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Photo by Michael Starghill, Jr.

‘I AM 2018’ Rally Participants Urged to Continue Dr. King’s Struggle

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Thousands of people marched in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death and the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, and to issue a call to action to continue the struggle for social and economic justice.

Labor leaders – including AFSCME President Lee Saunders and AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride – as well as religious leaders, community activists, elected officials, union members, working families and others, retraced Dr. King’s steps from Beale Street to Mason Temple carrying signs and wearing shirts that read “I AM 2018.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders (green jacket) and Martin Luther King III, the son of the slain civil rights leader, led the march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the events in Memphis. Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Starghill, Jr.)
AFSCME President Lee Saunders (green jacket) and Martin Luther King III, the son of the slain civil rights leader, led the march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the events in Memphis. Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Starghill, Jr.)

Dr. King walked the 1.5 miles to Mason Temple shortly before his assassination in 1968, when he visited Memphis in support of AFSCME sanitation workers. The workers had walked off the job to demand higher wages, safer working conditions, and the recognition of their union, AFSCME. They carried now-iconic signs that read: “I AM A MAN.”

“On this day, we honor Dr. King, we honor and reaffirm the dignity and humanity of all work and we recommit to the struggle because we tell those who want to take us backwards: We are not going backwards, we are going forward,” McBride said.

There were speakers at the Mason Temple and in front of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was shot. The events culminated with the ringing of bells at 6:01 p.m., the exact time the shooter opened fire. The bells rang 39 times, for each year of Dr. King’s life.