I was born in 1961, which was during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. As time continues to pass, the roll of so many of our Civil Rights leaders has been called. I grew up in a traditional Baptist church where we were not only taught about Jesus, but we were also taught to have a respect and reverence for those who were trying to make life better for people of color and those who were considered disadvantaged. Our church often hosted Civil Rights leaders and Historically Black College Choirs such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They made sure we learned about our history and culture, while we supported them with offerings.
Reverend Joseph Lowery, who was a pastor and Civil Rights leader, recently passed away at the doorstep of reaching a century. Like most African Americans from that time period (and even today), he experienced racism and abuse at the hand of a white policeman because he did not get off the sidewalk when a white man was passing by. This put a fire in his belly that would last a lifetime. Reverend Lowery was an educated man and attended Knoxville College, Alabama A&M College and Paine College. Later he went on to receive his Doctor of Divinity from Chicago Ecumenical Institute. He became the pastor of Warren Street Methodist Church in Mobile Alabama and when Ms. Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955, he helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott.
In 1957, Reverend Lowery along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth and others founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was the only organization that Dr. King lent his name. Over half a century ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama right after the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, where he shared with the people that it won’t be long before we get to the “Promised Land.” I would say today, Reverend Joseph E. Lowery has reached the “Promised Land.”
I had the privilege of working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) here in Los Angeles for over a decade. I worked under the leadership of past Executive Directors Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Reverend Norman Johnson, and Reverend Eric Lee. For over ten years I worked with the organization to coordinate what was known as “King Week,” which was more like three weeks! SCLC-LA partnered with the Mayor’s Office, community organizations, Corporate America, churches and various Unions to make sure the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not forgotten. Part of that history would also include the life of Reverend Joseph E. Lowery. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such an organization and experience firsthand those who also had a desire to advance equality.
Reverend Lowery received many awards during his lifetime. To honor him, the city of Atlanta renamed Ashby Street for him. Lowery spoke at Coretta Scott King’s funeral and he gave the benediction at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. He truly lived a life where God would say, “well done, good and faithful servant.” He did his best to serve mankind and to leave a positive mark on this world. Let’s not forgot the example he shared. In the closing words of Reverend Lowery at the inauguration, “Let all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen! Say Amen! And Amen!”
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