The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) taught me many things about carrying the torch of social justice. The many words and meetings that I was able to attend will forever serve as a catalyst for my continued efforts to be the best activist possible in a world full of hidden racism, blatant sexism, and many other senseless isms that prevent equal opportunity. As I planned to become more involved in civil rights organizations, I was not sure which group should receive the most of my attention and involvement. I researched the National Action Network, Rainbow/P.U.S.H Coalition, National Urban League, N.A.A.C.P and others. They are all great organizations. However, I learned that Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and many other activists would not be who they are today without the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was started by one of the nation's foremost civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As Rev. Dr. C.T Vivian knew that I was starting a new chapter of the SCLC at American Baptist College, he told me, "They all need to know black history as it relates to America's racist history." I can not count how many blacks that don't embrace their history today. Many blacks are bamboozled into thinking that we live in a "post-racial society." This, of course, is not true at all. Black life has not been valued in America and is still not being valued. We are inching close to the 50th Anniversary of March On Washington and we live in a country that seems like no progress has been made. It appears to me that all of the same injustices still exist; they are just hidden in various ways. Any person who seeks justice for all should know, as a precursor, that justice has rarely been on the side of blacks. For this reason we, more than any group of people in a society, have perpetually fought and continue to fight for justice.
Vivian went further to say, "It's in action that you become what you become, that you find who you are and what this nation is like. It's in action that you find out truths, questions and the validity of what you learned in school." This statement, beyond everything he mentioned, pushed me to act. This served as a call to action that I will never forget because it seems to me that action is the solution to many of the conundrums in our world.
Since Vivian was a lieutenant and close friend to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I asked him: What was the most important thing that you learned from Dr. King? Vivian said, "I learned most from his leadership styles. Real leadership is based on action. Only action creates something. Talk won't do anything. What he did was more important than what he said. He was an excellent speaker who did what he talked about." In essence, I think that it would be more effective if people did less talking about injustices and were dedicated to more action then, we see less injustices. If politicians would lead with creating policies that actually benefited the people, then the world see more change.
While Vivian led the conversation, Dr. Bernard Lafayette did not have as much time as Vivian did. Lafayette ended the conversation with very wise words. He said, "Remember, you have yourself a movement when you have the media's attention for more than ten days. I'm only holding down the fort until young guys like you can take over. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 when he launched the movement. I was 19 during the movement and now it's your turn." I never felt so empowered to continue the work of social change until he told me those words. It was as if he entrusts all of my passions to be initiated in the same ways that he, John Lewis, Vivian, Dr. King and others enacted their passion to make the world a better place.
I could not help but to remember the words penned by John Lewis in Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, "We have come a great distance as a society, but we still have a great distance to go." As we go that distance and realize the dream that Dr. King hoped for, join the SCLC for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington on Aug. 24, 2013.