MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The theme of the MLK50 anniversary campaign is, "Where do we go from here?" One civil rights pioneer thinks she has the answer and was in Memphis Thursday to share.
As a young teenager, Lynda Blackmon Lowery learned the principle of nonviolence.
She went to jail nine times. And on her 15th birthday, she was the youngest person to march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery.
"I was in the nineteenth row from the front. I was beaten. I received seven stitches over my right eye and 28 in the back of my head," Lowery said.
More than 50 years later, on her 68th birthday, she had a call to action.
"I want children to know they shouldn't be afraid," she said.
Today she works to mentor other young people, like the dozens from Shelby County high schools that attended the MLK50 event.
"They were dying and fighting to get their voter license. People now are not even trying to get their voting license or even vote," Kingsburry High School student James Potts said. "I hope to make everybody think they have a voice, because your voice actually matters."
Lowery conveyed passion, humor and energy as she captivated the crowd talking about how she became a fearless civil rights leaders at such a young age.
"The Selma movement for voting rights was a children's movement," she said.
The students are part of a group called Facing History and Ourselves.
They come from 16 area high schools to work on a common cause.
"We think about the barriers to voting today and how to get people more engaged in the process," said Marti Tippens-Murphy, executive director at Facing History and Ourselves, Memphis region.
"As Dr. King said, 'Where do we go from here?' I think the youth aren't just the future, but the present. We're really here to lead where they left off," White Station High School student, Brentley Sandlin said.
"The issues are different, but they're all the same because the issues are human," Lowery said of the efforts of children today.
Students said Lowery’s stories will stay with them as they continue to fight.
The talk took place at Crosstown High School, which opens next school year.