Civil Rights leaders reflect on what’s next for Memphis after MLK50

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The crowds, dignitaries and ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death are over, but some say this is when the real work begins.

Minister and activist Reverend Earle Fisher says Memphis and it's citizens still face the reality of the issues that brought King to Memphis in the first place.

"I think the vast majority of us that have been involved in social justice initiatives knew April 4 was not a magic wand. The issues that existed prior to Dr. King's death still exist today," Rev. Fisher said.

Those issues include high poverty rates, low wages and overall economic equality.

Rev. Fisher says it will take real action moving forward to produce change.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson recently announced a proposal to increase pay for employees to at least $15 an hour.

Hopson said he considered Dr. King's focus on poverty wages when he made the announcement.

"It's the right thing to do. We value our employees, and we value our community. We want to be part of the solution and not the problem," he said.

Civil rights and labor leader William Lucy helped fight for sanitation workers in 1968 and was in Memphis for MLK50 events.

He says the problems ahead will take Memphis asking some hard questions about itself.

"I think what we've got to do is get some people of the same minds to try to sit down and think about what we want Memphis to be," Lucy said.

Rev. Fisher says the city has to work on changing the structural and systemic realities that brought Dr. King to Memphis.

"Ultimately, this is an issue that is impacting all of us at some level. Until we can get more conscious, committed, compassionate and creative people involved, we'll mess around and be at MLK75 still asking the same question," Rev. Fisher said.