The following presentation was given by member Arthur Williams during our club’s meeting on August 29th, 2020.
Good afternoon President Joanne and my fellow Rotarians, it is my pleasure and honor to speak with you on the passing of three iconic civil rights leaders. Representative John Robert Lewis; Reverend C. T. Vivian, and Joseph Lowery. I want to share with you some thoughts on their passing.
Joseph Lowery was an American minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the civil rights movement. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Martin Luther King Jr. and others; serving as its Vice President; Chairmain of the Board, and President. He participated in most of the major activities of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and continued his civil rights work into the 21st century. He was called the “dean of the civil rights movement.”
“I’m neither Democrat nor Republican. I’m Methodist. I have grievances with both parties.
“Everything has changed and nothing has changed.”
Reverend Dr. Cordy Tindell (C. T. Vivian) was an American minister, author and close friend and Lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. Vivian resided in Atlanta, Georgia and founded the C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. As spiritual leader, apostle of social justice, strategist of the civil rights movement for decades he has been in the vanguard of the struggle for racial equality in America.
Joe Biden said, and I quote C. T. Vivian was truly a remarkable man whose physical courage was exceeded only by his moral courage, whose capacity for love overwhelmed incredible hatred, whose faith and the power of non-violence helped forever to change our nation
Brian Kemp, Georgia Governor, said and I quote “as one of the foremost advocates for justice during the civil rights movement and one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s most trusted friends and deputies, C. T. Vivian stood on the front lines of the right for equality.”
During one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, C. T. Vivian was steadfast and calm, grounded in the knowledge that he fought for something much bigger than the obstacle in front of him.
Andrew Young, former ambassador to the United Nations said and I quote “he has always been one of the people who had the most insight, wisdom, integrity and dedication.”
“Leadership is found in the action to defeat that which would defeat you… you are made by the struggles you choose.”
- John Robert Lewis (February 21, 1940- July 17, 2020) was an American politician and civil rights leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death on July 17, 2020. Lewis served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966. He spoke at the March on Washington D.C. in 1963. He was one of the leaders on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery on Bloody Sunday.
- Instrumental in the founding of the African American History & Culture Museum
“We are one people with one family. We live in the same house…and through books, through information, we must find a way to say to people that we must lay down the burden of hate. For hate is too heavy a burden to bear.”
On the emotional toll of fighting for freedom during his 1963 speech at the March on Washington:
“To those who have said, ‘be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again. And then you holler, ‘be patient.’ how long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now.”
On the ongoing fight for equal rights:
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
If not us, then who? If not now when?