By Tianna Faulkner
Joseph E. Lowery celebrated his 98th birthday last night at the Georgia Freight Depot with hundreds of Atlantans who came out to pay their respects and celebrate with the iconic Civil Rights leader.
Lowery, who has fought over eight decades for social justice and civil rights, said he felt nothing but gratitude at his birthday celebration, from benefits from the lavish event that will benefit his organization the Lowery Institute. Every two years, Lowery has a big celebration in Atlanta and he doesn’t disappoint, celebrating with big named stars and even a few of his Civil Rights colleagues.
Lowery himself was more focused on everyone taking the time to talk and love each other and having a great time at his birthday party and dinner celebration.
Stars in attendance at Lowery’s birthday celebration included journalist and national correspondent Roland Martin, actress Cassie Davis, R&B artist Regina Belle, Ambassador Andrew Young, Civil Rights leader C.T. Vivian, and Atlanta Mayor Keshia Lance Bottoms. Scholar activists and the Lowery Institute Change Agents were also in attendance.
“This is a great night for Lowery. He’s an amazing individual,” said Martin, who hosted the posh party and celebration and live-streamed the event so that people around the country and the world could also experience Lowery’s birthday celebration. “We always have to appreciate and honor our heroes. That’s highly important. At the end of the day when you look at the rights that we have, it’s folks like him who put the work in.”
“Thank you,” Dr. Lowery said, as Belle led everyone in singing happy birthday to him. Belle also sang a song called “Freedom,” dedicated to Lowery and the work and contributions he has made over the years. He also received a digital birthday card, where over 200 people from Atlanta to Africa signed the birthday card and took a pledge to vote for the pledge to vote campaign.
A Civil Rights advocate since the 1950s, Lowery is a pastor, leader, freedom fighter, and father. He co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and played an integral part in desegregating buses and public accommodations in Mobile, Alabama.
Lowery’s legacy and work have been continued through the Lowery Institute, which was founded in 2001 on his 80th birthday. The Institute has a commitment to advocating for non-violence, social justice, food insecurities, HIV/AIDS, and more.
Lowery’s daughter, Cheryl Lowery, serves as the CEO of the Lowery Institute, where she ensures the work and the foundation that her father has created is passed on to a new generation of leaders.
“I’m just so excited that my dad is having his 98th birthday and he’s here to experience so much love from the community,” she said. “Two of his birthday wishes is that we register, get educated, and vote and that we love each other.”
“There is nothing more important than stopping by to wish Lowery a happy birthday,” Bottoms said. “He means so much to our city, country, and our world and it is a blessing to still be able to celebrate with him and we are the city that we are because of men like him.”
“I am one of Joe Lowery’s admirers and assistants since I met him in 1960,” said Ambassador Young. “Seeing him here tonight looking good and smiling and surrounded by people who love and respect him is a wonderful occasion. He’s been loyal, faithful, and devoted to serving Jesus Christ and all his children and given leadership throughout the south and through several presidential campaigns.”
Sponsors for the Lowery Institute include Marta, Coke-a-cola, Clark Atlanta University, Kroger, and Delta.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same, but we are moving,” said Dr. Lowery.
For more information about Dr. Lowery or the Lowery Institute, visit www.loweryinstitute.org.
This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.