By: Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
This coming Monday, Edgefield County schools and government offices will close as we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There will be memorial speeches about the legacy of Dr. King, about those who picked up the torch of civil rights as it fell from his hand, and in one sense we are all grateful heirs of Dr. King. But who among us in 2020 should be considered the leading figures in speaking and acting to advance civil rights for all Americans?
Arguably the first among many is Georgia’s Congressman from Atlanta, John Lewis. He has been there from the beginning, as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders in 1960 integrating bus transportation. John Lewis shared the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with Dr. King during the March on Washington in 1963, and he was severely injured by the Birmingham police while marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Birmingham in1965. He began his political career with an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1977, but he succeeded on his second try in 1986. Congressman Lewis has been a strident voice arguing for Civil Rights in the nation’s capital ever since, most recently sponsoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act this legislative session, one of several bills passed by the House but not even voted on by the Senate. Tragically, Congressman Lewis’ career seems to be nearing an end; he announced last month that at age 79, he is now battling pancreatic cancer. Let us all pray that his fight against that merciless adversary is as successful as have been his fights against racism for the past 60 years.
Another living Civil Rights icon is the Rev. William Barber, II, of North Carolina. It was he who organized “Moral Mondays” in Raleigh, protesting state legislation that restricted voting rights. Rev. Barber also organized protests upholding the rights of LBGTQ citizens when those rights were threatened by North Carolina’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or RFRA. One result of RFRA was the NCAA moving their basketball championship series to other states – a true blow to North Carolina, where college basketball reigns even more supreme than college football does here in South Carolina. Another result of the publicity brought by the Rev. Barber was the very narrow 2016 defeat of the incumbent governor who supported that RFRA legislation in an election whose result was contested all the way into December.
This year’s 14thAnnual Interfaith Celebration by the Progressive Religious Coalition of the Augusta and the CSRA, honoring the birthday of Dr. King, will be held Thursday of next week. Congressman Lewis won’t be attending here in Augusta – you can be sure that battling cancer or not, he will attend MLK week ceremonies in Atlanta – but we are honored to have Rev. William Barber, II, heading the Augusta MLK Celebration. The theme is, “Keeping the Dream Alive: Why Dr. King’s Message Still Matters,” and the event will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Reynolds Street in Augusta. It will be on Thursday, January 23, starting at 6:45pm. I highly recommend this event to all our Edgefield Advertiserreaders. Hearing Rev. Barber speak is an event in itself, one you are sure to remember for years to come.