Did you know…
…the first iconic lunch counter sit-in of the Civil Rights era was organized by four college freshmen?
…the majority of people engaged in leading Freedom Rides and Freedom Schools that indelibly shaped the movement were between the ages of 15 and 29?
…more than 2000 students, aged 7-18, skipped school and marched in downtown Birmingham for almost a week in May 1963 to demand an end to segregation in the city?
Each year in January, we take time to honor the incredible legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the leadership and vision he brought to what we now know as the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King gave embodied and gave voice to a radical vision of equity that sought to disrupt, address and transform the harmful intersections of racism, classism and imperialism which became the heart of the movement.
Yet, as another prominent leader of the time Rev. James Lawson, reminds us, what we now call a “movement” was actually a loose collection of actions taken and ideas shared between a variety of locally-situated groups. “There was no civil rights movement,” Lawson says, “just a whole lot of civil rights movers.” From the young people of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to the long-time nonviolence practitioners of the Congress of Racial Equality to the many affiliates and established chapters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to the Children’s Crusade, there were hundreds of local groups taking local action to bring about greater equity and justice across racial lines.
So this year, as we embark on our remembrances and celebrations of Dr. King’s life and legacy, the UCC’s Join the Movement toward Racial Justice initiative invites us to bring our awareness to the “network of mutuality” that supported, surrounded and influenced Dr. King, taking particular note of its intergenerational strength. If we learn anything from taking a deeper look at Dr. King’s legacy this year, let it be that liberation takes all of us.