Civil rights icon says she’s proud to see new generation stepping up

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Civil rights demonstrations and sit-ins were family affairs for the Lee sisters in Memphis in the 1960s.

“They called us the most arrested civil rights family in Memphis certainly, and some people say in the country,” Elaine Lee Turner said.

They were arrested 17 times. Turner said it was the right thing to do.

“We were not counting,” she said. “If we were arrested, so be it. We’ll get arrested again. It was what was just needed to be done.”

She said these protests from the past week are what’s needed to be done now.

“Now people are understanding what we’ve been saying for over 400 years of the injustices black people have to suffer everyday … when there are no cameras around,” Turner said.

When Turner and others were arrested, Memphis lawyers such as Ben Hooks, Russell Sugarmon, A.W. Willis offered their legal services for free.

“All of the black lawyers stepped up and represented us pro bono, so I am really pleased that these young lawyers are doing what they need to do,” Turner said.

More than 50 years later, another generation of Memphis attorneys are using social media to let protesters know they are there if needed.

“We know that you’re frustrated and tired of seeing people being treated like their lives don’t matter,” said Kamilah Turner, a Memphis lawyer and the daughter of Elaine Lee Turner.

“This is personal for me because my parents and other family members were arrested in the 60s, and there’s always lawyers willing to help,” Kamilah Turner said.

A new generation is now carrying a mantle for change.

“I’m just so thrilled to see so many young people, black people and white people, because they need to be the ones to take up this mantle,” Elaine Lee Turner said.

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