Poverty declines in Memphis, one year after MLK50

One year after MLK50 commemoration

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Thursday marks 51 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

Just before King died, he was about to launch his poor people's campaign.

For Memphis’ big MLK 50 celebration last year, the National Civil Rights Museum and University of Memphis authored a study looking at poverty and sparking a year-long discussion on how to make improvements.

WMC Action News 5 went to the city's poorest neighborhoods to see if all that talk has turned into any action.

Dinner is served six days a week at at the Vance Avenue Youth Development Center.

The nonprofit is right in the heart of one of the poorest zip codes in the country.

"After school the majority of them, 90 percent of them, will not have a hot meal at home," said Barbara Nesbit, founder.

Since the year-long MLK 50 celebration in 2018, there has been a lot of emphasis on poverty in the city.

"38126 zip code has been all over the news, national news, local news," said Nesbit.

Barbara Nesbit says she's seen a change in engagement in the past year. More volunteers are showing up to her nonprofit to help.

At the core, much of this neighborhood's issues are the same.

“Poverty in Memphis is a very entrenched problem,” said Elena Delavega, Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for social change.

Elena Delavega was the lead author of last year’s “The Poverty Report: Memphis Since MLK.”

Since she presented the report, new numbers show poverty levels dropped nationwide after two years.

Memphis has finally caught on to the trend.

Among cities with more than a million people, Memphis is no longer number one for overall poverty.

Dropping from 19.4 percent to 17.1 percent, Memphis is now ranked second.

However, the poverty numbers between blacks and whites in the metropolitan area remains high.

Whites account for 8.4 percent and 24.5 percent for African-Americans.

"We should be investing a lot more in minority businesses. We should have a lot more in terms of programming, micro loans, small loans and technical support," said Delavega.

Nesbit says the emphasis should be on education and teaching youth job skills to give this generation a chance to turn these numbers around.

From 10 a.m. 3 p.m. on April 4, the museum will host hands-on activities for children and families

Guests can engage in a “Share Your Story” video from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. to express their sentiments about Dr. King.

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