May just wrapped another National Preservation Month across our nation. Our own Historic Macon highlighted the plight of preservation with workshops, walking tours and deserving attention to the torchbearers who are working hard to maintain Macon’s character and integrity.
Here in Macon, history lives well beyond calendar and plaque designations. It breathes lovingly in our downtown architecture, our plentiful old home stock and of course, our globally known music makers.
There is no denying our city forefathers (and mothers) had an eye for detail. There is also no ignoring Macon has made some mistakes along the way. And, ultimately, that’s why history matters most.
A few months ago, I wrote about 535 Cotton Ave., the original office headquarters of RedWal Music Company and Capricorn Records. The building was condemned by the city and due for the wrecking ball. Many of you contacted me, telling me how much this place mattered to you personally.
If you drive by it now, you see a large black wall around the outside of its perimeter. That’s because a local developer, a hero in historic commercial property circles, has secured the building and is doing all he can to save the long-neglected property. If you ask him what he wants to do with the building, the answer is simple. He said he realized this structure was “important to a lot of people.” And since he’s a business leader of both purpose and faith, the renaissance of 535 Cotton Ave. is a reality.
I can’t write about a renaissance without saying farewell to another person who matters deeply in all that is happening in Macon right now. My friend and fellow Ear to the Ground cohort, Roger Riddle, is moving to Akron, Ohio.
It was DJ Roger Riddle who got us all dancing when there were just a few lofts, a little bit of a bar scene, barely any social media and a downtown that desperately needed a younger generation to believe in it. He called them the Black Card Parties. Everyone was welcome, but that black card meant you wanted it.
These simple, diverse dance parties were so meaningful that they caught the attention of the L.A. Times and Macon made national news because something hip and purposeful was standing on the shoulders of our Southern rock past.
Riddle was one of the originals, believing and living in downtown before the demand we’re seeing now. He and I joined forces many times in mutual love for our community. We once raised money for the Mentors Project of Bibb County by hosting a night of nothing but Michael, Madonna and Prince music.
We both continue to share a dream of an exclusive Macon music radio station -- one that plays everything from the early grooves of Little Richard to the ones playing around town today. And even though he’s moving, broadcasting Macon music has found a way deep down in his bones. He and his playlists carry the torch of Macon music history.
Our past is a cornerstone to our current progress. If we don’t use it as inspiration in all that we do to make our city a better place -- from development to the arts and culture scene today -- then we’ve missed our sense of place and purpose in Macon. And it’s the people who get that and get behind it who matter most.
Jessica Walden is the director of communications for the College Hill Alliance and co-owner of Rock Candy Tours, a Macon music history tour company. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.