When Levy Daugherty began planning his foundation’s next major event, his vision extended into the next generation.
The secondary and tertiary students, teachers and general supporters gathered at the Howard University’s Blackburn Center in Washington, D.C., late last month for the beginning of a two-day event that he hoped would re-vamp the players in today’s civil rights movement.
It was the King Maker Foundation’s and Howard University African Studies’ “Civil Rights, Civil Duties: In the Pursuit of Family, Happiness and Peace.” The second of the two-day event included a passing of the torch to the next generation of civil leaders.
“We’re trying to build a council of elders for the young people,” said Daugherty, president of the foundation.
The well-known civil rights names and personalities, such as Mrs. Dorothy Cotton and Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker—both friends and foot soldiers of Dr. Martin Luther king Jr.—did just that.
“Need is the basis of real movement,” said Walker as he stepped to the podium. “And Martin King understood this...I am convinced that King was the quintessential profit of the twentieth century.”
The D.C.-based King Maker Foundation is a youth-geared organization that allies with other organizations to, “to provide youth educational programs, youth leadership development, global leaders, and community service projects,” according to its website.
With race and class still a central focus of today’s civil and social struggles, the forum’s goal was clear as panelists Dorothy Cotton, former D. C. Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy, Walker and Dr. Virgil A. Wood gave the audience a glimpse into the civil rights movement of the 1950s, and its importance in changing and shaping lives today.
“I believe we are gathered here for three reasons. First of all for love, second of all for service, and third, it’s our time,’’ said Greg Carter, president of the Washington AIDS International Foundation, who also served as master of ceremonies for the event.
Through song and sermon, the panelists spoke of progress, sharing intimate details of the struggle that led to the civil rights movement through their own eyes and the eyes of their friend and associate, Martin Luther King Jr.
The civil rights movement and politics are inseparable, said Fauntroy, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, who has pastored for more than 50 years.
“Politics is the process of deciding who gets how much,” he said as the panelists voiced their approvals.
The panels agreed that what took place decades ago set the foundation for today’s youth and adults to take action.
“It seems people are waiting for the resurrection of Martin Luther King...we are waiting on a messiah,” said Cotton. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” she continued. “If things are going to change, we ourselves have to change them.”
Cotton said African-American youth in today’s society “easily forget and have become complacent.” But that the elders who attended the conference wanted to aid the redefinition of the movement, and make it applicable to young people.
Walker pointed to Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama as a result of the struggle.
“Obama is the symbol of a movement,” Walker said. “Movements are ordained by God, and you can’t stop God’s movement.”
He added that taking action doesn’t have to mean marching and protesting.
Simply registering and voting can make all the difference in a civil movement, he pointed out. Fauntroy, whose church has begun a registration drive, agreed with Walker. “We are wasting rocks we could put in our slingshot and slay this Goliath.”
Still, leading hands are needed in every area of struggle, they agreed.
“If we are not willing to struggle for what we want, then we do not deserve it,” Walker reminded.
Panelist made clear their hopes that the message would catch fire and spread. They shouted amens from the audience as the Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, prayed, “May we not just talk to ourselves throughout this, but to the nation and the world.”