In the spring of 1968 Memphis sanitation workers were on the move, marching for better wages and better working conditions. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Memphis in April to support them. On April 4th, during that visit, he was assassinated.
This April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. King, the Order of Preachers, in concert with the Diocese of Memphis, gathered to pray and to march. The National Shrine of St. Martin de Porres, housed in St. Peter Dominican Church, hosted the event. Rev. Dr. Paul Watkins, OP, presided and preached at the Eucharistic liturgy. Rev. Augustine DeArmond, OP, delivered an address written by Bishop Martin Holley, who was unable to be there, but had been very much a part of the planning of the event. The Provincials of North America, along with Fr. Michael O’Rourke and other visiting Friars, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia-Nashville, Dominican Laity, and Dominicans of Peace Sr. Cathy Galaskiewicz and Associates Tine Williams, Ann Warlick and JoAnne O’Brien created a strong Dominican presence. Diocesan clergy, faculty and students from Christian Brothers University, Christian Brothers High School, an elementary Catholic School in Mississippi as well as many parishioners of St. Peter and other parishes gathered for worship.
The March followed the words of dismissal from the Mass, “Go, you are sent forth!” The Christian Brothers High School Band led the March down Main Street in the heart of downtown Memphis. The distinctive banners said who we were. The 30+ Friars in their full habits along with children, men, women of various ages, races, and theological persuasions provided a visual image of the People of God, walking in solidarity with all who seek justice through prayer, witness, and action.
The 1.3-mile March ended at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was killed. The building has been enlarged and transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum. Its most notable feature is the preservation of the room where Dr. King was staying and the balcony where he was shot. Across the street one can enter the bathroom where his assassin took aim and fired the fateful shot. Thousands visit this museum each year.
We arrived at this destination where a large old-fashioned garbage truck stood at the entrance to the courtyard. Hundreds of people had been gathered there for a program that lasted all day, with a variety of speakers paying tribute to Dr. King and challenging all to continue his work for justice, for an end to poverty and for world peace. At 6:00 p.m. a bell tolled, and the entire city observed this moment of silence. Then bells could be heard tolling throughout the city, remembering the Drum Major for Justice who Dreamed a Dream that has begun to be fulfilled.
But there is so much more to be accomplished: the opening of minds and hearts to one another and to all.
*Excellent coverage of the Dominican activities and march are shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fFaGg4KQ7w . There is also information about the National Shrine of St. Martin de Porres located in Memphis.