On April 4, 2018, the bells rang out in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and around the world, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The time, was 6:01 p.m. That day, thousands descended into Memphis from around the country, and the world, to celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy.
Throughout the day, numerous dignitaries and friends to Dr. King spoke about his dedication to non-violent direct action, his fight for voting rights, his efforts to end Jim Crow segregation laws, and his final struggle against poverty. In later years, Reverend Jesse Jackson became one of King’s closest confidants. From the very balcony of the Lorraine Motel where he witnessed Dr. King’s last breaths, Reverend Jesse Jackson reflected on the significance of King’s life.
“My friend Martin, Martin, you can’t leave us now,” Jackson said. “We need you, you can’t leave us now. You can’t leave us now. I got up and went to the room, 305, my room, and called Mrs. King, and said to her, 'Dr. King has been shot, I think, in the shoulder.' I was hoping against hope, but I knew that I just couldn’t say what I had actually seen. She got the call a few minutes later that said that he was dead. My friends, the bad news is that he was dead then, but the balcony does not have the last word."
Like Reverend Jackson, others have understood Dr. King in their own way, and they have asked themselves, “Where do we go from here?”
We spoke with Black Lives Matter supporter, and local Memphian, Sherry McIntyre Howard.
“To be here 50 years later, and to be able to come down and feel the ambiance of it,” Howard said. “And when I say ambiance, I mean, just, the fact that we’re here, as different people, from different places, but I don’t want it to be a show. I want tomorrow to be MLK 50, I want the next day to be MLK 50, I want MLK 50 to last for years, not just this day. I want people to realize that this is history, not a show. Not how much you can spend, not what celebrity you can see, or who you can take a picture with, or the ‘Ahhh, there goes someone!’ We’re here for a murder on a balcony. That’s what I’m here for. History of a murder on a balcony.”
“We never stopped fighting, we never gave up,” Jackson said. “We never gave up, we never gave out. From this balcony in Memphis, the balcony in the White House is 40 years in the wilderness. My friends, today, the hope is in the resurrection. As in a biblical case, he not here, he is gone. When we celebrate Barack winning the campaign in 2008 and ‘12, he is alive. When those children marched last week saying, 'Ban assault weapons, enough of guns is enough,' he is alive. When we walked, and marched, and freed Mandela, he is alive. My friends, let nothing break your spirit today. He was lied on, spat upon, turned on, violated, yet somehow, someway, he would not give up. I accepted his challenge, and I cannot give up.”