Former U.S. Attorney General speaks at MLK50 Symposium Luncheon

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The country turns all eyes on Memphis as we prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A week full of activities is already underway, and one of those events brought former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to town.

As the first African-American U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made history.

But he won’t say if his political future will include a bid for the White House.

Holder says economic and educational inequities still face our country.

“To consider where we are now as a nation, to take stock of our progress, to take responsibility of the work that remains before us and to rededicate ourselves to the dream of racial, social and economic justice is Dr. King’s living legacy,” Holder said.

Holder was the key note speaker at the MLK50 Sympsium Luncheon by the University of Memphis Law School.

It was a day full of panel discussions on where things stand 50 years after Dr. King’s death in areas like voting.

“Voting rights is connected to education, criminal justice, education and all other issues that we are talking about over the next two days. It’s this sense of how do you unleash political power for marginalized groups,” Sherrilyn Ifill, with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said.

Another big issue criminal justice reform and push for new policing practices.

“We need to teach deescalation as a method of policing. How do I lower the volume and the tension in a situation. What do I actually do?” Ifill said.

Panelists say people must challenge the system, much like Dr. King did, and elect politicians who will make tough choices.

Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, now in a bid for U.S. Senate, agrees.

“I certainly think about issues like voting rights. I hope the opportunity does come along for me to have votes and play a role in that. I think it is a very important thing. I think subtle ways to try and affect turnout, for example, is a terrible thing,” Bredesen said.

The U of M will take essays from the symposium panelists and publish them into a plan for the next 50 years.

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