By Clint Confehr
MEMPHIS, TN — Inspired by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Georgia man was walking 386 miles to the Lorraine Motel for the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s assassination.
“I’m hoping to inspire other people to join this movement of anti-poverty work … in the spirit of where Dr. King left off,” says Terence Lester, 35, of Atlanta where he leads Love Beyond Walls, a non-profit organization.
His accomplishments include education and raising consciousness. A teacher used statistics on poverty during a math lesson, Lester said. More than 20,000 people follow him on social media where they learned about his demonstration of faith. He could, but he doesn’t use the title revered. Lester has a masters degree in arts and theological studies, he said.
Interviewed by cellphone Saturday, Lester said that Wednesday at the Lorraine Motel he’d talk about what he’s seen and thought about while walking from Atlanta to Memphis. He said, people in poverty “are, for the most part, invisible,” but he saw “a house where a family was staying with a fallen-in roof and no power.” He contrasts that with “people with more than they know what to do with.” He’s counted more than1,300 abandoned buildings and suggests a program to hold local government accountable.
“If a building is abandoned for more than three years, then the local government has a responsibility to use it for the community,” Lester suggested. “Make it available to investors. How can we repurpose what we already have?”
It could be a “use it or lose it” program, he said.
He’s asked; What if a tiny part of every sales tax collected went to a fund to end poverty?
Lester wore out 13 pair of shoes during another walk.
“This walk’s at nine pairs,” he said. Shoe companies haven’t given him shoes, but during one benefit, a group bought him 10 pairs.
In Alabama: two motorists tried to hit Lester; he faced racial slurs; and police were called five times. One caller complained about “a guy walking up and down the street disturbing the community.” Another was “about somebody suspicious … I have a walking stick and there was a call about four guys walking around with a stick.”
Lester has friends nearby during his walks. There’s a car with friends. Some walk with him.
He’s writing a book on poverty for Westmont, Ill.-based InterVarsity Press,.
He’s thought about running for elected office but doesn’t want to lose his edge. Asked about politics being the art of the possible with compromise, Lester replied he wants “progress, not compromise.”
While serious about his cause, Lester has a sense of humor; “You can call me the Forrest Gump of the South with a purpose.”