Early this April, the world will turn its gaze to the city of Memphis and its commemoration of 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They will find a Memphis that has changed precipitously over the last half-century thanks to the legacy of Dr. King, but will also realize there is a lot left to do to fully realize his dream.

Wednesday, April 4, will be a day of remembrance across the city. During the black sanitation workers’ movement, there was a call for change that needed a voice, and Dr. King provided it. Ultimately, he gave his life in service to our community. Although we will remember what came before, April 4 will also be a day of looking forward.

At 10 a.m., a daylong celebration of Dr. King’s legacy will begin on the Main Stage in the museum courtyard at the National Civil Rights Museum, featuring music, dance and spoken word performances. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

Also on April 4, an anniversary ceremony will be held from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Wreath-laying, music and spoken word performances, and an ecumenical liturgy will lead up to the time at which Dr. King was shot—6:01 p.m. At this point, a bell will toll to mark the exact passing of 50 years since that fateful day. Across the nation, the bells of schools, churches, and colleges will ring 39 times—once for each year of Dr. King’s life. 

Following the bell toll, MLK50 will conclude with An Evening of Storytelling, with veterans from the front lines of the fight for civil rights both yesterday and today taking the stage at the Crosstown Concourse to reflect upon the fight up to this point as well as what lies ahead. The evening will focus on the main question of MLK50—”Where do we go from here?”—with a moderated discussion, music, and dance to celebrate Dr. King and what he continues to mean to the city of Memphis.

For more information on all scheduled activities for the April 4 commemoration, check out the MLK50 website.

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