Activists arrested outside jail
Police detained several protesters outside the Shelby County Justice Center at 201 Poplar. The Coalition of Concerned Citizens had scheduled an action there at 2:01 p.m.
A live stream video shows prominent local activist Keedran Franklin being put into a police car as he yells for others to call his attorney.
In the video, police can also be seen dragging a protester on the pavement before flipping the person over to place plastic zip ties on wrists.
According to Fight for $15 protesters, recorded by Shelby County Commission candidate Tami Sawyer on a live Facebook feed, among their colleagues who were being held was Ashley Cathey. Sawyer also recorded Angela Rye, a commentator on CNN, asking where those who were detained were taken. “I was trying to figure out how to get them out. … I went up there and said, ‘I’m one of the lawyers.’ That’s true, I am a lawyer,” Rye said.
Well…Poplar Avenue did get shut down, but it was at the action of MPD. It’s unclear at this juncture what’s next. Half a dozen activists, including Keedran Franklin and Yuleiny Escobar have been taken into custody.
— Micaela Watts〽️ (@megawatts2000) April 3, 2018
Update, 5:30 p.m. 04/03: Activists arrested include Keedran Franklin, Yuleiny Escobar, Ashley Cathey, Ambra Cathey, Bill Stegall, Spencer Kaaz, Zyanya Cruz and Elizabeth Vega. Manuel Duran, of the Spanish-language publication Memphis Noticias, who was reporting at the time, was also arrested.
Update, 11:00 p.m. 04/03: The eight activists and one photographer arrested today were charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway or passageway.
Update, 9 a.m. 04/04: All those arrested have been released, except for journalist Manuel Duran.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
C3 takes its message to Memphis’ largest employer
Around 9 this morning, demonstrators gathered in a secret location to go over the final details of the Rolling Block Party, Coalition for Concerned Citizen’s multi-location action.
After last minute details were sorted, 16 cars caravanned to the first location — the employee entrance to the FedEx Hub.
Cars were timed to approach one another from opposite ends of traffic, meeting on Tchulahoma at the exact moment, and creating a complete stop in traffic.
As semi-trailer trucks and cars piled up in traffic, demonstrators all tuned into the same radio station.
With Marvin Gaye asking, “What’s going on?” in the background, demonstrators danced in the streets amid a mixed reception of cheers and jeers from the general public.
Memphis Police Department officers arrived quickly, arrested no one, and watched demonstrators drive off after holding up FedEx employees for about 20 minutes.
The Rolling Block Party will appear at various destinations today, including the Shelby County Justice Center and the I-40 bridge at Riverside Drive.
— Micaela Watts
King’s interrupted mission to continue, says Bree Newsome
For Bree Newsome, “commemoration” doesn’t quite fit what is actually happening in Memphis this week as the city remembers the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination here.
“Even the words we use in describing this moment is … off,” Newsome told MLK50: Justice Through Journalism during an exclusive brunch interview Tuesday.
Newsome first gained the public public in June 2015 when she climbed the flagpole at the South Carolina statehouse and pulled down the Confederate battle flag, leading to its permanent removal.
Despite the fact Memphis is giving just due to a man who took a bullet for the cause of civil rights and radical economic justice, the celebratory atmosphere creates an obvious tension. The reality is American is dealing with sophisticated forms of racism that manifests as housing inequality, over-policing, the school-to-prison pipeline and other issues that impact black and marginalized communities.
“We must confront the fact that his mission was interrupted,” Newsome told MLK50 over a breakfast of egg whites and black coffee. “Unfortunately, he died before his mission was accomplished.
As someone who has never been to Memphis, landing in this Southern Delta city was surreal, she said. She prepared for this moment by reading King’s last book, Where Do We Go From Here, and was struck by his prophetic vision: “He saw what was coming down the pipeline.”
As she raised her eyebrows, Newsome said: “The most difficult part of prophets words is talking it in,” Newsome said.
— Deborah Douglas
In echo of King, Barber announces national campaign against poverty
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, today announced plans to launch a 40-day national “fusion” campaign on May 14, with nonviolent sit-ins, marches and a voter registration drive in at least 30 states, leading up to a “mass mobilization” in Washington, D.C., on June 23.
Surrounded by members of their organization from across the country, the ministers made the announcement at the National Civil Rights Museum, where they are participating in events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death.
They said they will deliver a set of demands for change on April 10 and release a study auditing poverty in America over the last half century.
Barber said that 50 years after Dr. King’s assassination, systemic poverty and racism, ecological devastation, militarism and Christian nationalism still persist. He said his campaign intends to bring these “moral failures” back to the center of public discourse.
“Poverty is never at the center or even the margins of our national debate,” Barber said.
— J. Dylan Sandifer
‘We are in a time of great danger…’
On Day 2 of #MLK50 Symposium, where a panel is looking back at the environment for organized labor in Memphis in 1968 and forward to the present:
“You can’t be invested in the status quo and say you want to fix poverty,” said Charles McKinney, professor of Africana studies and history at Rhodes College. “You can’t have it both ways.”
“While it’s great to host events, you also have to have a conversation internally about what you pay your workers,” said Wendi C. Thomas, editor and
publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, calling out the symposium’s host, the University of Memphis, who didn’t answer MLK50’s living wage survey. “We are making a mockery of King’s legacy if we don’t wrestle with these issues,” she said.
“It’s not just about mentorship, it’s about sponsorship — it’s about who has the hookup,” said James Johnson, demographer and director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the University of North Carolina. “It’s important for young people to build diverse networks outside their neighborhoods, outside of segregation.”
“We are in a time of great danger,” said Michael K. Honey, author and labor historian at the University of Washington, Tacoma. “Dr. King brought the religious framework of right and wrong to build relationships across different groups. We don’t have that now.”
“The median income for African-Americans has stayed at 50 percent of whites’ since 1960. That is NOT progress,” said Elena Delavega, assistant professor of social work at the University of Memphis.
— Leanne Kleinmann
Danny Glover at Mason Temple
Actor Danny Glover is moderating a panel including Memphis sanitation workers who were on strike in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain.
Union legend Bill Lucy and Rev. James Lawson also are panelists at the I Am 2018 Mountaintop conference at Mason Temple, where King delivered his last speech.
“Our job is to apply their lessons to our lives today,” Glover said.
— Kevin McKenzie
Poor People’s Campaign chairmen to speak at Civil Rights Museum
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, will speak at 10 a.m. at the National Civil Rights Museum.
They will give details of plans in 40 states to revive the campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading before his assassination.
The campaign aims to unite the poor and disenfranchised to change the political, economic, and moral structures of society. On Wednesday, the anniversary of King’s assassination, Barber will speak at the MLK50 commemoration.
— Peggy McKenzie
King biographer Taylor Branch at U of M
Labor history, poverty and education are the focus of three panels on Day Two of the #MLK50 Symposium, which will be moderated by journalist Michele Norris in the Rose Theater at the University of Memphis. Taylor Branch, a historian and author best known for his trilogy of books following the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will speak at lunch.
The first panel will look at the environment for organized labor in Memphis in 1968, and move to the current day, looking at environmental trends that will influence the labor market in the future.
Featured on that panel is labor historian Michael K. Honey, a professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, and local experts Charles McKinney, professor of Africana studies and history at Rhodes College, and Wendi C. Thomas, editor and founder of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism.
Poverty and equity are the focus of the second panel, with economist Julianne Malveaux and Dorian Warren, president of the Center for Community Change Action, among others on the panel. Education is the final area of consideration, with a panel featuring Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey E. Hopson II and other experts.
— Leanne Kleinmann
Who gets the good jobs
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died half a century ago fighting for fair treatment of laborers in Memphis. In his 1967 book “Where Do We Go From Here?” — published a year before he was assassinated in Memphis — he wrote that it was just “logical” to assume that the number of jobs in any company should reflect the population.
“If a city has a 30 percent Negro population,” he wrote, “it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30 percent of the jobs in a particular company.” Those jobs should be “in all categories rather than only in menial areas.”
But a federal survey for 2015 shows that white workers currently hold a sizable majority of the higher-status and better-paying jobs among large, private employers in the Memphis metro area, though they represent only 43 percent of the overall workforce.
Sadly, says Ashley Cathey, an activist in the Fight for $15 movement in Memphis, low-wage workers today and the sanitation workers who struggled for better wages in the 1960s have too much in common.
“I see a lot of parallels, and I feel like it’s a disgrace,” Cathey said. “If history is something you learn from, why is it always repeating itself?”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s annual survey known as the EEO-1 reported that in the Memphis metro area, of nearly 263,000 employees among private employers reporting in 2015, about 51 percent were black.
The percentage of African-Americans in the top executives category in the Memphis metro area actually declined from 9.3 percent in 2007 to about 7.4 percent in 2015, while the percentage of white executives edged up to about 88.4 percent in 2015, from 87 percent in 2007.
Meanwhile, the percentage of black workers in low-wage job categories has grown. African-Americans in 2015 made up about 73 percent of service workers across all industries in the Memphis area, up from 64 percent in 1996. Black workers also accounted for about 76 percent of Memphis metro-area laborers by 2015, up from 68 percent two decades earlier.
The under-representation of African-Americans at the top and over-representation in lower-wage categories holds true in some important industries in the Memphis area.
This story 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. MLK50 is also supported by the Center for Community Change and the Surdna Foundation.