“These children–unoffending, innocent and beautiful–should never become victims of vicious crimes perpetrated against humanity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Sept. 18, 1963, Birmingham, AL in a eulogy delivered after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing

Memphis, Nov. 01, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum announces the launch of I AM A CHILD – MEMPHIS, a digital photo gallery to illustrate the hope, humanity and resilience in the fight for civil and human rights in America. Staged at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the site where the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the portfolio was developed by creative director Paola Mendoza in partnership with Families Belong Together and photographer Kisha Bari to symbolize the perseverance and resistance against hatred in light of the continued separation of immigrant children from their parents crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and the recent threat to remove birthright citizenship.

To keep the human rights infringement against immigrant children at the forefront, Mendoza directed a photo shoot at the museum with descendants of the Memphis sanitation workers and children today to show the longstanding fight persists across generations. The photos depict a diverse group of men and children holding I AM A MAN and I AM A CHILD signs that demand acknowledgement of their humanity and dignity. The participants included Jesse Jones, son of AFSCME union organizer and striker leader Thomas Oliver “T.O.” Jones; men who were in Memphis in 1968; fathers with their children; and museum tour guides.

Jones stated, “To be asked to participate in the I AM A MAN / I AM A CHILD movement was a great honor, not just for me, but for my cousin, Marty Franklin, as well. To see how the kids were interacting, to see how the staff was relating the history with the kids so they could understand, and to see the excitement in everyone’s face to taking pictures in front of the room where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last slept was quite an experience.” The project includes an educational resource for teaching children about civil and human rights.

Franklin concurred, “You can’t be a man unless you see a man. I think that the adults’ participation in the I AM A MAN movement is like bridging the gap between us. If the youth see our participation and passion for the movement and not allowing it to disappear, I think they will catch on and continue with the movement. As we all know, the struggle continues for equality, justice and peace. They see men participating–and there’s not enough of us that they see doing positive things–so it bridges the gap for us to do something collectively with the children.  I just loved that. It gives me goose bumps to know that I did something positive to help the children, and for myself.

When Paola Mendoza and created the concept to protest the separation of children from their parents, she was inspired by the 1968 Memphis striking sanitation workers who carried signs stating I AM A MAN.  With Families Belong Together, the initial I AM A CHILD photo shoot occurred in New York City on the steps of Immigration and Customs Enforcement building featuring children ages three to ten. Families Belong Together is a coalition that includes nearly 250 organizations representing Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight family separation and promote dignity, unity, and compassion for all children and families.

The photos quickly went viral on social media.  Through Twitter, the National Civil Rights Museum approached Paola Mendoza about collaborating  on a rapid response installation which opened on July 26 as part of a national day of action.

Dr. Noelle Trent, the museum’s Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education, commented, “The unfortunate parallel of the 1968 striking sanitation workers and children today demonstrates a lack of compassion and dignity for our fellow human beings.  I AM A CHILD emphasizes that the community must come together to protect the civil and human rights of ALL children and people regardless of race, class, gender, religion, sexual identity, country of origin, or immigration status.”

The project also coincided with the 50th anniversary year of Dr. King’s assassination and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The museum will soon add the Memphis collection to its current I AM A CHILD photo exhibit. For more information, visit


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