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.”
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.