"The Dreamer" made it possible for all of us to have the freedom to march to a different drum. That's why on the national holiday that pays homage to Dr. Martin Luther King's birth and legacy, it was the diversity of people, ages, philosophies and causes that were on full display at the National Civil Rights Museum on Monday. Following the annual Memphis downtown MLK parade visitors, such as Debbie Frieden and her now New York-based daughter Mediera, enthusiastically fused their spirits with thousands already in line to tour the 20-year old shrine to the civil rights movement.
"To be aware of what has happened in the past and to be aware that today we are about tolerance, patienceâ¦being non-judgmental...accepting people for who they are...what they are," said Debbie.
"Mediera added, "This is one of the things I love about Memphis. The tolerance. The diversity and everyone getting together. My mom's been bringing me on marches like this since I was a little kid and that's why I loving coming here. You don't get this in New York. Only in Memphis."
Any fears the memory of King's ideals and accomplishments have faded for succeeding generations didn't seem creditable judging by the size of the crowd at the museum, which may by days end, may approach the monumental 40th anniversary of his assassination held nearly four years ago.
"Dr. King's memory...because of the monument on the mall has been brought back to a lot of people. This has been a major year. We'll name a street for Dr. King in front of the FedExForum," said 9th Dist. Rep. Steve Cohen.
Ronald Ware III was visiting the National Civil Rights Museum, "We should be involved with history. How we should learn..take away from all the violence and gangs and how we should put effort into making our future better.
Ironically, Monday's celebration reminded us many of the same issues that consumed King's agenda of overcoming poverty, increasing voter registration, while securing hard fought voting rights, remain viable and troublesome issues, according to state representative G.A. Hardaway, who still plans on challenging the constitutionality of the state's newly passed voter redistricting plans.
"The one man who preached fairness and justice for all...his actions literally led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act..literally, and now here we are," said Hardaway.
"Tons of energy. Tons of people who I think are becoming enlightened. They're using a holiday to speak out to find their own agendas perhaps. But, nonetheless that was what King was about," said Gwen Harmon with the Civil Rights Museum. "He always said when he died, I don't want to be remembered for my PHD and my Nobel Peace Prize. I want somebody to say that I helped somebody."