After a full day of events commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphians sat down for food and conversation at historic Clayborn Temple.
Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer partnered with Clayborn leaders for the first in a series of conversations on important social themes.
The ongoing event is called In This Place.
As the name implies, this setting was just as important as the conversation. Because Clayborn Temple was the site of meetings for the striking sanitation workers in 1968, its walls are steeped in the struggle for justice.
This series is designed to inspire actions louder than words.
“You were invited here tonight to end the weaponizing of Dr. King’s words against those who seek justice,” said Sawyer.
They came, one by one, family by family to Clayborn Temple on MLK Day to talk about his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Conversation leader and Rhodes College professor, Charles McKinney says it’s one of the civil right leader’s most important, but often overlooked writings.
“He talks throughout the letter about the violence in the region, the seeming intractability of white supremacy and all and all the tools at his disposal, society’s disposal that are being used to confront those realities, so this is a letter we should all pay serious attention to,” said McKinney.
Many who came Monday night were strangers, yet were encouraged to get acquainted with their tablemates over small dishes.
“We decided to spend the entire year just having conversations across race, cross neighborhoods, across location, so we can actually build the relationships we need to be able to have this place, be the place that can bring the whole city together,” said Clayborn Temple Executive Director Anasa Troutman.
“This is a place where we can reclaim our narrative,” said Sawyer. “Where we can force conversations about truth and then reconciliation. We’ll never get to racial equality if we can’t have honest conversations.”
Upcoming conversation subjects: Memphis centennial, a look at where the city stands with social justices and women’s empowerment.