In This Place Speaker Series: Dr. James Lawson & the Future of Memphis

Clayborn Temple hosted its fourth installment of the In This Place speaker series Friday, April 5. Local Memphians and guests from Louisiana, Texas and more engaged in conversation with Reverend Dr. James M. Lawson, Jr. about the future of our city.

A diverse crowd of men, women and children packed into the sanctuary to join Reverend Lawson as he returned to Historic Clayborn Temple. He was joined by the cast of Union: The Musical, with a moving performance that inspired thought, beauty and change. Reverend Lawson spoke about how he remembers when Clayborn Temple was the staging place during the sanitation strike. He was an active part of the movement for justice and equality with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The Memphis strike wanted justice, freedom, safety, pay, the opportunity for promotion,” he said as he reflected on the state of Memphis during the sanitation strike, “These men worked 60 to 70 hours a week and still lived in poverty.” Through these injustices, Reverend Lawson determined how he would inspire and create change. “I became convinced that I must be committed to fighting evil, but not by imitating it,” he shared.  “You cannot overcome injustice with injustice. You cannot use the language of cruelty to people and expect that you’re going to end cruelty to people.” To move people into love and out of hate, Reverend Lawson shared with the people of Memphis that we need a political, spiritual revolution in which we stop seeing humans as profits or things and we start seeing every individual as gift of creation.

Reverend Lawson moved the audience to understand how together, the Memphis community can dismantle the wrongs and injustices that have been done. The City of Memphis is changing, and its future relies on those who live here to practice love, peace and justice. Clayborn Temple is honored to be a safe place for community conversation, and we look forward to years of gathering together and advocating for positive social change in our city.

This event marked the last installment of the In This Place speaker series for 2019. The restoration projects at Clayborn Temple will soon be underway, and you can continue to follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see project updates.