Award-Winning Hip-Hop Poet J. Ivy Celebrates Tom Lee Park with New Poem and Tribute

Hip Hop Poet J Ivy releases new poem to celebrate Tom Lee Park.

I can only imagine what it was like during that time of struggle and racism,” J. Ivy said. “Tom Lee risked it all. He could not swim but fished for lives.

I can only imagine the struggle and racism in 1925. Tom Lee risked it all. He could not swim. He fished for lives. At Tom Lee Park, the front door of Memphis, you are greeted by the spirit of Tom Lee.”

— J Ivy, Poet

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES, September 27, 2023 / — The celebration of Tom Lee Park’s opening continues with a new work by GRAMMY-winning hip-hop poet J. Ivy that pays tribute to the new park and its namesake. The poem, Tom Lee Park, was inspired by the transformed 31-acre park and by the heroism of Memphian Tom Lee who saved the lives of 32 people in 1925 from a sternwheeler capsized in the Mississippi River.

“We can’t ask for more than what we received from J. Ivy with the creation of his poem Tom Lee Park,” said Carol Coletta, President & CEO of Memphis River Parks Partnership. “J. Ivy captures the park’s essence and the countless, memorable experiences enjoyed at the park. It’s beautiful and emotional. His portrayal of Tom Lee took my breath away.”

“This park touches my soul. It brings truth to culture, and meaning to sacrifice and existence,” said J. Ivy. “Here’s a place that stretches along the Mississippi River that brings joy and renewal, but also love, and respect, in honor of its namesake. Great inspiration for a poet!”

The new Tom Lee Park, which opened on September 2, dramatically reimagines 31 acres on the Memphis riverfront. It was designed by internationally honored Studio Gang and SCAPE as a symbol of a new day for the riverfront and for Memphis.

Ivy’s tribute to the park comes seven months after he won a GRAMMY in the category of Best Spoken Word Poetry Album.

He was the first poet to win a GRAMMY in 20 years and joined Maya Angelou as the only poets to receive the award. His work has garnered numerous awards and has taken him to stages with Prince, Sia, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Dave Chappelle, and others.

Tom Lee Park is the first national commission as part of the Mellon Foundation’s The Monuments Project grant to the Memphis River Parks Partnership. The grant also funds the annual Tom Lee Poetry and Spoken Word Contest for local high school students and funded the park’s new artwork A Monument to Listening, by internationally acclaimed artist Theaster Gates.

About J. Ivy

Hip-hop poet, J. Ivy is a pioneer, a trendsetter, one who has knocked down impossible doors, taking the art of poetry directly to mainstream music and television arenas. His motivational motto, “Dreams Don’t Come True, They Are True,” has guided him from his native home, Chicago, to becoming a GRAMMY®, Peabody, Clio, Telly, and NAACP Image Award-winning poet and artist.

From his work on the classic song “Never Let Me Down” with Kanye West & Jay-Z to performing a poem for NBA Hall of Fame Legend Michael Jordan, to MC’ing and performing at events for Deepak Chopra, to John Stephens’ (who J. Ivy renamed John Legend) feature on Oprah’s Next Chapter. When the world shut down due to COVID-19 in 2020, J. Ivy wrote and narrated Beyoncé’s Black Is King promo for the Return of the NBA.

A poet, writer, and voice-over artist, he’s shared stages with the likes of Prince, Sia, Doug E. Fresh, Jim Carrey, Sway in the Morning, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Lauryn Hill, and Dave Chappelle.

About Tom Lee Park

Tom Lee Park is a signature park in Memphis that covers 31 acres of the riverfront adjacent to Downtown Memphis, the new park is a national model for welcoming, beautiful, and ecologically restorative urban parks.

The park was designed by internationally acclaimed practices Studio Gang and SCAPE to reinvent the face of Memphis and transform the front door to Shelby County and Tennessee. With stunning public art, spectacular structures, a restored habitat, elevated food and drink, and places to sit, play, work out, and more, the new park is a place for all to enjoy park life.

The park was named in 1954 for Tom Lee, a Memphis hero and Black river worker who singlehandedly saved 32 people from drowning in the swirling currents of the Mississippi River following a 1925 steamship disaster.

Learn more about Tom Lee and Tom Lee Park at

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“Tom Lee Park”

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