Civil rights leaders celebrate Rev. Joseph Lowery’s 88th birthday

ATLANTA – Thousands of Atlantans recently joined the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and a roll call of African American leaders including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressmen John Conyers and Walter Fauntroy to celebrate the 88th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. Martin Luther King.

Dr. Lowery, who has a knack for seizing the time, interrupted actor Samuel Jackson, host of the four hour star studded gala, as he called to wind up the evening with “We Shall Overcome.” Besides ensuring that every woman in the audience was felt liberated to join Franklin’s reverberation of the King Chapel walls with “You make me feel like a natural woman,” he had the audience on its feet as one chorus of response to her call for “R-e-s-p-e-c-t”.

Speaking on behalf of veterans and martyrs who made it possible for Americans to choose an African American president, as he did when delivering the benediction at Obama’s inauguration and when receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dr. Lowery said, “Yes. We have. We have come a long way. But it ain’t over. As we are here tonight, we are witnessing an assault on our president, now, for articulating, for symbolizing to the world, the new hope.”

And with the unfailing combination of courage and charm that enables the old warrior to keep young recruits keeping on, Lowery turned yet another ceremonial event into an occasion saying precisely what needs to be heard at the moment. The civil rights leader said to some whites who say it’s time to get over it and move on. “Well, it’s time for us to say ‘get over it. Get behind the president'”

Photo by Richard Renner Creative Commons 2.5