National Civil Rights Museum Hosts Day of Remembrance and Commemorative Ceremony

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Events include unveiling of new museum exhibit, guest speakers, musical selections, keynote by Fr. Michael Pflager, ceremonial wreath-changing, and international bell-tolling.

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MEMPHIS, TENN – The National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) will honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at its MLK50 Day of Remembrance and Commemorative Ceremony on April 4, 2018, from 10am to 6:15pm.  The daylong tribute, centered around the MLK50 theme, Where Do We Go From Here?, will feature reflections, performances, excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches, and ecumenical presentations in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.  It will conclude with an international moment of reflection and ceremonial bell-tolling at 6:01pm, the time when the fatal shot was fired. All programming will take place in the museum’s courtyard and is free and open to the public.

King contemporaries, elected officials, local and national faith leaders, and other special guests will share recollections of Dr. King and his work from the MLK50 Main Stage in the NCRM Courtyard from 9:30am to 3:30pm.  Participants include Tamika Mallory, Michael Eric Dyson, Roland Martin, Bernard Lafayette, Congressman Barbara Lee (CA), Rabbi Ben Kamin, Gina Belafonte, Dr. Hasan Jefferies, Rev. Dr. Alvin O. Jackson, Rabbi Micah Greenstein, Bishop Henry M. Williamson, Rev. Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, Rev. Earle Fisher, Rev. Dr. Stacy Spencer, Rev. Dr. LaSimba Gray, Rev. Darrell Harrington, Fred Davis, Rev. James Netters, State Rep. Johnnie Turner, Calvin Taylor, Rev. Kenneth Robinson and Bishop E. Lynn Brown.  Entertainment will be provided by Kirk Whalum, Deborah Thomas, Aisha Raison, Sebastian Carson, Yolanda Gates, Flo Roach, Collage Dance Collective, Watoto, STAX Street Harmonies and Memphis Mix.

The MLK50 6:01 Commemoration will begin at 3:30pm and will include a special interfaith litany, musical tributes, and a ceremonial changing of the wreath on the balcony of Room 306.  The Reverend Dr. Michael Louis Pfleger, Senior Pastor of The Faith Community of Saint Sabina in Chicago, Illinois, will give the keynote address. Other speakers include Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bishop Charles Blake, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Charles Steele, former Polish Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf, Congressman Steve Cohen, Mayor Bill Strickland, Mayor Mark Luttrell, William Lucy, Marc Morial, Derrick Johnson, Sister Peace, Dr. Omid Safi and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, with musical selections by Al Green, Kirk Whalum, and MLK50 105 HBCU Legacy Voices. 

At 6:01pm, a ceremonial bell-tolling will mark an international moment of reflection as the bell from historic Clayborn Temple is rung 39 times — once for each year that Dr. King lived.  These first bell tolls will be echoed at the King Center in Atlanta and at churches, universities, and other institutions around the world.  Just as news of King’s death was first known in Memphis and then rippled throughout the country and across the globe, the local, national, and international tolls will follow at 6:03pm, 6:05pm, and 6:07pm, respectively. 

In conjunction with the MLK50 Commemoration, NCRM will also unveil its new exhibit, MLK50: A Legacy Remembered.  With more than 150 photographs – including rarely-seen works by Memphis photographer Ernest Withers and Chicago-based photographer Art Shay – the exhibit looks back on the 50 years since King’s tragic death, the historic reaction to his death, and the continued impact of his legacy on people and events throughout the world.  MLK50: A Legacy Remembered will be on display in the State of Tennessee Gallery at NCRM through December 31 and is included with museum admission. The exhibit opens to the public April 4.

Also, there will be a new addition to the permanent exhibits. Noted saxophonist Ben Branch was requested by Dr. King and the SCLC to return to Memphis, his hometown, to play one of his favorites, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” at rally planned for April 4, 1968 in Memphis for the sanitation workers. Branch is often remembered for being one of the last people with whom Dr. King spoke shortly before his death, but many are not aware that Branch was a committed civil rights activist and ally of Dr. King. Ben Branch’s saxophone and his civil rights story will be unveiled on April 2.

The MLK50 Day of Remembrance will culminate at 6:15pm with An Evening of Storytelling at Crosstown Concourse.  Civil Rights Icons and New Movement Makers will share their stories from the frontlines and engage in dialogue about the Movement then and now.  

“As the world marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s tragic death, we offer a full day of reflection and contemplation in acknowledgment of the loss of one of our greatest civil rights leaders and humanitarians,” said Terri Lee Freeman, NCRM President.

“MLK50 is not, however, intended to be a simple look back at the past; our intention is that this Day of Remembrance will also advance the march forward to shape the future.  April 4th is just the beginning; we want to continue the momentum, build on Dr. King’s legacy, and fully actualize his platforms of peace, justice, and equity on April 5th and beyond.”

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