MEMPHIS - At a daylong celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life held on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, political, civil, and cultural leaders converged on the city where King drew his last breaths half a century ago.
Events were held across Memphis, with the main commemoration focused on the Lorraine Hotel, where a rifle shot ended King’s life on April 4, 1968.
Church bells rang 39 times at the moment King was shot, one for each year of his life.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was in the crowd and talked about what King meant to him.
“Dr. King is probably the single greatest influence on my life, politically,” Sanders said. “He was a nonviolent revolutionary. He was not only a great Civil Rights leader - which he was - he was more than that. He wanted to transform our culture. He was a man who stood up against the establishment, and said that we should not spend billions on war when people are hungry in the United States. He was a man who talked about wealth and income inequality, about justice.”
Musicians from Common to Sheila E. also performed on the chilly Memphis morning.
“This is something that we’re still fighting for,” Sheila E. said. “We still have some of these same struggles, and we have to keep marching, to keep standing for the things we believe in.”
To Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee, there are many things to fight for today, and the anniversary is a good time to remind ourselves of that.
“For me, a legislator, it is to say to those who stand in the way of American values, no more,” Jackson-Lee said.