Group photo of MLK50's editorial and business team.
The MLK50 editorial and development team. Photo by Wiley Brown

I’ve always described the staff of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism as “small but mighty.”

With the six of us, our work often hit hard and above our weight class. 

But it has not been easy. And of course, we’ve wanted to grow. 

Melonee Gaines
Melonee Gaines, audience engagement manager. Photo by Wiley Brown
Lupita Parra
Lupita Parra, development director. Photo by Wiley Brown
Andrea Faye Hart
Andrea Faye Hart, chief strategy officer. Photo by Wiley Brown

Now by adding Melonee Gaines, our audience engagement manager; Lupita Parra, our development director; and Andrea Faye Hart, now coming on full-time as our chief strategy officer, this organization birthed by our founder Wendi C. Thomas is forever changed, for the better.

When you’re a small but mighty organization, it’s often an all-hands-on-deck affair; everybody has to do a little bit of everything. That can be good in some ways. I know I’ve flexed mental muscles I didn’t know I had. But it also can be taxing and sometimes we felt we couldn’t be as agile as we wanted to be.

These women we’ve added bring so much talent, so much intelligence, so much thoughtfulness…they’re multipliers. I believe they will make our workplace better. That will lead to us doing better work. And that will lead to us having greater impact as we act on our mission of helping Memphis workers thrive. 

Each has a rich background that deepens MLK50’s connection to that mission. Lupita is a first-generation Mexican immigrant from a family of farm workers. Picayune, Mississippi’s own, Melonee taught literacy and is the daughter of activists. Andrea serves as a chaplain intern for Vanderbilt University’s Medical Center program for LGBTQ Health, specializing in providing spiritual and emotional support for patients seeking gender-affirming care. Their lives are a testimony to understanding people who know poverty, who are vulnerable. 

As we enter year six, as new people join and contribute to MLK50, it will change — not at its core but in its scope and ability and promise. 

That’s as it should be. 

In 1963, in his “Keep on Moving” speech, our namesake made note of inspiration that comes from growth. He was in Alabama, and police had arrested some 2,500 people for protesting segregation. 

Where small but mighty was once good. King noted why and how growth was better. 

“The thing we are challenged to do is to keep this movement moving. There is power in unity and there is power in numbers. As long as we keep moving like we are moving, the power structure of Birmingham will have to give in.” 

Still mighty, still small but at nine, we’re stronger.

Adrienne Johnson Martin is executive editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Contact her at

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.

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