have this hope that kind of lives there; that needs some kind of governmental undergirding so that Memphis can leap into a whole different stratosphere. I think the city is in a place right now where it could do that.”

(“Memphis Majic” is set for a 1:40 p.m. showing at Theatreworks@The Square on Nov. 4. For tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2qnYSKg.)

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