Civil rights, labor and faith leaders were in Memphis this week (April 2-4) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in that city on April 4, 1968.
They also launched a national effort designed to transform Memphis into the birthplace of a new political movement and aggressive voter education and civic engagement program to mobilize turnout for the 2018 elections and beyond.
Leaders from AFSCME, COGIC and other civic organizations helped train hundreds of “I AM 2018” Dream Corps activists to kick off a new nationwide voter education and civic engagement program. At a Youth Town Hall, attending activists and leaders at the forefront of fights for economic and racial justice discussed issues concerning urban youth and made plans for November and elections in the future.
Alongside these trainings, prominent journalists, academics, community leaders and subject experts joined a three-day Mountaintop Conference featuring panels on criminal justice reform, minority youth education, the future of American workers and the intersection of labor, faith and civil rights.
“I AM 2018 isn’t just a reflection on the past; it’s a call to action for the future. Dr. King and the Memphis strikers knew that you can’t achieve economic justice without racial justice,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.
“And yet, 50 years after Dr. King’s Mountaintop speech, working people are still fighting those same fights. We’re embarking on a historic partnership with COGIC to build and grow a network of trained, energized activists, connecting our generation’s struggles with the unfinished work of the heroes of Memphis: Dr. King, the Memphis strikers and the faith leaders who stepped up together to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.”
COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. said, ”On the evening of April 3, 1968, Dr. King stood in the pulpit of Mason Temple and declared ‘We, as a people, will get to the promised land.’ Less than 24 hours later, he was killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. In April, together with AFSCME, we are telling the world that it must come together to fight poverty and prejudice and advance the freedom of all people as we never have before.”
“I AM 2018” events in Memphis scheduled national speakers Ambassador Andrew Young, American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, actor Danny Glover, 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike organizer, William Lucy, several original 1968 Strikers, and TV ONE news personality Roland Martin.
Speakers scheduled included Martin Luther King III, Dr. Bernice King, NAACP President & CEO, Derrick Johnson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Invited national performers included Common, Sheila E., and MC Lyte.
Leaders in the “I AM 2018” campaign have been organizing and building support for several weeks for their work this year and beyond. On February 1, more than 70 cities observed a coordinated Moment of Silence to honor Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker who were crushed to death in 1968 and sparked the strike of 1,300 fellow workers that brought Dr. King to Memphis.
For a complete list of events and activities, go to: https://iam2018.org/event/.