This weekend marks the one-year passing of two Civil Rights giants – Congressman John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian. These were men who sacrificed and suffered greatly for the liberation of their people – who stood bravely in the face of vicious racism and unrelenting violence – to force America to face the truth about herself. These were men who fought for justice not only during the Civil Rights Movement, but for the remainder of their lives. After John Lewis served as Chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – an organization founded right here at Shaw University – he became a member of the Atlanta City Council before serving in Congress representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for over 30 years. Reverend C.T. Vivian was a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and later founded the Black Action Strategies and Information Center (BASIC), a consulting firm dealing with issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace. One could say that he initiated the field of Courageous Conversations.
There is no doubt that these men could be viewed as heroes for the work and the sacrifices that they made. But everyday people can be heroes, too. Sadly, the deaths of Lewis and Vivian were preceded by George Floyd, a Minneapolis man purchasing everyday items at a local convenience store. George Floyd did not choose to be a hero. He did not choose to sacrifice his life. But his death gave birth to a movement, a renewed call for justice, and the recognition that so much work still needs to be done.
It seemed that in a season of great loss, America was sad, confused, and angry. Perhaps we had grown complacent. Perhaps we thought that the hard work and sacrifices of men like John Lewis and C.T. Vivian was enough. But the death of George Floyd – on the heels of so many other senseless deaths at the hands of the state – shocked us out of our complacency. We have to continue the work. We must continue to fight for, advocate for, and strategize for Racial and Social Justice, not only in the United States, but in the world at large.
Shaw University and the Center for Racial and Social Justice honor the lives of these men and the sacrifices of their lives. It was in recognition that the work of seeking racial and social justice must continue that this center was created one year ago. In the past year, we have partnered with several organizations in the Raleigh area to promote the work of Racial and Social Justice, including the City of Raleigh, Wake County Register of Deeds, and Meredith College. We thank our funders for believing in our vision: Gilead Sciences Fund, Duke Energy, and the City of Raleigh.
The 155-year legacy of Shaw University is a legacy of service and the working for justice, equality, and opportunity for all of America’s citizens. We are proud to continue that legacy with the creation of the Center for Racial and Social Justice.
-Dr. Erin H. Moore, Executive Director
Center for Racial and Social Justice