Honoring our deceased Civil Rights icons

William T. Robinson, Jr.

The year 2020 has bought with it the passing of three legendary heavyweights of the Civil Rights movement. We are mourning the loss of Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. C.T. Vivien and Rep. John Lewis. We are beyond saddened with their earthy transitions into the halls of eternity but are extremely proud and grateful for their contributions to humanity in their fight for freedom, justice, and equality. These giants represented the epitome of service in the best interests of humanity, making this country and the world a better place for all. In fact, their names are some of the names synonymous (along with Dr. Martin Luther King) with the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that opened the door to changing the projectory of  how people of color  are denied basic human rights and subjected to second-class status in this country. The movement helped opened doors of opportunity affording many Blacks a ticket to middle class status.

No doubt there will be countless tributes and articles of commemoration written about their lives and contributions. Their fight to eradicate racism, social injustice and inequality will be justly heralded. But if you truly honor their fight and contributions, you will emulate their actions. You will dedicate your lives to help in the pursuit of   justice, equality and freedom for all. You will not be a silent pawn for status quo acquiescing for the draconian laws, policies and practices that disproportionately discriminate against Black and Brown people. You will not deny and support the systematic and institutional racism present in all our institutions.

If you truly praise and honor the memories of these courageous, honorable icons, you will engage in a life of activism and dedication to social justice, freedom, and equality that will honor their memories and benefit us all. You will get out of you comfort zone, ignore the voices of naysayers and engage in actively acknowledging, calling out and combating the social, political and economical ills that  disproportionately affect minorities and those who are marginalized.

You will be doing these icons a disservice with mere lip service. Action is needed. If you truly want to honor and celebrate their lives, show it and emulate them as best as you can. These men along with an army of others put their lives on the line   and were physically and mentally tortured in their pursuit to bring about basic civil liberties for all. It was not a job for the meek, weak and selfish. Their sacrifices were for those with unmitigated courage, and unselfish desires to put their lives on the line for their convictions to make this a better country for future generations.

The stamina, strength, faith, courage and perseverance these men manifested are unparalleled. Fighting for a cause while knowing you may be killed at any given moment speaks volumes. They knew it was not all about them. It was about forging ahead to make things better for their families, friends and children. For this, there are not enough words in the American vocabulary to adequately express our appreciation for their acts of valor and unselfishness to make this a better world.

I am reminded of the adage that ‘I’d rather die standing, fighting (advocating) for my rights than die on my knees praying and begging. Take whatever you want from that adage, but it speaks volumes about these three icons of the Civil Rights Movement. Thousands of others eternalize this sentiment. You must also acknowledge that two of these legends (like so many of their comrades) were ministers of the faith with prestigious honors and   degrees from divinity schools. Their fight was one of nonviolent, spiritual warfare to do God’s will. It was not about gaining power, prestige or financial or material gain. A God-led fight to better humanity always put you on the winning side of God’s grace and mercy as well as the winning side in history.

These valiant, courageous soldiers’ fight against injustice shows us it not always easy being an instrument for social change. But as Christians or just righteous individuals, we have an obligation and responsibility to advocate for those less fortunate. Yes, you will be vilified, defamed, and ostracized by those seeking to hold on to the status quo—but you must be persistent and committed in your fight for social justice, equality, justice and freedom. Thanks, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. C. T. Vivien and Rep. John Lewis for your service to humanity. We are forever indebted to you.

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