MEMPHIS, TN – The Mid-South and the nation celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday on Monday, January 16, 2012; he would have been 83.
The man is gone, but the lessons he taught us all continue to live and inspire.
MLK Day seems to mean a little something different to everybody. For some it is a time to party, for others a time to reflect. And for some who knew Doctor King- it was a day to emphasize what lies ahead.
“Martin Luther King’s work is not done,” Reverend Al Sharpton proclaimed from Washington, D.C.
“It is a day of service and commitment,” said Jason Farmer, celebrating at Memphis’ National Civil Rights Museum, “and re-dedicating oneself to his fellow man.”
It was also a day for the National Basketball Association’s day of tribute at FedExForum, where the Grizzlies beat the Chicago Bulls.
But after the game, Beale Street was surprisingly quiet.
Instead, everyone was celebrating Dr. King at the National Civil Rights Museum, just a couple of blocks away.
“He stood up for us as black people,” said Shaterrita Stitts, in line to enter the museum, “and he did mean a lot.”
“You know, he did pave the way for a lot of people,” added Bobbi Jones, “for everybody.”
But, on a day celebrating Martin Luther King’s birth, it was impossible not to remember his death.
“I had the privilege of spending the last hour of his life on earth,” said Reverend Billy Kyles, pastor of Memphis’ Monumental Baptist Church. “We were up on the balcony (of the Lorraine Motel). The shot rang out. KAPOW! He had been knocked from the railing back onto the floor of the balcony; finally, the word came that we had lost him.”
The man was gone, but not his ideals, which continue to attract visitors to the site where he was killed - even those who have been there before.
“I’ve been here many times before,” said college student Amber Williams, “but each time it’s like the first time all over again.”
“It’s up to your generation to keep that dream alive.” said Reverend Kyles. "Sadly, I must tell you- yes, you can kill the dreamer. But, no- absolutely you cannot kill the dream.”
Appearing on CNN on MLK Day, former King advisor Clarence Jones, spoke about that famous “I have a dream” speech.
Jones said it was extemporaneous and spontaneous, and “I have a dream” was not in the written text Dr. King had prepared.