WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - On the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, he was supposed to be in Wilmington for a voter registration rally. King canceled his appearance in Wilmington to stay in Memphis for a sanitation workers' strike.
Next month will mark 50 years since King was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.
On April 4, the MLK 50-year Anniversary Commemoration Commission will host an event at Williston Middle School to honor King. The civil rights leader would have spoken at the old Williston Senior High School, which now houses Gregory Elementary. The two buildings are adjacent.
The commission is chaired by District Attorney Ben David and Bertha Todd, a retired school administrator. The program will include a documentary, produced by WECT, guest speakers, and entertainment.
"He was a man of all seasons and people and he believed in helping justice along and helping move justice, so I think we as New Hanover County and the city of Wilmington need to recognize the importance of a man who gave his life for humanity," Todd said.
The event was announced at a news conference Thursday morning.
"He brought a whole community together and there are many of us in this community who would love to carry that legacy forward. He's internationally loved now but that wasn't the way it was in 1950 and we need to understand that history," Ben David said. "Some of us weren't alive at the time. Some of us were here. We're diverse in every respect. We come from all backgrounds. We invited the whole community to be a part of this process."
David has asked ministers at all downtown churches to ring their bells at 7:01 p.m., the exact time King was killed.
"What we're really trying to do is to create a process, a process that involves reconciliation," David said. "Maybe a little good old fashioned forgiveness, but also we're pulling up our sleeves and finishing the unfinished work that needs to be done to make us all safer and healthier."
The hashtag #MLK50ILM will be used on social media to spread information about the event.
The commission also wants churches in the area to plan a joint worship service with a church of a different faith sometime in the next year.