Memphis is known as the Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock-and-Roll. It’s a city people sing about—more than 1,000 commercial recordings of more than 800 songs mention "Memphis." Landmarks like Graceland mark it as the home of Elvis Presley and the National Civil Rights Museum marks the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968—a moment frozen in time in the communal memory of the city.
Nearly 50 years after Dr. King gave his life here in the fight for equality, only 4 percent of kids graduate high school ready for college. Only 26 percent of residents in the Memphis Metropolitan Area hold a bachelor’s degree. We are not living up to the legacy left to us by civil rights leaders when a quality education is still a privilege and not a right.
As we consider the educational landscape in Memphis today, we are convinced that this city must be the place that fulfills Dr. King’s dreams of a day when we are “an oasis of freedom and justice”; a place that refuses to question whether some kids can achieve and others can’t, but instead demands that all do at the highest of levels. We must work to create an unstoppable movement focused on realizing Dr. King’s dream of equal opportunity for every citizen. For far too long, our community’s children of color and those in poverty have been robbed of this dream. We must work to foster the leadership of our kids—equipping them with the academic and life skills necessary to pick up and win the fight for equality in their own community.