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Concert of Commemoration


Key Points

  • Clayborn Temple is the sight of the “I am a Man” plaza
  • Harold Middlebrook, Civil Rights activist and long time friend of Martin Luther King Jr. was in attendance
  • The monument was revealed during MLK 50 week

Songs rang through the famed Clayborn Temple in Memphis as sixth grade students from the area along with nearly one hundred others listened on. Poems and raps brought the crowd to their feet as the artists gave in depth descriptions of the problems in their community along with the country. All of the performances revolving around the idea that we as people need to work together instead of shunning one another.

“It’s jarring to think that I’m standing in places that people were standing in before me doing such important work that we still talk about today” said Nubia Yasin.

Educating the Youth

Fifty years ago, when Martin Luther King Jr. visited Memphis for the second time, he pushed for the rights of sanitation and union workers of the city. In 1968, Clayborn Temple was a meeting spot for sanitation workers striking. In a week of events commemorating his assassination, the Clayborn Temple now is home to the “I am a Man” Plaza.

On April 3rd, 2018, the Iris Orchestra and the Memphis Black Arts Alliance joined forces with the University of Memphis Symphony to put on a concert as a way to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy. It was fitting as he was a man who appreciated the arts and knew they had a place in positively affecting the Civil Rights Movement.

With a large group of middle school students in attendance, the children got to sit in a historic building and learn of a man and the movement he led.


Civil Rights activist Harold Middlebrook sat front row for the performances and talked to the students about his experiences from fifty years ago.

Harold Middlebrook speaks to middle school students from Memphis in Clayborn Temple.
Photo By: Angela Poffenbaugh Harold Middlebrook, Civil Rights activist talks to middle school students during the youth concert at Clayborn Temple on April 3, 2018

Middlebrook got the students into a chant of “I am somebody!” to express to the students that they can be a person of high regard by being a courteous person and continuing to push for what they believe in.

“I am convinced that young people can help motivate us and challenge us to make the change necessary.” Middlebrook stated.

He explained that it was important for him to be present and talk to the students so they know they are the ones who will be making change for the future.

Fifty Years Later

I am A Man Plaza
Photo by: Angela Poffenbaugh

As the service came to a close, the audience was walked through the plaza outside of Clayborn Temple. The story of the sanitation strike in Memphis was explained and the audience realized they were standing where history was made.

For youth artists and activists like Nubia Yasin, 18 of Memphis, performing in Clayborn Temple was a way to tell a story and be an inspiration.

“Me and the artists around me who may look like me, who may be from similar backgrounds as I am, to tell our story and be unrelenting in doing so because there are still so many people that don’t believe that they exist.” Yasin explains. “So, it’s important that we continue to tell our stories, just like Martin Luther King told the stories of the people that he led.”

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