'We won't forget': Thousands descended upon Memphis for MLK50

'We won't forget': Thousands descended upon Memphis for MLK50
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A day long ceremony at the National Civil Rights Museum was filled with song and passionate speeches by those who knew Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and still preach his message.

"Stop the violence," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was on the balcony with King when he was assassinated on April 4th, 1968.  "Save the children and keep hope alive.  Keep hope alive!"

The crowd, from near and far, filled the mall outside the Lorraine Motel, gazing at Room 306, where King stayed during his final visit to Memphis.  The doorway was draped in a black cloth.  A wreath was placed at the spot where King took his last breath.

"We have to stand up strong," said Jan Johnson from Atlanta, "to live by a legacy of peace and love and strength and fortitude.  It's important for me to be here and honor him."

Terence Lester walked to Memphis from Atlanta to attend the event.

"I feel weak, I feel exhausted," he said, "but I feel grateful to be a part of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. I hope it represents what it means to take a stand against injustices in our country."

Hundreds of school children from around the country experienced this moment in history.  From a group of teenagers from Selma, Alabama to more than 50 Girl Scouts from around the Mid-South, including Troop 10186.

"It's important that our kids know our history," said parent Jamille Hunter, "that they know where they came from so that they have a good idea where they're going."

Hunter's children, Lauren and Julian, already have a pretty good idea where they're going and how to carry out Dr. King's message.

"Equality is what's right," said Lauren, "and everyone should be treated the same."

"What I learned," said Julian, "is we all have equal rights and we all deserve equal rights."

And at 6:01 p.m., the moment Dr. King was struck down by an assassin's bullet, a bell outside the museum tolled 39 times, once for every year King was alive.  The dreamer may be gone now, but 50 years later,  his dream is still alive.

"He was the greatest human who ever lived," said Jan Johnson.  "It's vital that we honor and remember him."

"It means that we haven't forgotten and we won't forget, and we will continue to overcome and continue to struggle in America," Rev. Dr. Bill Adkins said.

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