Memphis Groups Plan Day of Events to Oppose Klan's Message of Hate | Not in Our Town

Memphis Groups Plan Day of Events to Oppose Klan's Message of Hate

This Saturday as the Ku Klux Klan rallies across town, Memphis, TN residents will gather for a day of events that celebrate the city’s diversity and cultural life. 

The day of events, called Heart of Memphis, was organized by more than 30 local organizations and the city to coincide with the Klan rally scheduled to take place on the steps of the federal courthouse building in Memphis on the same day. Memphis United, a new coalition of local community organizations, activists, concerned citizens and people of faith, says this event provides a positive and constructive alternative to the Klan rally and to traditional counter-protest. 
“We cannot leave the day to the Klan,” Memphis United member Richard Lou, a University of Memphis professor, told Not In Our Town. "To not create a positive and constructive response would mean that the message cultivated and propagated by the Klan would resonate in a silent field of ambiguity."
Heart of Memphis will feature live music, dance, food, art and discussion. There will also be activities for children, including an Easter egg roll with Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr.
However, Memphis United emphasized they didn’t want Heart of Memphis to merely be a “feel good event,” and that the day should provide space for reflection, education and organizing to build new anti-racist movements and oppose continuing discrimination.
As part of Heart of Memphis, the group will host the People’s Conference on Race and Equality, which is a series of talks, discussions and workshops on issues of racial inequality and division affecting the city today and ways to move forward. Talks and workshops will include ‘Racial Structures and Racial Realities in Memphis,’ ‘Discrimination and Equality: The GLBT Struggle Continues,’ and ‘Nonviolent Communication.’
forrest park, kkk rally, memphis
 The renaming of Forrest Park was the catalyst for
 the Klan rally. CREDIT: Memphis Flyer

Event planning started in early February, when a member of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan announced that the Klan would rally in Memphis. According to Mid-South Peace and Justice Center Executive Director Jacob Flowers, Forrest Park, named after Confederate General and KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, had been a site of contention for many years and the renaming of the park in February 2013 acted as a "lightning rod" for the KKK.

Incensed by the renaming of three Memphis parks, a decision seen by some as an attempt to erase the city’s history, the “Exalted Cyclops” of the Loyal White Knights threatened that “thousands of Klansmen” would descend on Memphis on March 30.

The number of Klansmen likely to rally remains highly disputed. According to The Guardian, the permit granted by the city allows for a maximum of 180 people to protest, and a statement by Southern Poverty Law Center said that the rally was unlikely to attract more than 40 protesters. The city recently voted to ban the wearing of masks and costumes at demonstrations. 
The last time the Klan visited Memphis in 1998, local social justice groups urged people to stay away from the rally site, but did not plan alternative events, said Flowers. The rally turned to chaos, with violent clashes between Klan members, counter-protesters and the police. Memphis United member Kevin Newton said in a statement that this outcome was "a victory for the Klan," and something that should never happen again.
By striking a balance between celebration and education, Memphis United hopes that the day’s events will empower the community to fight for long-term change in the city. Find out more about the day at, and follow Memphis United on Facebook.
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