It was 12:30 on the afternoon of Good Friday, where two seemingly disparate events were taking place under rainy skies. Steps away from where Saturday's Ku Klux Klan rally will take place at the courthouse, Holy Week was underway at downtown St. Peter Catholic Church where white and black parishioners came to pray not to protest.
Meanwhile, a holiday closed Memphis City Hall was about to deny entry to Gerald Dibrell and his wife Sharon. They came to present a heartfelt idea to city leaders. They too didn't come to protest.
"I think it's very unnecessary. We've come a long ways in Memphis and we've healed and I'm hoping that they will change," says Sharon.
As the city waits with varying degrees of anxiety about the arrival of an undisclosed number of Klan members and the possible instability of those touting counter events to express their opposition, those of us old enough to remember, certainly know the power derived from controlled peaceful protest. Protest for a cause. Protest as a catalyst for change. The kind of mindful protest in which civil rights pioneers Benjamin Hooks, Maxine Smith and Reverend James Lawson provided with an even tempered leadership in the face of bigotry and brutality. Not the kind of scatter-gun approach apparently on tap at a pre-anti Klan rally staged by a group calling itself the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation.
On Friday the organization issued a statement condemning not the Klan, but describing local media as a "lapdog for the mayor and police." They denied Fox 13's request for an interview about their views until after Saturday's rally.
That brings us back to the disappointed, but unfazed Dibrells and their idea to rename one of the city's former Confederate Parks, the Forrest Medical Center Park.
"The park represents changes, teachings and healings of all races, colors in Memphis," says Gerald Dibrell. "It's just to reunite the "dream" Dr. Martin Luther King has and put all bias apart. And dream that can fulfill life's successfulness here in the city."
It's a simple wish and a simple idea from people who aren't recognized historians, politicians or scholars. But, giving credence to what the late Benjamin Hooks once roared to "let us move forward as a race and as a people as Americans to make this a better world."
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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