Pat Owens on Grand Forks flood aftermath / Vincent Harding on Martin Luther King

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Grand Forks mayor Pat Owens speaking to St. Peter residents at First Lutheran Church. Owens empathizes with St. Peter’s tornado disaster by reflecting on the devastating flooding that impacted Grand Forks the prior year. Program then turns to Vincent Harding speech on Martin Luther King, presented as part of coverage on 30th anniversary of King’s assassination, and his legacy.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

I carry 6 minutes now past 12. And good afternoon and welcome back to mid-day on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten what cleanup continues in southern Minnesota today? It's been a week. Now since those tornadoes roll through southern Minnesota, but certainly going to be months at least before life returns to some semblance of normalcy in St. Peter and comfrey in the center and all the areas in between today. As you heard some of the victims of the storm testified before the Minnesota house Ways and Means Committee urging passage of a 27 million-dollar tornado relief package and that bill is receiving immediate attention. It could pass the full legislature yet today. So apparently money is on the way yesterday the mayor who led Grand Forks through last year's flooding offered sympathy and encouragement to the tornado victims in St. Peter this hour. We're going to hear from Grand Forks mayor Pat Owens will also be reporting on the Building underway in comfrey and then later in the shower will continue our coverage of the 30th Anniversary this Ashton assassination of dr. Martin Luther King jr. And his legacy first recovering from the tornado here is Grand Forks mayor paddle and speaking to St. Peter residents who gathered yesterday at St. Peters First Lutheran Church. during our flood I just couldn't cry there was so much to do I could not cry and I'm one who gets emotional at times. But when I saw your City on TV last week I cried and I cried for the two lives that were lost and also for what I knew that you would have to go through and that's why I called on Wednesday and asked if we could send out volunteers or if there was anything we could do or if I could come and just tell you that you'll make it through and I'm going to tell you a little bit of what I've been through and how you can relate to that. Are you almost a year ago to the date? I guess it was April 18th. We had the worst disaster per capita in the nation. We had our fire which burned 11 of our downtown buildings and our flood it was the largest evacuation of a city since the Civil War. We evacuated 52,000 people. The one thing that I couldn't believe today's I flew over coming here was that with the devastation that you had You didn't lose more lives. And so I honestly believe you have very very much to be thankful for in our city. We also I thank God everyday and how I begin to go along was we thought we were better prepared for that flood than ever before and we did not know the magnitude of water we were going to have and it is just common to what you have been through. Although yours hit immediately. I about honey. I think it's about the 14th or 15th of April. We got our people along the river together about a thousand people and ask them to voluntarily evacuate because we didn't know what are river would do if it went over 49 ft and we were getting very worried. On the evening of April 17th. We had been working really hard in the community for several weeks. And then we had to fill three and a half million sandbags and we had the greatest response from across all over people came to help us and it was just unbelievable. And on April 17th went that evening. I'm at home about 9:30 and 1:20 in the morning and I'll never forget that. Because my clock is lit near my bad and the phone rang and they said you need to get back to the disaster Center immediately and I knew exactly what was happening our city was going under and then when I got back there, I saw a very frustrated group of City County employees are emergency manager and many people bent over the maps at the table. Baby couldn't do a thing. All our resources were underwater. All the play was underwater. We couldn't build secondary lines of defense and we had a city of 52000 people and it was overwhelming about an hour later. They asked me because the mayor is the only one that can evacuate a city. They ask me, you know, do you think we should Evacuate the city while at that point we pulled everybody off the dates because they were in extreme danger. We're very fortunate we didn't lose lives, but I'll tell you when it came to evacuating that City. All I could think of was, you know, if I'm wrong they're going to impeach me if I'm right. You know, we've got to do this and I thought I didn't think of me. I thought go ahead but I'm going to err on the side of being safe. And honestly I can tell you I think God took over at that time because the decisions that we made from that point on were unbelievable and I look back and I don't even believe that they were made by myself and my staff and my Council. So we started at 4:15 in the morning blowing siren sending police and fire down into a neighborhood that has a dike that was built in the fifties. And as the people were leaving their homes. They said they could hear the water coming over the Dyke and they could hear the shattering of their patio doors and it in that area only the roofs were showing in many of them this that just spattered the houses apart. So your city looks pretty much like that area than many of the places that I've seen and then we made sure we went to the other area of town in an orderly fashion. So we wouldn't have no Mass confusion as people left. We had people in 49 of the 50 states people across the country were just absolutely I can't tell you how thankful we are for what they did for us. From that point on our Emergency Center went under water was in the basement of the police department. We had to move that within an hour's time. I asked to go on and I have no small country May or two. I said I'm very quiet and I but I asked to go on TV because people had to know that they were in danger and so I went on TV and just stressed saving lives, you know, don't turn around just get out many of the people had left their animals and their homes. So after the dire emergency was over about three four days later of evacuating people the animals were left. And so we had to get some help to get the animals out and I remember going to the school at the Grand Forks Air Force Base where they were keeping many of the elderly and disabled and two elderly women came up to me and we're just crying and handed me their keys and said Mayer, please go get our cat out of the house. And so I thought well I took the keys and I got well somehow I'll get that cap and I turned around and I started walking away in about ten steps away was a gentleman from The National Humane Society. And so I got to put him in the right spot to they rescued. I believe almost every animal. I don't think they lost any in fact, so but that was for the emotional stability of the people. From that point on it was just news media for a person who hadn't been to upfront. It was overwhelming. I had an ash but the National Guard was there FEMA Red Cross Salvation Army all these various agencies working together and we moved our Emergency Center up to the University of North Dakota operations center and operated out of there. And on and on we had to Lobby in Washington DC with the greatest fear that I had was the emotional stability of our people for the first part of a disaster. You're in shock. The adrenaline's working and you're helping one another But as time goes on you get just very tired and very frustrated as seeing the devastation within your community and that does set in and our people right now or just physically emotionally a lot of them financially drained. So it's just continuous to try and tell them they will be okay and that's what I tried to do during the flood is be sure to tell them and the only way that we survived was by faith in God and I there were days I would wake up and I still do that and I just say God help me get through this day and it seems like it works and I he is looking after us and I know he will look after you also. You have a long road to go. It'll take you a year to five years. You'll go through frustration. You'll go through anger. You'll go to hurt. You'll go through Blaine and don't be afraid to tell another person when you're hurting don't be afraid to go get help. We had a couple suicides and I have many people come to me that were suicidal and we got them help to disaster Outreach and it was just sad that one of our custodian sin. One of the schools just couldn't take it the school was devastated and so he took his own life. And if he we had known he was hurting but we had no way to know we could have helped him but it was just too much for him to Bear people go through frustration because they've lost their employment 90% of our business as we're down. We had no business has we lost totally over a thousand homes that need to be torn down and about 50 to 60% of the city even higher than that had water damage 90% of our city was under water at one time and we are a city of 52000 people and it was just overwhelming to go over that City and your city in-water. I know one gentleman told me as I was walking along you said, you know, you've become a mayor without a city and I thought about that and you know, what city is not the buildings a city is the people within that community and how they work together and it's the faith and spirit in those people and you're going to have to work hard to make yourself pull yourselves up by you. Scraps federal and state government came through very very well, but our damage was but one point three to one and a half billion dollars. So we have a long way to go and the 11 buildings burned down home. So we're in the process of cleaning up and it has been a real challenge. But the only thing that has kept me going is people and my faith in God and I one of the greatest things is all the churches came together when I was running for mayor after 33 years as a assistant many of the ministers and Priests would come up to me and say, you know, we're praying for you to win and I would tease him and I say well hold it. I may need it someday after the flood. I told him I'm cashing in I need it. And I believe that's what carried our community through as it became just helping one another we were all the same when the president came to our community. I had to hear he went over the city and I met with him for about 20 minutes in a room and he cried too. It was that bad and I could tell he was sincere about 10 minutes before we were supposed to go in to have a session with our people and our people that we had about ten thousand of our citizens at the air base just on cots elderly and so forth. It was just devastating to see that and not knowing what their homes would be like many just left put the clothes on their back and it had nothing else. But when the president came I was thinking we were out of our home too and would have left my husband and son attacked me a suitcase and I have left with very little clothes. So I thought gosh, what am I going to wear and I was having a bad hair day just like today. And so when I when I sat down about 10 minutes before we went in to sit down someone tapped me on the shoulder and said May or you're going to give the old opening speech with the president and I thought and I got you know, you didn't have I hadn't slept in about a week and a half two weeks and you you're supposed to be and I was trying to make sure everything was okay and things are running right and I'll tell you my staff was absolutely super. I can't tell you how we work together. It was just like one one staff between County and city and state and federal. It was just super but as I sat down with the president, I started to say while this morning when I woke up, you know, I didn't know what to wear cuz we were displaced to and I had one pair of jeans and a miss match blue outfit my husband at pack me to self answer. That's what you don't wear on a dyke. And I was looking at all these people that were hurting and what I did was very easy to talk because all I could think of is, you know, doesn't matter what you wear. We're all in this together and it's the faith and spirit that are in these people. It's not the buildings that are important right now. It's the people and before I got through I didn't know what to wear the president touch me on the arm and said you look fine and everybody laughed and I lost my train of thought and I thought oh my goodness. This is going to be a disaster, but I'll tell you the President coming did bring hope and I know you in your community. It's a smaller Community, but I know you need to work with your public officials to make things happen. You work with your Congressional Delegation to make sure that you get your hide and FEMA money is that you should get and I know we are direct state to get the Housing and Urban Development monies from James Lee Witt Ernst from my secretary, Department of Housing but you go through your state and work really close with your Congressional people and I'm sure that you'll get the aid that you need also that office has just been fantastic to us. It has given us a jump-start. One thing. We need to keep reminding our community is that government isn't going to bring you all the way back there are things you need to do for yourself, but it will jump-start you and that's what it's done to our community. We've come a long way. Another thing is right now our community is in the anger stage. We're trying to spend the money to rebuild our community. We have 14 Council people in the mayor and of course, I don't vote but we're trying to spend them as responsible as we can and you only have three years to make sure things are on board. So we built we built some homes to temporarily house. They're good homes that people who have lost their homes can move into and it's to jump start. Does Private Industry couldn't so there was debating there and we don't want to get into the Private Industry. But we had to do that to keep our citizens. And I know another thing that I did right at the beginning of the flood was appointed a lot. I call my tri chairs and it was three of our main city department heads our city engineer our community development director and our finance director. And those three people have worked with myself and city council and totally organized that flood response. And so that that disaster was made a lot lighter by the responsibility put on certain people to carry it through and it was their responsibility to delegate can get it done also. There was a lot of Doubt when you have disaster like this towards your city and county officials and so forth and I I really want to persuade you to trust those people because it's a very hard decision set time give your input but trust and work with them and there is a decision made there is nothing worse than having a community that is split and I also formed a business Redevelopment committee which consisted of 10 of our business people who worked as a mayor's committee and work with the mayor to get our businesses back online and that works beautifully. Also, we now have 90% of our business is online, but you've got to stick together and you've got to work with your city and county people and you've got to listen to your mayor because it's a tough tough job to bring people out of a disaster in the only way you can do it is by working together. And I guess what I stressed you today is you will make it. You've come a long way in a week. You will like I said, you'll get tired you'll feel frustrated. But just put anytime I can't figure something out. I put it in God's hands and believe me you get through it. And that is the only thing that has helped myself in my community come through is just to have a lot of faith which you have to have just overwhelming face to get through these and care for one another there can be no selfishness in this because there are programs put in place at times that are very hard to be fair. And I think at this point you have to just some time they're not quite equal but you have to do the very best you can to distribute those programs among the people in Freedom Meat Boy, but it's it's just hard because there is no way for them to be totally fair. And so you just have to do the best you can and move forward. And I guess the one thought I leave you with today as you have the heart and soul of a whole nation with you as you go through this including our city and you are in our prayers constantly, and I know you were in the prayers of many people and I think it was comfrey also was really devastated and you can retail and as I said, you will be better our city is coming back in a year later. I would give anything if we hadn't had the flood but things are coming back and they are coming back much better and people are starting to see it and you can see that people are planting flowers and different things and so you can do it, but you got to just make yourself take rest. I have to keep telling myself that to you got to rest and so forth because if you become overtired it becomes overwhelming to you and anything we can do to help. I was going to visit with your mayor and I know what he's going through because I've been through it too and it's very devastating to a person who is the leader of the city to see their city and the condition it's in today, but it will get better and help one another and you will come through it. That's all I can tell you right now. It looks overwhelming at this point, but you will come through it and you will be bigger better stronger because you see things along the way you wouldn't have done otherwise And my favorite model I guess is keep the faith that sometime will be the only thing that will carry you through a day but don't ever give up and it'll take you probably I'd say about five years to come through this and we have probably about 10 years to get through ours, but never feels sorry for yourself. Just you can't feel sorry for yourself or you won't recover. You've got to just say this is the way it is and this is what we have to do and you have to move on and life is too short to continually dwell on it and it will destroy you if you dwell on it. So just team together do the best you can and I when I come back to the city in about a year, I know that you will have done an excellent job in recovering I see what you've done in one week and I can't believe it. And I I don't know if you have volunteers in here, but I'll tell you they are God sent when you have a disaster like this. They just come in groves. And I was teasing are Red Cross and our Salvation Army because we had no water or water plant was down for almost 3 weeks. So we had no drinking water no sewage system. I mean we went back to primitive and we were called the Porta-Potty of the net worth Capital Porta-Potty of the nation I guess but it that was the worst you could ever do is to be without water. It just you have showers. You have no water to cook you had cam water and but I was telling the Salvation Army and the Red Cross they were our God sent I said, I love to eat out. But I said one of the things I never realized was eating out would be chasing a Red Cross or Salvation Army truck down the street, but I did it and they fed us for probably four to six weeks and have still might have got their presence in our community. They'd go up and down the streets for many many months after that. We couldn't have done without them. and I guess just be patient and you will come out of this and keep the faith. Grand Forks mayor Pat Owens speaking yesterday at the First Lutheran Church in St. Peter, Minnesota. Residence of comfrey Minnesota began their second week of recovery from the tornado with a church service most of the Town packed into st. Paul's Catholic church yesterday. That's the only church still usable in the community of about 500 people Main Street radio. SmartStyle reports the tornado wrench. Steeples broke stained glass windows and tore up roofs at comfortsport churches. St. Paul's on the north side of town suffered the least but even it will likely need new shingles under bright Sunshine many country residence walk to church Sunday past the wreckage of their former lives in a town where it's hard to take anything for granted. There was one familiar sound. Last Sunday one week ago today. The Tempest arrived suddenly with scarcely any warning 45 seconds 45 seconds after the siren switch was pulled the Twister roared into this town. Lutheran Minister Lawrence Will Robie of Redwood Falls delivered the sermon joining comfrey ministers and Priests and church officials in the multi-denominational service members of the Lutheran churches in town and the United Church of Christ joined with Catholics at st. Paul's Church. Will Robbie told the churchgoers. It's okay if they wonder why God allowed the tornado to happen. The reason I know that God will not clobber you for asking such questions of him is that this God of ours is not above the storm this God of ours is not somehow aloof from or exempt from the gale force winds that sometimes sweep through our lives. God our God is with us in the eye of the storm. When the dog park NASA piers and the night and the day is past and gone. My call list iPhone. The intense emotion was broken several times by laughter and clapping the loudest Applause at the service was reserved for countries. Mayor Linda Wallander X the town's rebuilding effort holding dozens of meetings with Town residents the Red Cross and Salvation Army FEMA the Minnesota emergency management Division and others. She has an unusual electoral background while lean won. The mayor's Chair by the slimmest of margins when the votes were counted. She and her opponent were tied never in my My wildest dreams did I imagine that a flip of a coin would bring me to the greatest challenge of my life? The challenge to work with the caring and wonderful community of people and to rebuild a town. I asked each and every one of you to have perseverance to be patient and to be strong in our vision of rebuilding comfrey vision seems to be off to a good start much of the debris has been hauled away more is piled along curbs awaiting pick up that activity though came to a halt Sunday morning to give everyone a chance to be in church. Even after the service just about the loudest sound in town was a windblown piece of tin roof slamming over and over into the buildings rafters. Lynn Schmidt is walking nearby with her granddaughter Courtney perched on her shoulders compared to what the town was like right after the tornado. She likes what she sees. You couldn't walk to the street. She had to watch every step you took it was water all over. now coming Lisa can walk up and down the streets. I mean people are getting their yards cleaned up and stuff and how we look pretty good. Perhaps most important country residents have kept their humor one homeowner tacked up a large poster near punched out picture window. It shows a frazzled cat with a caption a bad hair day. Another has painted this announcement on the side of a badly damaged house for sale cheap that sense of humor will be tested in the coming weeks at the church service one Minister Warren the adrenaline surge of experiencing a tornado is often overwhelmed by the detail of rebuilding I had our decisions and paperwork as the town turns a vision into reality. This is Mark Style Main Street radio 27 minutes now before 1 and this is midday coming to you on Minnesota Public Radio course much much more on tornado recovery efforts coming up on all things considered later this afternoon. Saturday Mark the 30th anniversary of the shooting in Memphis the assassination of dr. Martin Luther King jr. Force events were held around the nation to Mark the anniversary and to remember Dr. King this year also marks the 25th anniversary of the death of the great Jewish leader, Rabbi Abraham Joshua heschel and spend so many years working with dr. King and next on. Midday. We're going to focus on King hash hope and their legacy Dr. Vincent Harding as a professor of religion and social transformation at the University of Denver back in the sixties. He worked with Martin Luther King in the freeing of Freedom Movement in 1968. He was named director of the Martin Luther King jr. Memorial center. He's worked on two major television series eyes on the prize and the black Heritage series is also written several books including there is a river and Martin Luther King jr. The inconvenient hero. Recently at the City Club forum of Cleveland Vincent Harding look back on those heady days of the civil rights movement and how they translate to the 1990s here is dr. Vincent Harding. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this soap box. This Gathering Together. in some of the best traditions of democracy and Humanity I'm very glad because I am deeply convinced. That we need constantly continuously. compassionately to explore together Who We Are what we live for And who are the foundational people of our society? I'm glad to be here too, because I agree deeply with that. ambiguous and Brilliant Europeans, Hannah Arendt who said at one point it is when we are in dialogue, but we almost human. I intend to be human. I'm encouraging you to be human. Unless we can talk unless we can listen unless we can look into each other's faces and not just on screens in our living rooms unless we can engage each other. Not only do we miss our Humanity, but we betray our democracy. And all democracy unless it is constantly built lose his life loses strength. I'm with you now to build that life. It is fascinating that we come to this time at the point where many of us are preparing for the Passover season. For that is a time when we are called upon as a Divine action to remember to remember where we came from. That's part of what makes us human. part of remembering the fact that unless we know where we came from we have no idea where it is that we should be going. So it's fitting that today. We should be gathered together. around the memory of two extraordinary Americans one whose forebears were brought here as captives in slavery. And one who escaped from a world set on fire by the practitioners of racial democracy racial Supremacy rather. Hashim King met each other 35 years ago. In the heart of the struggle to break the power of legal segregation. That was one form of America's white supremacy. They met first at a conference on religion and race in 1963 that I happen to attend as well when I was much much much younger. And then they gathered together at the March on Washington notice this progression, they gathered together for a conference. But the next time they gathered together was not another conference and then a series of conferences on religion and race they gathered together for a conference and was very clear that conferencing was absolutely wonderful but not sufficient. And so the next time they gathered was tamanche. For the March on Washington for jobs and freedom. And then they gathered. for the March that took them from Selma to Montgomery. 33 years ago this month Can you imagine is it clear to you that just 33 years ago? in our country just 33 years ago women and men were being killed in the struggle for the expansion of democracy. And 35 years ago children were being blown up in churches. 35 years ago some of us in this room were living then. And when anyone tells us nothing has changed do not believe them. And when anyone tells us but we have still got a very long way to go do believe them. Heschel and King will on that way. for the end of the Selma March It's important to remember that King spoke to those who had walked for 5 years for for 5 days and he said to them not everything is okay. Now we can stop and take it easy and tell wonderful stories of How brave we are know. He said we must keep going we must keep going. where to achieve a more perfect union We have to keep going to move on towards achieving the promise of Democracy in America until they moved they moved North has Sherwin came to challenge the institutions that created poverty or condone poverty or were indifferent to poverty and inequality and racial separation in the North. They had to challenge the financial institutions. They had to challenge religious institutions. They had the challenge educational Institution. in order to keep going and they kept together the two men kept going together to challenge the Betrayal of American democracy that was going on in a war against the poor in Vietnam. a war with many racial elements award that squandered human moral and financial resources. That was so badly needed in America. So the son of the European Jews and the son of the African ancestors joined together to oppose the war in Vietnam, which at the beginning everybody said was absolutely necessary. Absolutely, right and absolutely patriotic. But they opposed it as an act of love for their country. They opposed it as an act of commitment to their God they refused to go along with a mainstream tide that was being poisoned by racism materialism militarism and fear. And because they refused to go along with the tide they were attacked attacked attacked for disloyalty attacked for being severe attack for going beyond the proper boundaries of religion. They were attacked by those inside their community and outside their community. But as we remember now what we realize. Is it they were actually teaching us if we are willing to learn? They were teaching us that the highest loyalty that youman beings can have is not just to what our country and its leaders tell us to do. but that all highest loyalty if we have to continue being human beings has to be to the grandest Visions Among Us of the best possibilities that we and our country could have the highest loyalty must be to our sense of the call of a loving God. They were teaching us that the values. Of the unrestricted market and the values of racial Supremacy and the values of violence and the values of security at any course all the real subversive forces. But either way at the heart of democratic possibilities, they were teaching us the True Religion Knows No Boundaries. Especially and it's concern for the poor. the beating up the rejected they were teaching us. That religion was not meant to be some kind of private. eternal life insurance policy They were teaching us. The true religion was not meant to be some guarantee of sweet inner. Peace while the bitter cries of the hungry and the homeless and the jobless ring out all around us. No, they were teaching us the True Religion opens our hearts and open the ears and sometimes brings deep pain to our hearts and Dolby. They were teaching us that religion erases the boundaries of race of class of religion itself. They were teaching us that true religion tells us that we all won. Has Bobby Kennedy was saying 3 months before his death? They was saying not yes, but we are one and let's hold some conferences on our Oneness, but they were saying we are one and True Religion demands that we act on that one. to act and take the consequences if we really believe We Are One Now, when will remember that that's what has showing came were about? Something in US wants to call out where our teachers like heschel and King today. What I would do is to share one of the great Buddhist sayings about teachers. the Buddhists have this wonderful saying When the student is ready. The teacher will appear. So the question is not where all the teachers like his shield and King some place out there today, but the Deep question for us if we are trying to build democracy and build humanity is how do we get ready? How do we keep going in the path of his show and King the path of compassionate citizenship? How do we keep going on the path of courageous action to create a more perfect union? How do we keep going on the path of commitment to our common human family to all Oneness? And how do we do it when we have to say to people all around us that included in that one family that we are all members of including that family are Cubans it Rockies Palestinians and Israelis. as well as American How do we do that? How do we keep going? I will pay you adequately later on you Papa's. Thank you very much. The path that has show and King were taken was the path that helps us to discover. the common tasks But perhaps can draw our fragmented Nation together. creating a democracy that will constantly expand. To include the weakest the poorest and the most vulnerable Among Us has shown King remind us. That that is all great and common calling As Americans people are asking a lot today. What do we have in common? That's what we have in common. That's what the men were saying to us. We haven't Cumberland the preamble to the Constitution of our nation. We the people of the United States are called to create a more perfect union. That's our common task has shown teen remind us that are great calling as a nation is not to be the number one and only military superpower in the world are great calling as a nation is not to be the most materially wealthy and ecologically danger nation and consumption is nation in the world. That's not all gray calling or gray calling is to create a more perfect union. And in the light of the news that I have been hearing and seeing over the last few days concerning the suicide rates among all young people. It may be that we would like to consider the possibility that when we recognize our true purpose and calling as a nation as human beings. We will actually help our children. We will give them a reason to stop killing each other and to stop killing themselves. We will give them a reason to begin to live to create a more perfect union. That was the path of heschel and King. That was why so many young people flock to them. And now my friends we must keep going. 4 heschel forking for children carnation for all worlds we must keep going. together for each other Go in peace. Former Martin Luther King associate Vincent Harding speaking recently at the City Club forum of Cleveland. Vincent Harding is a professor of religion and social transformation at the University of Denver. You can hear more from Doctor Harding at 9 tonight. You're on Minnesota Public Radio. Are Luther King jr. Was shot and killed in 1968 while he was in Memphis showing his support for striking garbage workers in Memphis National Public Radio. Cheryl Corley visited Memphis recently to find out what's changed in that City since that fateful day 30 years ago. At 7:30 in the morning huge Earth and brown trucks from the Memphis Department of Public Works roll out of the city sanitation yards. There are separate vehicles for household garbage recyclables and trash like yard waste or discarded Furniture 72 year old Taylor Rogers now retired says 30 years ago. The job was vastly different workers collected garbage and tub carrying them on their backs walking from backyards to the waiting trucks before you come in your house so she can get some things all over me conditions were abysmal. The pay was low two men were crushed when one truck malfunction at a 1968 the workers nearly all black walked off the job the sanitation strike will become a furious struggle between the cities white mayor the newly-elected Henry Loeb the workers and union leaders of the American Federation of Lake County and Municipal Employees Martin Luther King jr. Will be called in to help rally support. black person If you be so kind to stand where you are and just listen if you and the old Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King jr. Stayed during his visit tour guides now leave in groups through what is the national Civil Rights Museum. The last exhibit room 306 is compelling even in its ordinariness a replica of Kings half-eaten last meal remains in the room coffee cups and saucers are strewn about one of the two beds half made outside the door a wreath on the railing and a square in the pavement details where King was slain. Memphis minister Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles was with him. helping garbage workers the least of these total life of service 39 years old powerful today about 300 workers collect garbage for the City of Memphis new truck designs and other efficiencies have made fewer workers necessary Percy farmer has been on the job since 1966 Martin Luther King was kind of like a mosaic came out of nowhere to enter said I use that word because they was really not here until Martin Luther King came to town in this March situation and it caused a lot of heartaches Bloodshed it and a lot of things went wrong. But it worked out by the help of the good Lord before Martin Luther King was killed some city leaders from both sides of the racial divide had work to peacefully in a great many of the city's public facilities White attorney Louis Donaldson a city council member in 1968 says before the sanitation strike. Anyone looking at Memphis would have thought that the racial tension was a lot less than it is today. I have proof of it was that there was a lot more than people realize that and perhaps actually today and the racial tension is less than it was an much more open when Martin Luther King was killed the cities political establishment was the mayor the school superintendent and the school board the city's Congressman. It was the Old South Rising on the banks of the Mississippi River. The vestiges are very public the Confederate park by the river. And another Park The Towering statue of Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest the Confederate leader who became the first Ku Klux klan's wizard. Memphis is added new statues to its mix though, including a memorial to Martin Luther King jr. And the political leaders now are black mayor Willie herenton is in his second term first elected in 1991 are large to say that that fervent movement on a part of the African American Community to elect one of his Native Son's was a strong indication that the African-American Community could galvanise around issues that they thought were important to the Future action with few white vote for the first time African Americans were the majority and a landslide re-election. He gathered substantially more white support and he says there are white leaders who recognized that Memphis cannot go forward unless everyone works together in a recent survey for the commercial appeal the Memphis newspaper black and white residents at the city's racial boundaries seem to be less rigid then they were 30 years ago about a third said they lived in mostly black neighborhood another 29% lived in mostly white areas and 35% said they lived in racially mixed communities. Emma many said race relations were slowly changing for the better the economy for black men fence has not they own few of the businesses in Memphis and are more likely to be unemployed than white. Mayor Harrington says the city's biggest challenge is turning political empowerment into economic empowerment mayor herenton says the city will work to provide affordable housing just as it works to develop other projects and Reverend Billy Kyles who stood of Martin Luther King side, 30 years ago says the subtlety of racism still exists in Memphis, but Kyle says there has definitely been Prague. And the people who say to me or say to you that we're worse off now than we've ever been. They were not here. Then Cheryl Corley NPR News Memphis. And that does it for our mid-day program today. I can hear glad you could join us again. We're going to be re broadcasting more of the doctor Vincent Harding speech at 9 tonight here on Minnesota Public Radio. And tomorrow. We're going to hear from Theodore Shaw who is associate director of the NAACP legal defense fund who argues that many affirmative action opponents hijacked the Martin Luther King Legacy programming an MPR is supported by shandwick. Your company's reputation is an asset managing. It is the role of shandwick public relations again. Thanks so much for tuning in. Hope you can join us tomorrow. on the next all things considered the latest on the tornado aftermath the states tobacco trial and on the final days of the legislative session all things considered begins at 3 on Minnesota Public Radio Kano W FM 91.1 You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. We have a sunny Sky. It's up to 57 degrees at Contra W FM 91.1 Minneapolis. And st. Paul Seneca partly. Sunny all afternoon high temperature should hit the low sixties 40% chance for some light rain tonight and a good chance for light rain and brisk winds tomorrow in the Twin Cities. National public radio news in Washington, I'm Neal Conan and this is Talk of the Nation. 30 years ago James Earl Ray admitted that he murdered Martin Luther King jr. And waived his right to a trial within days. However rate repudiated that confession and he's been fighting for a trial ever since statement. I'm about to give to this committee is essentially the same testimony. I would have given the trial court in Memphis Tennessee in 1969. If that Court would have had the fortitude to avoid a public trial and do the murder of dr. Martin Luther King in this is not what I told the trailer court enjoy that I did not shoot Martin Luther King jr. Just as I'm not telling this committee members of The King Family say they now believe Ray is innocent and they call for a new investigation into the assassination the life and death of Martin Luther King of the Talk of the Nation right after the news.

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