VOL. 133 | NO. 68 | Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Anniversary of King's Assassination Marked With Marches, Rallies
By Bill Dries
Several thousand people marching under the banners of unions and civil rights organizations marched peacefully Wednesday, April 4, from the headquarters of the American Federal of State County and Municipal Employees at Beale Street and Danny Thomas Boulevard to Mason Temple Church of God in Christ.
The march from the headquarters of the union that has represented city sanitation workers since their 1968 strike is one of several events across the city 50 years to the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
U.S. Senator and 2016 Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders was among those who called for political unity at a rally before the march.
Sanders described King as “very revolutionary” and “seeking to transform this country.”
The AFSCME march Wednesday from union headquarters to Mason Temple drew several thousand people. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
“We are the richest country in the history of the world. People should not be working for starvation wages,” Sanders said. “We’re not going to let corporate America destroy the trade union movement. We are not going to continue to allow the United States of America to be the only major nation on the Earth that does not guarantee health care for all people as a right. We are not going to allow our public schools to wither away and teachers to work for inadequate salaries.”
Rev. William Barber, leader of the new Poor People’s Campaign that is the successor to the movement King was organizing for an occupation of Washington at the time of his assassination, said King’s last speech, the night before his assassination, was a “call to action.”
“What he said then is what we must do now,” Barber added. “Memphis must stop being a tomb and be a resurrection.”
Among those speaking at the I Am 2018 rally organized by AFSCME and the Church of God In Christ were Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and Rev. William Barber, leader of the new Poor People's Campaign. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez was among the speakers who urged a big voter turnout in this year’s midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election.
“We need an economy that works for everyone,” he said. “It’s not about left or right. It’s about right or wrong.”
He also adapted a slogan from 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“When some people go low, we go vote,” he said.
The march to Mason Temple was followed by another rally there Wednesday afternoon.
In the courtyard of the National Civil Rights Museum, local activist Earle Fisher also talked about a local non partisan coalition focused on voter registration and voter turnout in the midterm elections.
Calvary Episcopal Church Rector Scott Walters and Rhodes College President Marjorie Hass unveil a new marker by the church that highlights the land's history as a slave market. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
“This is much bigger than voter registration. We have to organize and mobilize,” Fisher said. “Voting is not a magic wand. But it is a priceless piece in the puzzle of our political empowerment. … If someone is in office on Main Street or the White House and they don’t represent us, it’s time to vote them out.”
Students from Rhodes College and parishioners at Calvary Episcopal Church dedicated a new historical marker at the corner of B.B. King Boulevard and Adams Avenue at noon that marks the location of the slave market owned by Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The new marker stands a few yards from a 1955 Shelby County Historical Society marker that mentions the corner was the site of Forrest’s home but makes no mention of his past as a slave trader.
During a service at Calvary Episcopal Church Wednesday, the names of 72 slaves sold at a slave market next to the church were read aloud as the church bell tolled. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
During a noon service in the church that drew a standing room only crowd of more than 700 the names of 72 slaves sold at the market were read as the church bell tolled. The names were those that Rhodes students found in the Shelby County archives and other historical records. In many instances they were a first name and an age. The names are thought to be a fraction of those sold by Forrest in one of the city’s longest running slave trading businesses before the Civil War. They included the names of children sold individually.
The marker is the latest to go up in the city without going through either the Shelby County Historical Commission or the Tennessee Historical Commission. The marker is the work of Calvary, which recently bought the corner lot from the city of Memphis, Rhodes College and the National Park Service.