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Marchers Mark Death of MLK with demands to raise minimum wage

By April 5, 2015January 15th, 2016No Comments

by Sarai Flores
The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 4, 2015

Demonstrators in North Philadelphia on Saturday marked the 47th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with demands for a $15 minimum wage.

Sharon Sobukwe, a political science professor at Eastern University, told more than 100 people gathered before the march that the poverty rate in the United States has been reduced to 15 percent, but that still means “there are 45 million people living in poverty.”

Among African Americans, she said, the poverty rate is 28 percent.

“Those children of 60,000 in the city of Philadelphia who are impoverished are more likely to have learning disorders,” Sobukwe said. “This is not brotherly love.”

The rally and demonstration were directed by the interfaith POWER community-organizing group and the MLK DARE Coalition.

“We believe that we will win,” participants chanted as they entered the New Vision United Methodist Church at Broad and Westmoreland.

Echoes of 1968

On April 4, 1968, King was in Memphis to support 1,300 striking municipal sanitation workers.

The night before an assassin’s bullet ripped through his throat and killed him, King had delivered one of his most famous speeches, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” In it, he emphasized the need for the sanitation workers to demand and get better wages.

“The issue is injustice,” King said then. “The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers.”

At the time, Memphis paid its black sanitation workers lower wages than those of white workers.

King was shot the next day as he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel.


‘The same thing’

The Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church, noted Saturday how the issues of 1968 have changed little in the decades since.

“Fifty years later, we’re still marching for the same thing,” Tyler said.

“The idea that we’re calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, that’s the exact same amount that King was calling for with the $2-an-hour wage back in the 1960s – when you adjust it for inflation it comes out to $15.47.”

Protesters marched late into the afternoon, from the steps of New Vision on the 3200 block of North Broad Street to Zion Baptist Church four blocks north.

As the crowd of more than 100 took to the streets, they chanted, “I’m fired up. We can’t take it no more,” and “We work, we sweat, put $15 on our checks.”

The crowd was led by New Vision Bishop Dwayne Royster and included Juwan Dickerson, brother of Brandon Tate-Brown, who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop Dec. 15 in North Philadelphia.

Dickerson recounted to the protesters that his brother worked at least five jobs.

One man decided to join the march after seeing the crowd walking past a McDonald’s where he was downloading music.

“It’s hard to live out here, to get food and get your medication and stuff when you have to decide, can you feed your kids or get your medicine or not pay your bills and stuff like that,” said Robert Butler, 39, from Southwest Philadelphia.

As the march came to a close, fast-food workers shared their stories and encouraged protesters to participate in their workers’ strike April 15.

“I’m a mother of two, and I work for $7.50 an hour and I’m trying to get $15 in order for me to better support my family and children,” said Ivory Bishop, 25, of Germantown.


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