CHICAGO (CBS) — Many people from the Chicago area are heading to Memphis to mark a historic anniversary for the civil rights movement on Wednesday; 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Early Tuesday, a group of about 50 people boarded a bus in Matteson, to travel to Memphis for the commemoration honoring King’s legacy.
It took only a few minutes to load the bus for an hours-long journey to commemorate a half century.
“We have to try to carry on what he had started: the dream,” said Lillie Wilson, one of more than 15,000 people expected to be in Memphis on Wednesday at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, at the former Lorraine Motel, where King was slain on April 4, 1968.
Wilson’s group joins multiple other Chicago area groups headed south, including several people from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, where Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. continued King’s work after his murder.
Jackson served on King’s executive staff and witnessed his assassination.
“He turns, and I say ‘Doctor,’ and pow, the bullet,” Jackson said.
At Wednesday’s memorial, in the minutes marking the moments before that fatal shot, Rev. Michael Pfleger will deliver the keynote speech from the same balcony where King was slain.
Pfleger said it’s intimidating to speak about his hero on the 50th anniversary of his death.
“It’s so overwhelming to think at that moment on that balcony, speaking. I hope I can hold it together,” he said.
The organizer of the Matteson-Memphis bound bus hopes the memorial calls our country to unite.
“Here, 50 years later, my question is have we achieved any of Dr. King’s dreams? We’re still dealing with racial profiling. We’re still dealing with police brutality,” she said. “We have black, white, Hispanic. We’ve all unified together to make this delegation very powerful. We’re speaking. This is a movement, it’s not a moment. Today is a movement. So it’s a powerful day.”
The Matteson group will return home on Thursday, after a full day of commemoration events on Wednesday.
The most symbolic moment will come at 6:01 p.m., the same moment King was killed. Bells around the nation will toll 39 times to mark his years on earth.