Mason Temple in South Memphis attracted busloads of union members on Monday. The historic church played host to one of the many MLK50 events planned for this week.
Members of AFSCME Local Union 1733 and others wore their union badges proudly. Walter Greely of the American Federation of Government Employees reflected on why King’s support for sanitation workers 50 years ago still affects him today.
“Dr. King means so much to my parents, my siblings, and myself and my family," Greely said. "That I felt that it was necessary to be here to show some support here and also to represent my union here."
Anthony Wells, President of Social Service Employee Union 371, believes Dr. King’s message still speaks to the necessity of organized labor.
"Right now, people want to destroy unions because they are the last collective of people, working people, and people who live in communities. So, this is a great time for us to come together,” Wells said.
AFSCME hosted activism training throughout the day for union members who came to Memphis.
Mason Temple, the World Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, was famously the site of Dr. King's "Mountaintop" speech, the night before his assassination on April 4, 1968.
Some came to reflect upon King's last moments as the orator's voice reverberated over the loudspeakers. Shopkeeper and mother Alicia Sayas were among those thinking about King's vision for the future -- and more specifically, her daughter's future.
“I think it has a lot to do with what he started,” Sayas says. “I think that this movement is going to be important because we need to make it clear to the millennials that we need to finish what he started. Because we still have a long way to go in terms of civil rights.”
Minister Trevor Nolan, a millennial inspired by King’s leadership, was among the crowd. He says that being a minister to today’s generation gives him the platform to advocate for change.
“Understanding the vision and the goal that Dr. King had for our community, our city, at that time means so much and I dare not allow that opportunity to fail,” Nolan said.