MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Honoring heroes and helping the community. Each year on the third Monday in January, America honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. This year, no parades or big gatherings because of COVID-19. But the virus couldn’t stop King’s message on what would have been his 92nd birthday.
Members of Alpha Phi Alpha started the day with a meet up at the ‘I Am A Man’ monument in downtown Memphis.
“Because our Brother King was all about service, we felt like we, as a fraternity, still need to do a service,” said APA MLK Program Chair Darryl Arbor. “So, we’re accepting donations for the Mid-South Food Bank to help those in need in the City of Memphis.”
Across town in Whitehaven, Memphis Empire, a local mentoring group, spruced up the neighborhood with kids who volunteered to help.
“I think it’s important to let the youth know how to give back to the community and let them know the importance for everyone to come together as one,” said Jamaica Webster Monger.
Vitalant teamed up with NAACP Memphis on Monday to host the MLK Day of Service blood drive, even more critical this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is very dear to me because five years ago, I was a recipient of 22 units of blood,” said Vickie Terry, executive director of the NAACP Memphis chapter.
“We have to have 225 units of blood per day here in Memphis and we average about 155,” said Vitalant’s Debra Brown. “It’s very important that our community supports the blood drive.”
Memphis and Shelby County government leaders used the day to recognize original 1968 sanitation worker Elmore Nickleberry during a virtual ceremony. He marched with King and fought for better working conditions for him and his coworkers, a movement that brought King to Memphis and to the Lorraine Motel, where he would lose his life on April 4, 1968.
“People didn’t know what the sanitation department did,” said Nickleberry. “It was a hard job. It was a hard job. It was a nasty job and we had to do it.”
And the National Civil Rights Museum, closed for the pandemic, streamed a one-hour, pre-recorded program with inspirational songs and messages.
“I volunteer for King Day because it is a way for me to give forward,” Beverly Alexander said in the NCRM video. “To pay it forward, to pass it on and to give myself to the community.”
Remembering the past and paying it forward is the goal on MLK Day, in order to create a better future for everyone.
“I was able to walk through doors that others had to knock down and what I’m responsible for is making sure to keep that door open,” said Arbor. “So, we come into service, and that’s why we participate.”
The Memphis Grizzlies also played their annual MLK game at FedExForum, a game broadcast on national television. Grizzlies came away with the win, beating the Phoenix Suns 108-104.