MEMPHIS, Tenn.— Since its inception in 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has been about getting members of the clergy involved in political activism.
Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, SCLC's first president, was himself a Baptist preacher.
Almost 60 years ago, the work was about civil rights, social justice, desegregating bus systems and integrating restaurants.
"We will never again accept segregation because it is an evil system," Dr. King once said.
Now, on the 59th anniversary of the SCLC, its present day leader says the fight continues-fighting for the poor.
"We are living in a dictatorship in America and the dictatorship is we are gonna keep you poor. That's the way this system is," says SCLC National President Dr.Charles Steele, Jr.
In Memphis for the SCLC's annual convention this week, Steele says the organization is just as relevant as it was during the days of Dr.King.
He says much of the civil rights progress and laws passed was because of the work of the SCLC.
"I don't care what kind of jobs you have, what your status is, you got there because of SCLC. All major legislation and all major acts that was passed, with the exception of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education, was done by SCLC," says Steele.
But the SCLC also knows times change and it too is making changes, reaching out to a new audience, a younger audience that has a different way of getting involved-through music.
"We like hip hop. I like that beat," says Steele.
The SCLC is starting a recording label, 'The Sounds of Justice', to put out a different message.
"You have to be flexible and diverse in today's society. That's what we are teaching folks. It ain't nothing different. We just gonna make it relative. We not gonna intimidate folks. We are not gonna bring down women and not use profanity," says Steele.
Fifty-nine-years and a long road.
We asked the Memphis SCLC President, Rev. Dwight Montgomery, what he thinks Dr. King would say about the evolution of the SCLC.
"I think he would be proud. We have an awesome national president who has a deep commitment to fighting against poverty," says Montgomery.
Progress made, but more to push for.
Next Friday we continue our MLK50 report with a look at some of the local changes the Memphis
SCLC has pushed for under the leadership of Reverend Dwight Montgomery.