Memphis – StoryCorps

“I Have These Dreams Where I Go Back”: Dad and Daughter Mourn a Syria They Once Knew

Walid Sakaan grew up in Syria and immigrated to Memphis in his 20s, where he settled and raised a family of his own. Despite moving away, he always stayed connected to where he was from— which included a large close knit family, where he was one of eleven siblings. 

Photo: Walid Sakaan (bottom center) with his siblings in Aleppo in 2006.

In an attempt to connect to her father’s roots, Walid’s daughter, Magda, moved to Syria as an adult and built a life for herself there but when the war began in 2011, she left and they have both not been back since. 

They came to StoryCorps to remember both the country and the people they love.

Top Photo (left to right): Magda Sakaan and Walid Sakaan at their StoryCorps interview in Memphis, Tennessee in 2019. By Eleanor Vassili for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired March 12th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“He Did His Own Eulogy”: An Eyewitness Recalls Dr. King’s Final Speech

In 1968, more than 1,300 Black sanitation workers began to strike in Memphis, Tennessee, demanding better working conditions and fair wages. Clara Jean Ester, then a 19-year-old college junior, joined the protests in solidarity.

Photo: A young Clara Jean Ester, who graduated from Memphis State College, now known as the University of Memphis, in 1969. Courtesy of Clara Jean Ester.

When Clara wasn’t in school, every spare moment she had was spent on the picket lines or at the strike headquarters, Clayborn Temple. And later that year, Clara witnessed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his final speech in Memphis. The next day, she was at the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was assassinated. 

Clara, now 72, sat down for StoryCorps in Mobile, Alabama, to talk about bearing witness to Dr. King’s final days.

Top Photo: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left to right, Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File).

Originally aired January 15, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.