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Dr. King Speaks At Quinn Chapel

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The 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s untimely death has drawn scores of people to Tennessee as well as a handful of other cities to mark the life of the pioneering civil rights icon in early April. From civil rights symposiums to theatrical productions, galas, film screenings and, of course, powerful speeches, folks traveling from across the country will numerous ways to participate in the commemoration.

Most of the events will take place in Memphis, including keynote speeches from influential figures such as former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a bus tour, an orchestral performance and an awards banquet.

The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the very motel where Dr. King was assassinated, is leading the week’s events and will be doing programming in honor of the slain leader throughout the year.

However, the big event that likely has generated the most anticipation from those traveling to Memphis is the commemorative ceremony from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, the site of King’s assassination, on April 4. National and international dignitaries are scheduled to be there and witness the ceremonial wreath laying, tributes and performances with the expected climactic moment of a symbolic moment of silence at exactly 6:01 p.m., which will mark the moment King was shot.

The Museum has also asked people to commit to “a year of peace and action” and created a special pledge in honor of the occasion:

“No Justice, No peace; Know Justice, Know Peace” is our rallying cry.

On this day, we, in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. call for peace. A peace that is more than the absence of war. We call for a just peace. A peace where all humans have the rights of security, prosperity, good and free education, accessible and plentiful food, clean water and a planet free from disastrous pollution to calamitous climate change.

We call for a just peace. A peace where people are able to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence. A peace committed to understanding, celebrating and learning from difference. A peace grounded in what Dr. King called the Beloved Community. 

It takes more than words to bring about peace. It takes action. Action that decreases hostility between people and actions that promote trust so that our words have meaning. Action, must occur within a vision.

We call on ALL people to imagine a world without poverty, hunger and homelessness. Imagine a world where we reject racist ideologies and replace them with an all-inclusive spirit of love for ALL people. Imagine a world where we resolve disputes by peaceful conflict-resolution and true reconciliation. Imagine a world, where love and justice triumph. 

“No Justice, No peace; Know Justice, Know Peace” is our rallying cry.

But, it will take more than vision to bring peace. We must face the injustices of the past and acknowledge the injustices of the present no matter how painful. This means we must find a way to talk WITH each other instead of AT each other. It will take all of us searching deep within our own souls, taking what some call the “inward journey of self-reflection.

It will take all of us to name those things we would rather hide-those things that stop us from being our better selves. We must not only name them, but also begin the process of purging those things that stifle our growth and the growth of others. This will lead us to form and develop communities of understanding that will walk, talk and stand with us. It is in this spirit-with humility and mutuality-that we will come together with one another and build a community of peace and goodwill for all humankind.

“No Justice, No peace; Know Justice, Know Peace” is our rallying cry.

Other commemorations where revelers were expected to travel to include memorial events in Alabama, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.

If you can’t make it to the any of the events in April, don’t worry – events commemorating the life of King are scheduled through June. Make your plans to travel to one or more of them now! Visit the National Civil Rights Museum’s website for more details and follow the official hashtag on social media: #MLK50NCRM