The National Civil Rights Museum presents a hybrid commemoration in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy on the 54th anniversary of his death. Guests are welcome to join us in paying tribute to Dr. King in the museum courtyard or via live stream.
Each year, the Museum commemorates the tragic event that occurred on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in 1968. This year’s event features a keynote speaker, special performances, fraternal tributes, and the changing of the balcony wreath with a moment of silence at 6:01 pm Central when Dr. King was slain. A musical prelude begins at 4:00 pm Central.
Dr. Leslie D. Callahan of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA is the keynote speaker. The W. Crimm Singers (aka The Wakanda Chorale) and a performance by Iris Orchestra’s Artist Fellows and Memphis Symphony Orchestra & University of Memphis Fellows are rendered as a tribute to Dr. King.
Keynote speaker Dr. Leslie D. Callahan, the Dean of the historic Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, and the executive officer for religious affairs at Howard University. Her remarks explore King's life and his legacy of altruism. Under her leadership, the Chapel impacts students through initiatives including Alternative Spring Break (ASB), HU Day of Service, the Interfaith Advisory Board, Justice for Juveniles Prison Ministry, and the University’s first Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. She has set an example in affirming religious diversity and freedom both on campus and throughout the community.
The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. On August 9, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Reverend Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Reverend Jackson began his activism as a student in the summer of 1960 seeking to desegregate the local public library in Greenville and then as a leader in the sit-in movement. In 1965, he became a full-time organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He was soon appointed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to direct the Operation Breadbasket program. In December of 1971, Reverend Jackson founded Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in Chicago, IL. The goals of Operation PUSH were economic empowerment and expanding educational, business, and employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and people of color.
Reverend Jackson has been called the "Conscience of the Nation" and "the Great Unifier," challenging America to be inclusive and to establish just and humane priorities for the benefit of all. He is known for bringing people together on common ground across lines of race, culture, class, gender, and belief.
Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, has devoted more than 40 years to the pursuit of equal justice, the promotion and protection of basic rights, and the preservation of the rule of law. She works on a range of issues, including child labor, women’s rights, disappearances, indigenous land rights, judicial independence, freedom of expression, ethnic violence, criminal justice reform, immigration, impunity, and environmental justice.
Kennedy served as Chair of the Amnesty International USA Leadership Council for over a decade. She serves on the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace, Human Rights First, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, Laureate and Leaders, Nizami Ganjavi International Center, HealthEVillages, as well as RFK Human Rights’ numerous international chapters. She is on the Advisory Committee for the Association of American Indian Affairs, the Albert Schweitzer Institute, Sankofa, San Patrignano, and the Center for Victims of Torture. She has received high honors from President Lech Walesa of Poland for aiding the Solidarity movement, The Humanitarian Award from the Congress of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and many other honors.
W. Crimm Singers AKA Wakanda Chorale is a professional ensemble-in-residence of Tennessee State University’s Big Blue Opera Initiatives wholly embraces the music of the Black experience throughout the diaspora and every genre connected to it with major emphasis on the Negro Spiritual, African American operatic, and concert repertoire, hymnody, and anthems.
Musical performances by Iris Orchestra’s Artist Fellows and Memphis Symphony Orchestra/University of Memphis Fellows, two prestigious programs dedicated to emerging musicians from African American and Latinx communities, which are historically underrepresented populations in classical music, will also render tribute to Dr. King.
As with tradition, audio recordings of the civil rights leader’s speeches will play in the courtyard throughout the day. The museum is open during regular hours 9 am – 5 pm on April 4th. The event culminates with the tolling of bells and a moment of silence at 6:01 pm, the time Dr. King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.