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A Month in Memphis

Jerome Smalls Nicholas Spates

Jerome Smalls and Nicholas Spates.

As the academic year starts to speed up during its final stretch, the culture of Georgetown has never been more obvious: Hordes of students swarm Lau, lines form outside the Cawley Career Center in the search for the perfect summer internship, and panicking organizations struggle to find new leadership. Meet Jerome Smalls, a marketing major in the MSB, and Nicholas Spates, a math major in the College. These two sophomore roommates reject this hurried career oriented culture in favor of a month-long artistic retreat in Memphis starting at the end of finals.

One day during the end of November, the final stretch of last semester, Spates and Smalls sat in their room discussing all the things they wanted to do, projects for which they had the inspiration but never the time. With a laugh, Smalls recollected how they “had a crazy thought to screw the whole internship thing and Googled the cheapest places to live in America. Memphis came up, and we were like ‘a month in Memphis’ and it stuck.” Besides its economic benefits, Spates and Smalls noted Memphis to be “one of the music capitals of the world” and always having “some type of music going on.” They believe Memphis will provide them with the chance “to escape the hustle and bustle of D.C. and the comfort of our respective homes,” “be surrounded by music,” and “draw inspiration” from the city. That afternoon, Spates and Smalls agreed to a ‘month in Memphis,’ and “a time to let our creative souls grow.”

When asked if Georgetown played a positive or negative role in their efforts, Smalls argued, “in an institutional sense, I feel like the resources are here for us to act on our inspiration. In a cultural sense, I would say no because of the sheer amount of work that we have put on us.” In a sense, Georgetown makes their ‘month in Memphis’ possible with its inspiration, but also necessary because of their shortage of time on campus.

As a result, both head to Memphis with plenty of projects in mind. As a film and media Studies minor, Spates’s projects revolve around videos and scripts. His primary focus is a silent film based on and inspired by John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, his favorite jazz album. Spates reminisced about how he woke up from a nap one day inspired to “make my own interpretation of it through my medium, which is film.” Spates’s interpretation will show the short cycle of an interracial relationship in black and white to the movements of A Love Supreme’s four parts. Other projects include a script for the pilot of a comedy television show and videography documenting the trip. He may also bring along his trumpet, an instrument he has wanted to learn to play since he received it two years ago but never found the time.

Small’s projects include a memoir and a book of poems. In his memoir, Smalls hopes to document the lessons he has learned, “about race, coming to learn about my heritage as a black man, and how I view the world and how vastly different that view was in high school.” He envisions his memoir as “a coming-to-be type of project,” something from which he and others will learn. With his book of poems, titled A Book for Her, Smalls hopes to address “the multifacetedness of womanhood” from a man’s perspective. The poems will include lessons and stories from and for “close friends with traumatic experiences, younger sister, future daughter, future wife.” Smalls has occasionally dabbled in poetic leanings, writing poems every month or so, but nothing along the scope of this project.

In addition to their individual projects, Spates and Smalls look to produce an album together. This seemed outside of their individual areas, but when I asked about it, Spates was quick to respond saying, “Every person has one good album in them, and why not do it while I’m young?” They will pursue a combination of funk and hip hop, writing the lyrics independently but producing the music together.

With so many projects in the works-a silent film, script, memoir, book of poems, and an album, I was naturally curious as to what Spates and Smalls hope to do with their final products. Spates expressed a desire to release it to the public but recognized “it isn’t for the public, as most true art is not for the public. It’s for the artist. It’s for expression.” Smalls agreed, saying, “I feel the same, but if it puts us on, I ain’t mad.”

PC: Nicholas Spates

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