Deja vue..the Lorraine Motel, Memphis.
The fateful second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
Standing outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis evokes a strong sense of deja vue. So many times has the tragic scene of Martin Luther King’s assassination on that second-floor balcony been replayed since that deadly day on 4 April 1968 that the now-spruced-up fifties-style lodging is one of the most recognisable buildings in the United States. These days the former accommodation for coloured people visiting Memphis in the era of segregation is the National Civil Rights Museum creating a focal point for the American civil rights movement and steadfastly promoting its tumultuous history.
One-woman protest, Jacqueline Smith.
Not going anywhere soon.
While more than 1 million visitors have gone through the museum’s doors since its establishment in 1991 not all approve of its existence. For all that time former desk clerk and tenant at the motel, Jacqueline Smith, has staged a one-woman protest against what she see as the antithesis of the Martin Luther King dream. Her aim is to relocate the museum and see the Lorraine Motel transformed into a living testimony to Dr King’s acclaimed dream.
Jacqueline Smith claims the gentrification of the downtown area of the birthplace of the blues has put it beyond the reach of many African Americans. She thinks Dr King would be happier if the legacy of his death provided shelter for the homeless, assistance for the needy, care for the elderly and infirm, and help for the unemployed and those with drug and alcohol addictions. She says the $27 million “wasted” renovating the museum could have achieved this. Jacqueline has carried out her decades-long protest under a sun umbrella opposite the Lorraine Motel surrounded by trestles stacked with protest posters and newspaper clippings. And she has no plans of giving up anytime soon.