An event at Temple of Deliverance on Monday night that coincided with this week’s MLK50 commemoration brought community leaders, politicians, and others together to explore the question: “Where do we go from here?”
Hyundai Motor America in partnership with the Memphis NAACP presented “The Dream Lives,” a “heartfelt program” honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, was one of over a dozen speakers addressing contemporary civil rights issues like voting.
“In a democracy our vote matters,” Johnson said. “And, for the NAACP, we are asking people to take a pledge and vote.”
Civil rights icon Jesse Jackson also emphasized the importance of voting in his address, reminding the audience that the issues facing Memphis 50 years ago are still present today.
“Tonight four million blacks in the south are unregistered,” Jackson says. “What are we going to do about Memphis being the poorest big city in America? Folks that live in Memphis make less than $15 an hour. Half of them make less than $12, half of them make less than nine dollars an hour, in Memphis tonight.”
Another talking point of the event was the importance of youth activism in carrying the movement forward. Zafar Brooks, an executive with Hyundai, expressed his hope that the younger generation will stay active.
“I hope that the young people, the millennials, you see what’s happening in activism of the youth, in a way we haven’t seen in a very long time,” Brooks said. “I hope that young people will take the banner, take the torch, and continue to fight for the society they deserve. That they want.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appeared at a separate event at the Peabody Hotel on Monday as well. He talked about the continuing need to right history’s wrongs and drew applause for his mention of Memphis’ recent removal of its Confederate statues. The National Civil Rights Museum will host additional speakers Wednesday during the MLK50 commemoration.