NewFM staff and volunteers joined thousands in Memphis April 4 for a series of events, speakers and performances commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For many, the Memphis march and rally were the perfect culmination of a trip that stated early Monday morning and weaved in a virtual civil rights master course, as travelers watched documentaries and visited historic sites like the 16th Street Baptist Church and Birmingham’s City jail, both in Alabama.
“This was such a powerful mobilization, like one I have not seen often,” said Emmanuel George. “I really appreciated the amount of different workers that came out today. So many different struggles united in the pursuit of dignity for workers, it was tremendous.”
George especially enjoyed being linked in arms with leaders who like he, had traveled around the country to commemorate history and renew their commitment to the cause.
“[It was ] a wonderful energy,” said George. Steven Jones agreed.
“I really enjoyed seeing thousands and thousands of workers taking to the streets to follow the ideals of MLK.” said Jones. “These streets were full of those that are on the line and working to win victories that benefit the people.”
NewFM organizer Carlos was amazed by the history that was unfolding before his eyes.
“To know that 50 years ago, here in Memphis, sanitation workers, faith leaders, labor unions, all of community, stood up for Justice, Dignity and Fair Wages is profoundly touching,” said Naranjo. “The beauty of the roaring spirit today in the sea of workers, all awakened under the legacy of MLK, remembering the prophet but also the full extent of what he stood for, centers our efforts, sharpens our commitments and reminds us of the powerful legacy we workers come from in this nation.”
For Jones, the moments of the last couple of days gave him fresh insight into the pain, joy, and unity of the struggle.
“This moment will always be cherished,” said Jones. “We have been up since 5am it was freezing, our arms, legs, and backs were killing us but it was a good pain because it was for a cause.”
Preparing to head back home to South Florida, Jones said a deeper connection to the past was still very much alive.
“We marched the same route that was done 50 years ago. Today, I would say over 10k people easily,” added Jones. “It was not just about MLK assassination. It was about labor justice for the people at the bottom of the pyramid. It was about their history too.
Here are some photos that the group took at the march.