As an African American female raised by a father who was a local civil rights leader fighting within his workplace for workers’ rights, I felt like I was on sacred ground.
It was a reflection and pilgrimage of sorts to hear from those elders and trailblazers of the past. I was particularly moved by the labor and faith leaders panel hosted at the Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ Headquarters. I had not known about the Historic Mason Temple and the meetings that were coordinated and held in the solemn place. I paused and gave reverence to those who went before me in the historic halls of the building. I knew the “Church” had played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement, however, I always associated the Baptist denomination with spearheading various meeting locations. I had once been a part of the Church of God in Christ in my formative years and was familiar with its moral commitment and teachings of service to God, neighbor and community. But, to be inside the Temple and hear from the labor, faith and political leaders was very moving, energizing, and inspirational.
To witness these leaders of our time evoke a collective clarion call to “action” was exhilarating. There was a realization that we were fighting many fronts, and we would have to come together to win the fight. We are all in this thing together! The attacks on unions, worker’s rights, and human rights, civil rights, the environment, and the most vulnerable of our communities, are all targets of corporate interests, ALEC, and billionaire influence.
Mary Kay Henry was brilliant in her detailed proclamation, highlighting our fight as well as the COO from the Church of God in Christ sharing how important it was to develop a strategic plan in which we could all be a part of. I felt affirmed in our present fights and the legacy on which we stand. We are on the right side of justice that Dr. King so eloquently spoke about. He said the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I would reiterate what I heard from our leaders, and share with my fellow brother and sisters that we are all in this together.
In order to win we must educate ourselves and join together in this fight. At the end of the commemoration event, the strongest symbol of the commitment to collective action was the witness of the black sanitation workers at the rally. They were the shoulders that we stood on and we give them reverence and honor as we reflect on the past and move forward.
The grand march was then welcomed and proceeded by Richard Trumka with the AFL-CIO, labor, faith, and political leaders, accompanied by our local President Becky Williams and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry walking by our side. It was Grand! To see all of our labor and allied groups marching together down the streets of Memphis. Yes, I must say… I had a good time and we are stronger together!
Adreana Tartt is a member leader with SEIU District 1199 and Delegate at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Photos from the trip can be found at our Flickr page.