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VOL. 132 | NO. 236 | Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Holder, Branch to Keynote April Observances of King Anniversary

By Bill Dries

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and author and historian Taylor Branch will be the featured speakers at two days of panel discussions and keynote speeches in April as the National Civil Rights Museum marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eric Holder

Taylor Branch

Holder, who is currently a partner at the Covington and Burling LLP law firm, will be the keynote speaker at an April 2 luncheon at the Peabody Hotel.

Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a trilogy of books examining the civil rights movement across King’s public life – “Parting the Waters,” “Pillar of Fire” and “At Canaan’s Edge” – will speak April 3 at a luncheon at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis.

“We intend to initiate thought-provoking dialogue that will address several of the issues that Dr. King felt were yet to be accomplished,” said NCRM president Terri Lee Freeman, “economic equity, access to quality education and employment – with justice as a common thread and underlying principle.

“Our intent is to have our panelists help us develop a blueprint for action on these issues that our community and others across the nation can begin to implement,” Freeman said in a written statement.

The panel discussions on the first day will be facilitated by the University of Memphis.

The April 2 panel discussions at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will focus on the issues of criminal justice, poverty, activism in the 21st century and voting rights.

Among the panelists are Cornell Brooks, the past president of the national NAACP; Toussaint Losier, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and co-author of “Rethinking the American Prison Movement”; attorney Roy L. Austin Jr. of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, who as Holder’s deputy assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of the Justice Department worked on cases involving local law enforcement. He also worked with a presidential task force during the Obama administration examining 21st century policing.

Other panelists include Dayna Matthew, law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and author of “Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care”; social psychologist Claude Steele; and psychologist and educator Beverly Tatum, whose books have focused on racial identity and the role of race in education.

The second day of panel discussions at the National Civil Rights Museum will be facilitated by the museum.

Topics in the April 3 discussions will focus specifically on what Memphis is like 50 years after the strike and King’s death, poverty and economic inequality then and now, and education in Memphis.

The panelists include Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson; labor historian and author Michael Honey; Rhodes College associate history professor and chairman of Africana studies Charles McKinney; and Randall Robinson, attorney, authority and activist who founded TransAfrica – the ongoing advocacy organization that works on foreign policy issues with African and Caribbean countries, best known for its role in anti-apartheid activities in the 1980s and 1990s.

Other April 3 panelists include John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust and U.S. Secretary of Education at the end of the Obama administration, and Karen Harrell, vice president of early childhood services at Porter-Leath.

All panel discussions on both days are free and open to the public. The luncheons are ticketed events.

On the anniversary of King’s assassination April 4, the museum, in partnership with the city of Memphis, is planning musical and spoken-word tributes as well as national speakers in the courtyard of the museum – all free to the public.

That evening the museum is planning an “evening of story telling” featuring icons from the movement of the 1960s and new social justice leaders.

The museum events are among numerous events by various organizations being planned across the city in April.

Among those events is a city-sponsored “reverse march” Feb. 24, 50 years to the day that the strike by city sanitation workers began. City employees will march from City Hall to Clayborn Temple at the event. Every day of the three-month strike in 1968, sanitation workers marched from the church to City Hall.

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