Kingian Civil Rights: Peace & Nonviolence, The Only Way To Fight Back

 

 

 

Civil Rights Exclusive with Dr. Charles Steele, Jr.

 

 

Kingian Civil Rights:

Peace & Nonviolence, The Only Way To Fight

 

 -Exclusive by, LSherie – 

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Many can tell you about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  They can recite the illustrious 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech he bellowed over millions in D.C.  Not many know that his birth name was actually Michael, but was changed to Martin Luther after his father visited Berlin and decided to change his name in 1934.  Even though people think they understand the struggle of his endurance…his fight for peace and equality…his ambition, they really don’t.  We can only imagine.

His ambition was a spark to set the world aflame. His passion for people and burning desire to push through adversity was short-lived. It was hard and dangerous – ultimately ending his life.  We’ve all watched the movies, heard the recordings, listened to freedom riders and other civil rights activists speak on his greatness. He wasn’t perfect, but even after death he has influence power.  All of us have a magnitude of power within us.  Tapping into that power only fuels our purpose and ignite passion in others.

Unquestionably, to say the least, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will forever be one of the most powerful Civil Rights leaders our world will ever see. Building on his dream…standing on the power of hope, Dr. King planted seeds that would grow into what is now the most reputable national and international non-profit organizations in the world…

Despite a bombing of the home and church of Ralph David Abernathy during the Atlanta meeting, 60 persons from 10 states assembled and announced the founding of the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration. They issued a document declaring that civil rights are essential to democracy, that segregation must end, and that all Black people should reject segregation absolutely and nonviolently.

Further organizing was done at a meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 14, 1957. The organization shortened its name to Southern Leadership Conference, established an Executive Board of Directors, and elected officers, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as President, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy as Financial Secretary-Treasurer, Rev. C. K. Steele of Tallahassee, Florida as Vice President, Rev. T. J. Jemison of Baton Rouge, Louisiana as Secretary, and Attorney I. M. Augustine of New Orleans, Louisiana as General Counsel.

At its first convention in Montgomery in August 1957, the Southern Leadership Conference adopted the current name, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Basic decisions made by the founders at these early meeting included the adoption of nonviolent mass action as the cornerstone of strategy, the affiliation of local community organizations with SCLC across the South, and a determination to make the SCLC movement open to all, regardless of race, religion, or background. | Southern Christian Leadership Conference

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This was the beginning of the monumental…widespread movement of desegregation, voting rights, racial equality, and nonviolence.

Dr. King’s dream…his vision of equality for all races became infectious.  Look at where we are today.  Without his perseverance and the fight of so many known and unknown faces, would we have equal voting rights?  Would I be able to write this article without fear for my life? So many questions come to mind.

Fortunately, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has remained ever present, continuing the fight for all people, not just Blacks.  This is a battle of peace versus hate…violence and nonviolence.

And even decades after his death, Dr. King’s flame of hope lives.

PASSING THE TORCH

The torch, as we like to say, was delicately passed to businessman, politician and civil rights leader, Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. in 2004.  Dr. Steele eagerly accepted the torch and continued following in the footsteps of Dr. King, as the National/International President and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

No stranger to leadership, Dr. Steele broadened his career by becoming the first African American elected to the Tuscaloosa, Alabama City Council and among the first African Americans to be elected to the Alabama State Senate.  Numerous awards adorn his extensive leadership dossier, including being inducted into the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College and Tuscaloosa Civic Hall of Fame in 2006.

As the National/International SCLC President and CEO, Dr. Steele is heavily involved with the forward progression of civil rights, built on the foundations laid by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can imagine even today how rigorous the call to action is and how it can be somewhat of a burden, especially since many are naïve, believing that the civil rights movement has ended – that there’s no more fight. However, in recent news, more and more police brutality and countless injustices have flared up.  Therefore, validating the need and continued efforts of organizations such as the SCLC.

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“I have to be a fundraiser.  See many people don’t realize Dr. King was a great fundraiser.  SCLC and the civil rights movement is a business and you have to treat it like a business, says Dr. Charles Steele, Jr.” 

“My job is very difficult because people think they are free now and that SCLC is a dinosaur or obsolete – they don’t think they need it anymore until they get in trouble.  So my job is difficult, because they don’t give to SCLC because they think they have made it…they have arrived. I tell people all the time, you may have arrived but you got off at the wrong station – you have arrived, but at the wrong destination.

God gave us SCLC.  It belongs to those who have been oppressed. It’s a vehicle to freedom.  It’s the history… they want to dismount it.  I’ve been out here working 40 years in this thing. We have to be creative and nontraditional in getting to where we need to be.”

Getting to where we need to be may seem like a long road left to travel, yet hopeful for many.  Social media, or shall I say, technology itself has completely changed the way we “see” today’s society.  News is instant and because of that, we are all able to live in the moment of injustices like that of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and many others.

While the sixties have long melted away, the civil rights movement never left.  Fighting legislation, fighting still for equality…SCLC has always been a voice.  A peaceful voice of reason and an advocate for positive and productive change, not just for the United States, but for the world.

According to Dr. Steele, “You can’t be concerned about the glory, you got to be concerned about the work.  You got to be on the front line and be willing to die.  I’m willing to make that kind of sacrifice…

It’s about impact – the power of influence and the power of affect. In football they always talk about the impact player.  People don’t hear you when they don’t see you. They got to see you in action first. Anybody can get up and give a speech.  They’re just speakers. Just talkers.  Dr. King was a person of action.

The impact of Dr. King was all about peace and nonviolence, the Kingian Philosophy- principals and philosophy on peace and nonviolence.  He was against the Vietnam War.”  Dr. King even said, “The bombs that drop in Vietnam will soon be the bombs that drop in America.”

I believe this to be true.  Metaphorically speaking, we’re dropping bombs in our own land against each other…black and whites.

Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. in Berlin

Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. in Berlin

PRESSURE OF THE MOVEMENT

There are major problems all over the country…all over the world.  In my opinion the pressures of being politically correct has watered down the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement.  Many do not want to offend.  Many do not want to go against the grain…stand for what is right because maybe they don’t want to lose their jobs for positing their frustrations or opinions on Facebook, or being captured in a photo or video by national news as they march against injustices in Ferguson, New York, and elsewhere.  I see that changing now.

I see people who speak other languages and thrive in other cultures looking at what’s happening in America and wondering what’s happening to the land of the free…the home of the brave.  I see those same people standing for what is right, marching in ally chanting Black Lives Matter, as they watch in horror, as injustices run amok in our streets.

But there’s a problem.  There’s a problem on the front line where young activists believe it to be just “their time”, in the fight, as if there was nothing to learn from those who fought, lived, and survived the Civil Rights Movement.  There’s a sense of pressure on the moment in making it known that this generation…my generation must make a change.  However, we have to work together.  Division only keeps up confusion and discredits our past.

“This is the problem – we lack infrastructure of the Civil Rights Movement. It was the Civil Rights Movement that got us this far.  There are problems all over the country, all over the world.  Ferguson, never had the Civil Rights Movement, so there was no infrastructure.  Rioting is totally against the teachings of Dr. King. It’s total self-destruction.

I was in Washington D.C. when a youth stated that this is our time, not old folks. Everybody want to be famous and glamorous and get in front of cameras. Put in some work!  The real pressure comes when the youth leaves the house.  Training at home doesn’t mean anything if other people aren’t teaching their children.” (Dr. Charles Steele, Jr.)

 

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FRONTLINE RESPONSE

In our discussion on Ferguson, the mission of SCLC, and steps to reforming our judicial system, Dr. Steele made it very clear that relationships and education are keys to making all of this work together.  In dealing with the issues in Ferguson and many other places where police brutality is exposed, we both agreed that the movement itself is a process.  The steps to getting to where we need to be is a process and we all have to be willing to succumb to it, by building those relationships.

“It starts at the top – whoever is in control, police chief, local government, you have to go through a process, bring law enforcement and people together.  Collaborate with law enforcement and community – sit down and discuss a two-sided vision from both sides. We need to hear a community vision and a law enforcement vision – they shouldn’t differ after sitting down civilly and talking about where we go from here, in terms of embarking on a controllable community. 

See, what we’re missing is that we live in a global village.  What goes on in America affects the world and what goes on in the world affects America.  America can no longer isolate itself in terms of just being a great country and not be concerned about the whole world.

The best example of that is Ebola.  Ebola was all over the world and has affected people everywhere, because we are a global village.  So, if we work domestically with law enforcement and the community as a global community here in America, then it will be better for the world.  There’s no boundaries in this thing.  We have no boundaries and that’s why we as a people, particularly African Americans, we miss the boat, because we don’t believe in being exposed internationally.  That’s what Dr. King was embarking on – to bring the world together.  The ultimate goal is uniting the world.” (Dr. Charles Steele, Jr.)

We understand the monumental effects of sound education.  Dr. Steele stressed the importance of youth being taught before stepping foot on the front lines.  Makes sense to me. I applaud all modern day Civil Rights activists.  I’m proud to be in the midst of a generation who is about change and is working to push those same efforts Dr. King was embarking on. But, like so many who don’t really understand the importance of order…process and what it means to peacefully protest, those aren’t the people you want on the front lines.

Education most certainly plays a significant role.  Know your rights.  Know and understand the law. Be smart. As Dr. Steele stated earlier, rioting is self-destruction.  Why riot your own communities… eliminating economic growth for your community, families, and businesses?

“Got to be committed in sustaining ourselves…not yourself, but ourselves.  We [SCLC] believe education is the new Civil Rights.  If we don’t get involved in changing the traditional way of our people being educated, we’re going to lose a whole segment of our population- self-destruct or even be destructed. 

Education has out priced itself.  People can’t afford to go to college anymore, particularly, poor folks and people of color.  So what we have done, at SCLC, started a program for those to continue their education… like those who didn’t go passed high school can enroll in our “Infrastructure of Tail-End Communication” with a credit of a university, where we can set up what is known as distant learning.  SCLC facilitates the education with instructors on each site and bring instructors to accredited institutions.” (Charles Steele, Jr.)  

SCLC’s education programs also include their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Program, with a focus on careers.   Another academic program is the Justice for Girls Program, educating girls (and young boys too) in communities about sex trafficking, which has become a seriously large problem in America and in particularly Atlanta, GA.

BEING THE MOVEMENT

Recently, the movie Selma, was released, bringing to life just one very important battle for Dr. King, highlighting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a huge step in getting to where we need to be by outlawing discrimination.  This move gave Dr. King the tenacity to push for equal voting rights with emphasis on African Americans being treating fairly when registering to vote.

Selma showed Dr. King facing the battle head on with much opposition.  His organization, SCLC, played a huge role in setting the stage in Selma, Alabama, leading to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Personally, I believe the movie bridged then and now – the protests that continue for injustices across the country and even the world. To me, it was definitely an eye-opener.

“I was rattled after the first ten minutes.  I had to do everything in my power to fight the tears throughout the entire movie. It was a wonderful movie and I am grateful to the director and producer.  She shed a lot of knowledge on Selma’s part in the Civil Rights Era that wasn’t taught in details.  Selma should be showed at all churches, classrooms, community centers…” – @soulstar612

“I’m speechless.  It’s powerful and I recommend it African Americans who don’t know much about him [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] and what he’s done.  All teachers do is give us a written speech and make us do assignments off of it.  I know I’m young, but I didn’t even know all of this and things he went through for US and it just really touched me.” – @yoitstee_

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“Selma revisited the efforts of Dr. King and the SCLC. It gave another place to visit in the moment.  Good promotion, good base for what was going on now.

We lost the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  The law has gone back to state law…state rights, which we were fighting under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Now we don’t have that protection anymore.  Mississippi had the power when they were lynching.  The 1965 Voting Right Act has been gutted. Before it was gutted, you had to get an extension of the voter rights bill – had to get it ratified by 3/5 of the state.  Section 4 and Section 5 were the most important in the bill which was gutted a year and a half ago… took out Section 4 which eliminated Section 5 – states now have control… Gone back to state rights which is state wrong.

When I told people in Berlin that we no longer have voter rights, they said, if they can do that to you, they can do it to us, because we follow America.” (Dr. Charles Steele, Jr.).

This reason alone is why it’s so important to know the issues, to stay on top of what’s happening in our world.  Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. is leading Southern Christian Leadership Conference into the next level.  His focus has strengthened with the foundations laid before him, while pressing the issues of today.

“We are experts on direct action.  We still have our direct action programs, but this is the key, we are reinventing ourselves. We know we can march well, we know we can do direct action…we know we can picket and go to jail, but we can do others things.  Just like we perfected direct action, we also can perfect other avenues where we’re lacking in education, entrepreneurship and training in the Kingian Philosophy on peace and nonviolence, says Dr. Steele”.

Expect to see more of SCLC in the future.  Your support of the massive efforts of unity, relationships, education, entrepreneurship, and the movement itself is needed.  It’s valued.  We can all work together.  We can push forward collectively, living out the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE

(320 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30303)

WEB | www.nationalsclc.org

EMAIL | contact@nationalsclc.org

PHONE | 1-404-522-1420

FACEBOOK | SCLC Southern Christian Leadership Conference

 Dr Charles Steele Jr

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