Logie Meachum: anything but a stereotype

As I took a seat in the Newcomers School library, I saw an enthusiastic old man wearing a black suit with a matching black hat sharing stories with a class of elementary school students. He seemed almost ridiculous as he danced around the room to the laughter and smiles of the children. I could not help but join in.

While he is best known in the area as a blues musician, Logie Meachum regularly gives public performances as both an energetic storyteller and dynamic lecturer.  He tells anecdotes about his grandmother and his childhood alongside visionary speeches to inspire his audience to change the world. The former Guilford professor for music and contemporary culture courses recently performed outside of Founders Hall for Karrie Manson’s FYE class as passing students paused to listen to his animated speech.

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Logie to discuss his goals, struggles and his roles as a performer.

Q: How did you get into blues music?

A: I like blues. It is the language of recovery and discovery. I grew up listening to country music because there were no black radio stations around when I was a boy. But I’m moving away from the idea of being a bluesman.

For me, (as) a blues musician, American culture sees me as one way, one thing. If you’re a blues musician, you can (become a) millionaire. You get your electric guitar, your hat, some shades and throw your head around a little bit. But for me to be a blues musician, I’ve got to be toothless, raggedy, have hard-time stories and have dragged my whole life through the mud (to become) authenticated. Then I’m a real black blues musician, but I’m an intellect. I have an education. I’m not them. I don’t fit the stereotype, and people don’t like that.

Q: What have you been doing since leaving Guilford College and Winston Salem State? Are you still teaching?

A: I taught last year. In 2013, I was teaching at University of North Carolina at Greensboro and I was teaching a course at Elon Law School called Claiming Democracy. My wife and I divorced (in 2013, so she and my) two kids moved to Fayetteville.

Losing my children caused me to lose my mind. I literally went crazy, and I am just now recovering. I seem very functional and very happy. I look like I have the world on a string, but I miss my wife. I miss my children. I miss the family. We were together for 20 years, so I’m rebuilding myself now.

Q: You’ve been doing public speaking and telling stories for years. Why do you continue performing on a regular basis?

A: I was made aware in the midst of one of the greatest turmoils of my life that my performances for children and my public speaking helped influence the lives of other people.

Personally, there are times when I’m going through an awful lot, but that’s just my little world. I’m very invested in North Carolina. Growing up in here, I helped build this place. I spent much of my life as a fireman here protecting it. I’m an ex-marine. I love my home. I love my folks. So instead of shutting up and sitting down as many people probably wish I would, I fight for them. My grandma used to say, “If you find a good fight, get in it.” For me, because of what North Carolina is and what this moment is, particularly because I have children, I’ll fight for them to make a better place. I have to die, and I’m almost there. There’s no way around that. So whether people like it or not, I’ll fight.

Q: Do you have any particular message you want to leave for Guilford students?

A: I issue my grandmama’s challenge to Guilford College students. If you find a good fight, get (involved). America’s future is a good fight.