At the River I Stand
This Documentary Explains AFSCME’s Place in the Civil Rights Movement
In 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee – members of AFSCME Local 1733 – risked everything for dignity and respect on the job. They went on strike, protesting poverty wages and degrading working conditions, demanding both economic justice and racial justice.
They were asking not just for recognition of their union, but recognition of their humanity. They marched in the streets with a simple but powerful slogan: “I AM A MAN.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis to express his solidarity. It was there, on April 4, that he was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
This movie, “At The River I Stand,” produced in 1993, tells that story – the story of the Memphis sanitation strike, a story of fearlessness and resilience in the face of long odds, a story that still inspires us to take action for justice.
On the 50th anniversary of these events, thousands of people are traveling to Memphis to remember this extraordinary moment in American history. We will rally and march. We will hear from some of the original strikers. We will commemorate Dr. King’s “Mountaintop” speech, delivered at Mason Temple the night before his death. It’s all a part of an initiative launched by AFSCME and the Church of God in Christ called I AM 2018.
But the initiative is more than a reflection on the past. Its goal is to connect the strike and Dr. King’s struggle to important issues and challenges we still confront half a century later. It is about continuing to fight for the freedom of all working people. So, as part of I AM 2018, we are training organizers and activists, educating and mobilizing thousands of people at the grassroots, and building a sustained movement that advances labor rights, civil rights, economic rights and human rights.
I AM 2018 isn’t just a commemoration; it’s a call to action. But to know where we’re going, we have to understand where we’ve been. “At the River I Stand” is a movie about an important moment in our nation’s history and AFSCME’s role in it.