We did it. Saturday night we partied in celebration of five years of fighting the power and it was all we hoped it would be.
The elegance at Brickwood Hall included dangling chandeliers, rose petals on the tables, a refreshing watermelon and cucumber salad, fried chicken, and attendees in their take on festive finery.
One wall was adorned with images taken by visuals director Andrea Morales, a timeline of the stories we’ve told. Her scenes featured Memphis and Memphians at rest, in protest, showing strength and showing resilience.
On the dance floor, no actual whistles were blown when DJ John Best dropped Too Short, but someone might have launched an energetic gangsta walk. And of course, when asked, folks both big and smaller happily backed it up.
The most poignant moment was when MLK50 founder Wendi C. Thomas was surprised by state Rep. Torrey Harris with a proclamation signed by state House Speaker Cameron Sexton to honor her “upon her illustrious career in journalism, express our gratitude for her effective journalism and leadership and extend to her our best wishes for much continued success and happiness.”
I was standing next to Wendi as Harris read the entire proclamation — some 11 paragraphs and “Whereas-es” long, telling her story as a dogged and award-winning journalist — and when she turned away from the crowd to wipe her tears. That this all happened as Wendi’s parents watched is probably one of the reasons she could only manage brief words of gratitude.
But I think it’s also because I know Wendi doesn’t do this for the praise or the proclamations.
You don’t shake off doubters of a project you nursed for a decade because you expect praise. You don’t produce a one-year project and build it into a five-year success for the praise.
Wendi does it for the people.
I’ve only been on this journey with Wendi and the mighty MLK50 team for nine months. For me, it’s been about what’s next, looking forward to the things we want to do and helping to ensure a path that MLK50 can keep going.
But sometimes, it’s good to look back, to take a moment and think about what was, to acknowledge the work. And to do the Wobble in appreciation.
Adrienne Johnson Martin is executive editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org