The Rev. Jesse Jackson said there is a "resurrection" in Memphis. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley(

“Atlanta was Dr. King’s ‘Bethlehem.’ The Lorraine Motel was his ‘Calvary’. We were not saved at Bethlehem. We were saved at Calvary. Resurrection only comes after death. Dr. King has been resurrected. Dr. King’s spirit yet lives here in Memphis.”

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., founder and President of the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, keynoted the Martin Luther King 50th Anniversary commemoration (MLK50) launch on Sunday afternoon, at the historic Mt. Olive CME Church in Memphis. The event was sponsored by the Tri-State Rainbow Coalition.

An evolved Baptist preacher used Easter Sunday to make obvious parallels between Jesus Christ and his death on Calvary and Dr. King’s assassination here in Memphis.

His address also reflected a broader, more universal message of hope and outreach to “all people who are suffering.”

“Coal miners with black lung disease and farmers in Alabama and Mississippi – we must save all of God’s people,” Jackson said. “We are saved, not by division, but by vision. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. There is life after death. There is resurrection power, and it must be for all people.”

With a crowd of more than 500 tuned to his voice and cadence, Jackson referenced the 2016 presidential election and lamented that poor whites voted against their own best interest in selecting the current president.

“People who are not making a livable wage and have no access to health insurance chose fear, ignorance, and race over raising the minimum wage and preserving Obamacare for proper healthcare. They chose suicide,” he said.

Other notable speakers included: Dr. Bartholomew Orr, pastor of Brown Baptist Church in Southaven, Mississippi; Congressman Steve Cohen of the 9th Congressional District; and Bishop Henry Williamson Sr., Presiding Prelate of the CME Church, First Episcopal District and Coordinator of the Tri-State Rainbow Coalition.

Dr. Jesse Douglass Sr., who cut a prominent figure during the civil rights era was honored as a “living legend.” He often sang for Dr. King during the rallies and sang an old gospel favorite, “Through It All.”

Jackson relived that moment when Dr. King first came to Memphis.

“Dr. King was busy putting together the Poor Peoples Campaign when he was called to Memphis,” said Jackson. “He was told that two workers had been killed and that the sanitation workers were on strike. Dr. King said, ‘We’re going to Memphis. Sanitation workers are God’s children, too.’”

The dynamic 26-year-old rhyme-and-rhythm orator who gave the nation “Up with hope, down with dope” and the “I Am Somebody” mantra in the ‘60s still knows how to bring a crowd to its feet.

“We were out on that balcony with Dr. King – Hosea Williams and Ralph Abernathy,” said Jackson. “We were planning shortly to go have dinner with Rev. Samuel ‘Billy’ Kyles, and the shots rang out.

“I said, ‘Martin, don’t leave us now, and I remember his eyes rolled back in his head. But today, Easter is a victory for the righteous.

“Life did not stop at Calvary. Life did not stop at the Lorraine Motel. For there is life after death. We could not have vision, if not for the resurrection. Dr. King is alive. His spirit lives.”

It’s not possible to kill, shoot or jail resurrection, Jackson said.

“There is resurrection in Memphis, Tennessee.”