Rainbows After Storms in Memphis, Tennessee. Returning to the Scene of a Nation's Pain

February, 2015


I always get emotional when I land in Memphis, Tennessee, and at the exact airport where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and my personal mentor, hero and friend Andrew Young -- now Ambassador Andrew Young, but then the senior aide to Dr. King -- landed on the last trip Dr. King would ever take.  

I am struck by deep emotions, powerfully so, every time I land in this place, and walk through this airport.   Struck because while most everyone else glides by without care or concern, I know that Dr. King landed here on his own energy, but left (from this same airport) under different circumstances.  He left in a coffin, at the hands of an assassins bullet.  Somewhere in this modest Memphis airport was both the gate he arrived through, and was transported from.

I now understand why my mentor Ambassador Young has found it so very visiting Memphis, Tennessee for years, decades actually, after Dr. King's death.  

I was pained and reflective on the one hand, and on the other, hopeful and encouraged.  You see, Dr. King had traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to represent the interest of garbage workers here, as part of his new Poor People's Campaign, which was to represent the interest of all poor people.  He was to leave Memphis, and continue on to Washington, DC, where his SCLC would organize the first Poor People's Campaign effort in the District of Columbia.  Dr. King never made it to Washington, DC, and his vision for his Poor People's Campaign was cut short in Memphis.

Memphis continues until this day to be ranked as one of the poorest cities in America, and the minority small business ownership levels have not increased since the days that Dr. King visited here.  But there is reason for hope.

You see, I have come to Memphis several times now, first to speak out on my vision for a new silver rights movement, speaking to amongst other groups, the national association of black state elected officials. I have come here to sign copies of my newest bestselling book, "How The Poor Can Save Capitalism," But now I travel here with good news beyond words and inspiration.  Operation HOPE and I are implementing our vision for Project 5117 here in Memphis, beginning with the opening last year of our inaugural HOPE Inside location at SunTrust Bank.

Later today I will join city leaders, and the leadership of First Tennessee Bank, as we announce and unveil our second HOPE Inside in and for the city, in partnership with First Tennessee.  I am told by them that this will be the first of many more to come.  My vision for Memphis, or Memphis 2020 as I call it, is nothing short of 10 HOPE Inside locations throughout the city, and a matching number of HOPE Business In A Box Academies in the city's K-12 public schools.  Schools where HOPE and its partners will 'show up,' matching 'the power of education, with the untapped power of aspiration.'


And so, while I am indeed sad and saddened whenever I visit here, I overcome this emotion with one of action on behalf of the people of Memphis, Tennessee today.  And for this reason, I don't just storms here, but the recognition of the wisdom of 'rainbows, after storms.'  After all, you cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first.

We will help make the final dream of Dr. King real. We will do this with action and in time results to match. We will do this by bridging civil rights justice, with a new era of silver rights empowerment for all.

Let's go.

John Hope Bryant



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