Civil rights icon says much must still be done - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Civil rights icon says much must still be done

The Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles has been part of the civil rights movement for more than five-decades.

In 1968, he helped form the effort to gain community support for striking sanitation workers.  He was instrumental in bringing Dr. King to Memphis.

"In 1968, the police were vicious toward black people in Memphis," he said. "They were awful.  And these men stood up and said we want to be treated like men. And that was a very powerful thing to do."

Kyles believes the message still holds power, though the movement has changed.

"The one leader movement is - I think we've out lived it," he said, "and I don't think we'll ever have one again."

Today, people around the world invoke Dr. King's message - millions of people trying to fulfill the dream in their own way.  In many ways, Kyles said, the odds are still stacked against today's dreamers.

"You could take the same speeches that were being made in those days, and make them now, and they would fit," he said.

Kyles cited people around this world with no healthcare as one example.
 
"The homeless - 46 million - people have no healthcare in the richest country in the world. That's unacceptable," he said.

What Reverend Kyles will accept is the message left behind by his friend and fellow pastor, a man who dared to speak out in a world that could still use more risk-takers- like him.

"He was that symbol, Martin was, that drew us together and taught us how to dream," he said.

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