MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the most dangerous parts of Memphis is a man who sticks out like a sore thumb.
Henry Booker has been playing the piano since he was a child, and now he’s bringing the sounds of his keys to places he thinks it will impact the most.
He sets up his musical equipment at corner stores every Monday. He asks store managers if he can have a half hour to play music — classical music.
“I want to promote good music to the black community because I feel that African Americans need to see more positive things around them,” Booker said. “It changed my life from being a knuckle head in high school to being a musician and somebody professional, respectful.”
In places where you may see crowds gather to meet, you can now see them gather to listen to Booker. In their cars. On their porch. In front of the corner store.
Booker brings joy through music, and emotion through each note.
“This is what I use to connect with them, to try to draw peace in our community,” Booker said, “and to show them something different, and to show them we can do something bigger and better than what we’re doing now.”
Bigger than violence. Shootings are taking lives across Memphis, and leaving memories behind.
As Booker plays his piano, his left writing hand is wrapped in bandages, his mouth wired shut. It’s a sign of why he is here.
“When I got shot, all I could remember is somebody saying ‘Call 911,’ and I was unconscious for two days,” he remembered.
In June, five bullets went through his body after a man opened fire in North Memphis — a first-hand example of the troubling gun problem in our city.
“My mouth is wired. I have a metal plate right here, a bracket that is keeping my jaw in place because my jaw was shattered, and my tongue had to get sewed up, because my tongue was shredded to pieces,” Booker said.
One bullet went through the throat, one in his hand and three in his chest area.
“I’m not the type of person that would want to harm anybody,” Booker said.
Aside from performing on Beale Street, every week around noon, Booker has what he calls his Hood 2 Hood recital.
He plays love music, exposing people to something different.
“Music can change how you feel, how you look at things. Music can change how you think,” he said. “It just makes me want to be a better person and be an example for other people to want to be better.”
He wants to be an image of love. And an image of what you can be, too.
Booker has created a Gofundme for all his medical bills: https://www.gofundme.com/f/j288u-end-the-violence