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44 years later, a street for Dr. King

The history of healing in Memphis notched another milestone on Wednesday with the unveiling and dedication ceremony for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

 Myron Lowery, Jesse jackson, AC Wharton, Edmund Ford Jr. and others
The renaming of a section of Linden Ave. to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. was a thumbs-up experience for local and national dignitaries on Wednesday, April 4 – the 44th commemoration of Dr. King’s assassination. (Photo by Jonwalter Lewis)

The history of healing in Memphis notched another milestone on Wednesday with the unveiling and dedication ceremony for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

Some have grumbled that it should have happened sooner – much sooner. Afterall, they argue, it was 44 years to day on Wednesday that the now iconic Dr. King fell dead after being shot while standing on the balcony of the old Lorraine Motel.

A one-mile stretch of Linden Ave. was renamed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. (Photo by Jonwalter Lewis)

The street unveiling was held at the corner of Linden Ave. and Third St., easy walking distance from where Dr. King was assassinated, and one of myriad events noting the bittersweet commemoration of Dr. King’s death. The hosts were the 100 Black Men of Memphis, Berlin Boyd, OMPR, The Redwing Group and the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals.

“Where do we go from here?” That was the sobering question asked during the noonday ceremony.

It’s a question that must be mulled in the context of the nerve-rattling and protest-spawning killing of un-armed teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, voter ID laws that would seem to threaten the hard-won right to vote, ill-conceived immigration laws and spirit-sapping unemployment and under-employment. And that’s just a partial list of the social challenges in full effect on April 4, 2012.

On hand for Wednesday’s renaming of a 1-mile stretch of Linden Avenue were numerous local and national dignitaries, including former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton, Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Rainbow PUSH head and civil rights movement pillar, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Former City Councilman Berlin Boyd pushed the renaming. The ceremony, he said, reflected that Memphis is moving on, with an eye toward progression.

Dr. Herenton said while Memphis has pushed past the tragedy forever marked by the death of Dr. King, “we still have a long way to go.”

In the crowd were Memphis sanitation department employees, who attended the ceremony to pay tribute to the man who gave his life representing the striking workers of the union in 1968.

They rubbed shoulders with members and alumni of Dr. King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.

And with the likes of Lifeline Success employees, who took a break from daily activities to attend, along with Founder/Executive Director, Minister DeAndre Brown Sr.

Many will remember the closing moments of the two-hour event.

The Rev. Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum Jr., pastor of The New Olivet Baptist Church, asked the crowd to kneel down, extend hands, and bless the street, which is now christened Dr. Martin Luther King Ave.

(This story reflects a report by Jonwalter Lewis.)

 The crowd attending the street renaming in honor of Dr. King included sanitation department workers. (Photo by Jonwalter Lewis)

 With hands extended, the crowd helps bless the aveneue that now bears Dr. King’s name. (Photo by Jonwalter Lewis)

There are too many guns in our society, Dr. Frank Anthony Thomas, pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, told a crowd at the National Civil Rights Museum. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson (l-r), Rabbi Ben Kamin, author of a new book about Dr King, and Dr. Thomas lay a reef on the balcony where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)
Vendors sold shirts bearing the images of Trayvon Martin and Dr. King outside the National Civil Rights Museum, which encompasses the old Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was fatally shot. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)


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