The Surdna Foundation has given the groundbreaking journalism project, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a $100,000 grant to pick up where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left off in his advocacy for economic justice, centered in Memphis where he was assassinated in 1968.
The Surdna grant supports efforts of the yearlong nonprofit reporting project timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of King’s death. MLK50 uses journalism to engage Memphis and the broader community with Dr. King’s vision of economic inclusion.
“We tend to forget that King came to Memphis to support underpaid black sanitation workers on strike,” said MLK50 founder and editor Wendi C. Thomas. “Our faulty memories are partly to blame for Memphis’ status as the poorest large metro in the nation. But as King said, ‘The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease.’ We can’t achieve his dream of economic justice until we’re honest about how we created poverty and how we maintain poverty today.”
With original content posted twice weekly and a social media campaign, the project focuses on themes King stressed in his final years: racial equity; jobs and wages; power and wealth; housing; criminal justice; and growing black businesses.
MLK50 is unapologetically disruptive, taking inspiration from King’s words: “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”
“Independent journalism helps to lift up the most important issues of our time,” said Surdna’s Strong Local Economies Program Director Shawn Escoffery. “The Surdna Foundation is excited to support MLK50 and their justice through journalism project as they follow Dr. King’s legacy, and surface issues of economic and social justice in Memphis and beyond.”
Wendi C. Thomas is an award-winning journalist based in Memphis, Tennessee, where her work focuses on economic and racial justice. Thomas writes for The Christian Science Monitor, The Undefeated and is a senior writing fellow with the Center for Community Change. She was a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Thomas is a former metro columnist and assistant managing editor at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal where she was the first black woman to write opinion for the newspaper.
The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures For over five generations, the foundation has been governed largely by descendants of John Andrus and has developed a tradition of innovative service for those in need of help or opportunity.
This report is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today.