A few-dozen people gathered in Tom Lee Park last Sunday to commemorate the more than 1,000 protesters who blocked the I-40 bridge one year ago to rally for justice in the wake of the then-recent killings of several black men by police officers.
Sunday's afternoon of events, organized by the Coalition for the Concerned Citizens of Memphis (C3), featured "street theater" comprised of skits related to social justice and meant to shed light on the "real obscenities" the C3 believes people of color currently face in society.
Some skits touched on immigrant rights and police brutality, while others paid tribute to individuals such as Alton Sterling and Martin Luther King Jr.
Al Louis, 63, a member of C3, was involved in the protest last year. He said he believed it was one of the greatest protests in the history of the city, but added there has not been nearly enough change in Memphis since last year, citing the small percentage of the city's business receipts that minority businesses hold as an example.
"There are no laurels to rest at," said Louis. "This event is just to honor ourselves for a minute, then get right back on the grind."
- The Coalition for the Concerned Citizens of Memphis (C3)
However, Louis says he is beginning to see a cross-racial effort that he did not expect to see in his lifetime. "This I've never seen before," he said, regarding Sunday's gathering. "It's an effort among people of all hues and ethnic backgrounds. This is progress I never imagined I'd see in my lifetime."
Representatives from five organizations, including the Memphis chapter of Black Lives Matter and Inward Journey were at the park Sunday, each with ideas about what needs to happen in the city for equality to be realized.
Another group present was Movimiento Cosecha, a nationwide organization that is in the process of being launched in Memphis. Volunteer Coordinator with Movimiento Cosecha, Roberto Juarez said that as immigration tension rises in the country, the group wants to be able to get the undocumented community to come together and fight back strategically.
He said the group organizes systematic boycotts and strikes, encouraging the community to have their voices heard by using their labor and consumer power.
There were also members of Show Me 15, who say they want to see the crime rate in the city go down and wages go up.
While the skits played out at Tom Lee Park, just a few blocks away, more activists celebrated the anniversary of the protest with a march from Robert Church Park to City Hall. In what was called March for 1,000 Children, youth from all around the city came to write down what they want to see change in the city. Their suggestions were collected in a box.
Organizers of the march say it was designed to send Memphis city officials a message that more changes need to take place.