SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN. Local lawmakers say the work he left unfinished now inspires them.
A display case at Savannah's Civil Rights Museum shows some of the employment discrimination people faced during the Civil Right's Era; signs like 'White Applicants Only.' Representative Carl Gilliard says we've come a long way from that, but Dr. King's dedication to pull people from poverty is a driving force to keep moving forward.
The Memphis sanitation workers' strike is probably one of Dr. King's most famous fights for better jobs and wages, and today in Savannah, Representative Carl Gilliard's poverty summit hoped to give people here that same opportunity.
"Dr. King was on the cuff of the economics and education, and what I feel the passion is the work was not complete. He was just about to start the Poor Peoples' Campaign, and so this poverty summit, poverty, feed the hungry, everything we're doing stands on the shoulders of the whole mission of what Dr. King stood for," Gilliard said.
The summit puts education, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities in one place - something King wouldn't offer in his time.
"We are tired of our men not being able to be men because they can't find work," Dr. King said during the Poor Peoples' Campaign in 1968.
In 2018, Gilliard says failure is not an option.
"People have got to take advantage of the opportunity and stop making excuses. If you want a higher paying job and you're not getting paid more, go back to school. If you want to get a job and you can't get it because of your record, start a business. You get it? So there are opportunities where failure is not an option," Gilliard said.
Aside from sharing similar missions to fight poverty…
"In this America, people are poor by the millions," Dr. King said during The Other America in 1967.
...Gilliard has a personal connection to the King family and Dr. King's work for economic equality.
"In 1988, I traveled with Mrs. Coretta Scott King through 28 cities on the Martin Luther King Pilgrimage for economic justice," Gilliard said.
Seeing poverty throughout the South then and in Georgia now encourages him to continue King's unfinished work.
"The work of what he started is so prevalent right now, and then we've moved a long way from Jim Crow, but we still have Jim Crow Esquire. So there's a lot of work to do," Gilliard said.
The poverty summit continues through Friday at Savannah Technical College. Sessions are from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m, and registration is required. To register, call 912-436-7380 or visit this website.