Cocktails With Community

Three Savannah community activists enjoy a fittingly dynamic conversation with Associate Editor Jim Signorile over gourmet delights at Brasserie 529. Photography by Geoff Johnson

Meet Our Guests

Murray Wilson is a native of the United Kingdom. He is founder and president of TPC Consulting and acts as the chief architect and instigator of the Goon Squad information technology program at All Walks of Life Inc. (AWOL), a nonprofit youth service organization.

Tom Kohler was born and raised in Savannah and serves as coordinator and executive director of Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy.

Jerome Meadows, originally from New York, is an artist focusing on the design and fabrication of large-scale public art projects, often linking art and community. He is also the founder and director of Indigo Sky Community Gallery.

 

Savannah Magazine: Name someone in Savannah who inspires you.

Murray: Tony Jordan. He is so damn honest about everything he does. He is honest about his angst. He is honest about his fears. He is honest about his enthusiasm. He has inspired me more than any other individual in this town.

SM: Any other names out there?

Tom: Robert Cohen. He’s a young guy who keeps figuring out ways to make a difference and matter. He’s just written a book and has another one coming out. He is going to chair our board (of directors) next year. People tend to not take him as seriously as they need to, and he just doesn’t quit. I really admire that.

SM: How about you, Jerome?

Jerome: I would have to say Tom Kohler.

Murray: I second that.

Jerome: It is his commitment to not only the city but also to humanity and his doggedness toward that objective.

Murray: With the emphasis on dog.

Tom: Ruff.

(Laughter.)

Jerome: And surprisingly, people still have good things to say about him.

Murray: I’d like to see a list of his enemies.

Tom: The closer to home, the more there are.

(Laughter.)

SM: If you could bring one soul back to walk the earth at this moment in history, who would it be?

Murray: I love the question. I have one: Humphrey Littleton. He started his life as a cartoonist at a London newspaper back in the 1920s and then became an incredible jazz musician. In his latter years he became a host of a remarkable radio show that ran for about 30 years. He had such spirit, such intellect, such charm. I’d like to bring him back. I felt his loss personally.

Tom: At a personal level, I would bring my father back. There is a lot more between us that didn’t happen. At a community level, I would bring back the greatest bartender to ever stalk the soil of Savannah. That, of course, was the infamous Jim Collins of Jim Collins’ Bar.

(Laughter.)

Jerome: I would be very curious to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. come back and tell us what he thinks of the memorial dedicated to him at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. And while he’s at it, he could tell us about Barack Obama and a whole bunch of things. But first he would need to tell us about his memorial.

Tom: Do you have thoughts on the memorial?

Jerome: I do, and it is primarily from the perspective of the sculpture. I agree with many of the points in The New York Times’ review of the memorial, in that it seems inconsistent with Dr. King’s message. Here was this person who was at a very street level, who was very open and embracing of human kind, and he is now depicted as a 30-foot-tall, almost kind of an angry black man. His arms are crossed, and there is nothing approachable about it. He appears overbearing. It would be very interesting to see what Dr. King would say about that.

SM: Name someone who needs to be humbled.

Murray: Pass.

(Laughter.)

SM: This doesn’t have to be on the local level if you were afraid of offending someone. It could be anyone on this planet as opposed to Savannah-specific.

Murray: Oh, it should be Savannah-specific.

(Laughter.)

SM: For instance, a previous participant mentioned Rupert Murdoch.

Murray: He’s already been humbled, and I am enjoying it.

Jerome: But how does the Antichrist get brought so low? If you are the Antichrist, I thought you would be above all that.

(Laughter.)

Tom: I would not be saddened if some of the money men and women on Wall Street were humbled a bit. Right now there is too much power concentrated on a very small piece of real estate in the United States. Some of those people should go on field trips and see what is going on in America on the street level, and then they should go back to where they live and decide what has really happened here. I hope they are completely out of touch, because if they are not out of touch, it means that something more sobering is in play.

Jerome: I’m compelled to approach the question differently. It is more a matter of what would it take to bring on that humility. I don’t know if they are still doing it in Savannah, but there was a program where folks could volunteer to experience homelessness. It would be great if there were some system where folks can somehow be made to see that there are people out there who are suffering, and it’s based upon their greed that some suffer. So I am more inclined to think of how you go about bringing that type of humbling, because there is a long list of people I could identify.

SM: If you could have a job other than your own, what would it be?

Tom: There is this guy on the food network, Guy Fieri…

SM: From the show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives?”

Tom: Yes. That job is great. Travel around the country going to great food spots. That is a great job.

SM: Second to that would be Anthony Bourdain on “No Reservations.”

Jerome: I tell you what it wouldn’t be: mayor.

SM: Is that because you couldn’t play the game?

Jerome: That’s an interesting way to the throw it back to me. The reality of how I would want to deal with issues would not be what the structure calls for or what the expectation is regarding the politics of things. Taking a direct approach to issues without regard for who is stepping on whose toes politically would be refreshing. It would also be disastrous because the system isn’t set up for that.

SM: How about you, Murray?

Murray: I really like the job I’ve got. Can’t I just have the job I’ve got?

(Laughter.)

SM: What would Savannahians be shocked to know about you?

Tom: People would be surprised that I am a shy person.

Murray: You’re not shy.

Tom: I am shy.

Murray: I’ve never seen you shy.

Tom: I didn’t say that I haven’t worked on it, but at my core I am a pretty shy guy.

SM: You’re withholding something from us, Murray. I can see you filtering things in your brain saying, “Nope. Not that one. That one is best left unsaid. Moving on.”

(Laughter.)

Tom: Jerome, I can think of some things people would be surprised to know about you.

Jerome: Help me out here, Tom.

Tom: I think people would be surprised to know that you came here through Leadership Savannah.*

Jerome: Very true. Perfect. That’s my answer.

Tom: Well, that still surprises me.

Jerome: It still surprises me, too.

SM: I am not letting you out of this one, Murray.

Murray (with heavy British accent): I think people would be surprised to know that I wasn’t born and raised here.

(Laughter.)

* Leadership Savannah brought Jerome Meadows from Washington, D.C. to Savannah in 1997 to create a public work of art in West Savannah that would commemorate the African-American and Native American history in the area. As part of the project, Jerome designed the entire 3,000 square-foot green space in front of First Bryan Baptist Church.

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