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OP-ED: Rev. Joseph Lowery: One of the most influential leaders of the latter 20th Century

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Lowery’s enduring legacy, I believe, is that he led the SCLC back from near death, to vibrancy and noteworthy relevance, after taking over in 1977, nine years after the King assassination, following the rocky and uncertain tenure of Abernathy’s presidency. No one could be expected to replicate the charisma, dynamism, and eloquence of King.

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Deric Gilliard is former communications for the SCLC and the author of “Living in the Shadows of A Legend: Unsung Heroes and ‘Sheroes’ who Marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” He can be contacted at gilliardpr@gmail.com.

By Deric Gilliard

It took the most life altering event of the 21st century to finally mute the importance of one of the most significant figures of the second half of the 20th century. Joseph Echols Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the direct action civil rights organization that served as the firing pin that used non-violent protest to push Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and coordinated movements across the nation that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has finally expired. He was 98. Due to social distancing requirements from COVID-19, a public celebration of his life and legacy will be postponed until fall.

Lowery, born in Huntsville, Alabama, was one of the inner circle of preachers credited with launching the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and Rev. C.K. Steele of Tallahassee.

Unlike the bombastic Rev. Hosea Williams, who served as King’s fiery field general, agitating and igniting movements, or Andy Young, known as the great negotiator and someone who knew how to deal with white intransigents resisting change, or Shuttlesworth, whose bravery is legendary after his home was bombed several times and he was beaten repeatedly — along with his pregnant wife, Ruby — while trying to enroll their children in school in 1957, Lowery’s legacy is more nuanced.

Primarily an administrator until the time of King’s assassination, when Lowery was chairman of the SCLC’s national board of directors, he was not known as someone who had repeatedly been battered or terrorized on the front lines in the fifties and sixties, though he did have scrapes with racist leaders. In fact, in 1979, in Decatur, Alabama, Lowery and the SCLC-led protesters, while challenging the arrest of a docile, retarded black man, Tommie Lee Lines, for allegedly raping two white women, were confronted by armed Klansmen, who shot at the non-violent protesters, including Mrs. Evelyn Lowery. She narrowly escaped a bullet through her windshield while seeking cover in the floorboard of her car.

Lowery was arrested numerous times, including while protesting our government’s support of apartheid South African regime in 1984, and challenging the dumping of toxic waste in black communities in North Carolina in 1983, along with Dr. Ben Chavis. He also led the successful integration of the bus lines in Mobile, AL before the seismic, 381-day boycott triggered by Rosa Parks in Montgomery in 1955. In 1965, King delegated him to present the movement rights’ marchers’ demands to intransigent Alabama governor and avowed segregationist George Wallace.

Lowery’s enduring legacy, I believe, is that he led the SCLC back from near death, to vibrancy and noteworthy relevance, after taking over in 1977, nine years after the King assassination, following the rocky and uncertain tenure of Abernathy’s presidency.  No one could be expected to replicate the charisma, dynamism, and eloquence of King. Indeed, Abernathy never found his footing during a period when fellow SCLC insiders Young and Rev. C.T. Vivian say he tried too hard to be King, instead of himself. And even when Lowery edged out Williams for the presidency in 1977, it was a struggle to regain momentum.

Gradually, however, despite being in the midst of what King historian and Pulitzer Prize winner David Garrow deemed a “post-civil rights era,” Lowery grabbed hold of a series of critical issues and made them his and the SCLC’s own. Gun violence, voting rights, hate crimes, economic injustice, affirmative action, educational tracking, redistricting, disparities in sentencing, black-on-black violence: you name the issue, Lowery battled long-time rival Rev. Jesse Jackson for national leadership as the clarion voice speaking for black activism and justice throughout the last quarter of the 20th century. Whatever the topic, Lowery spoke to it with eloquence, precise insight and passion.

On the 25th anniversary of the King assassination, April 4, 1993, Lowery and the SCLC launched the Stop the Killing/End the Violence campaign. Urging Americans to “turn to each other, not on each other,” the campaign ultimately took tens of thousands of guns off the streets through a controversial gun buy-back program frequently supported by corporations. Along the way, he challenged Presidents Reagan, Carter, Bush 41 and 43 and Bill Clinton, who credited Lowery with being the leader who moved him to raise the black church burnings to a national state of emergency. He pointedly criticized the U.S. bombing in Kosovo and angered the SCLC’s many Jewish supporters by agreeing to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Methodist minister also picketed Atlanta’s Prior Tire, over its challenge to the city’s landmark affirmative action stand and went toe-to-toe against hometown corporate giant Coca-Cola to pressure it to pull out of its investments in the from a racist South African regime. Lowery and the SCLC signed hundred million-dollar economic covenants with Publix, Shoney’s, which required they promise to hire more black managers, utilize more black vendors and place more stores in minority neighborhoods.

Rooted and grounded in voting rights and education, Lowery and the SCLC established and kept alive dozens of chapters throughout the country and the world while registering hundreds of thousands of voters throughout the years, via motor voter campaigns. Adept at working with groups focused on LGBTQ, environmental, anti-war and economic justice issues, he and the SCLC were broadly criticized as the first “mainstream” civil rights organization to actively support Min. Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March. First and foremost a minister of the gospel, Lowery, who refused to separate his ministry from his activism, also pastored United Methodist churches for over 40 years. Along the way, Ebony selected him as one of America’s top 15 preachers.

It would not be possible to salute the legacy of Lowery without including the laudable contributions of his wife, Evelyn. Founder of the SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., she instituted the annual Drum Major for Justice Awards, launched the Wings of Hope anti-drug initiative, introduced the annual civil rights tours throughout the south and erected monuments to honor the valiant foot soldiers who labored non-violently To Redeem the Soul of America, the SCLC’s motto. Together, they were one of America’s most influential couples of their era, and significantly improved the arc of social justice in the South.

Never resistant to go against the grain, Lowery backed the upstart, the little-known senator from Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama, against the chosen one, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Lowery did so despite the fact that most liberals, and virtually all black leaders, backed Clinton. Lowery campaigned vigorously for Obama, and in 2009, brought the fiery, controversial benediction at the conclusion of the inauguration of the nation’s first black president. Obama awarded Lowery with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, later that year.

Lowery was no King, but he never missed a payroll while reinvigorating the SCLC and ensuring that it remained a powerful force speaking truth to power during his twenty-year tenure at the helm from 1977-1997. After his time at the SCLC, he founded the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a 501C-3 that boasts chapters and affiliates through nine states, still focusing on voter rights and registration. Farewell to the “Dean” of the civil rights movement.

Deric Gilliard is former communications for the SCLC and the author of “Living in the Shadows of A Legend: Unsung Heroes and ‘Sheroes’ who Marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” He can be contacted at gilliardpr@gmail.com.

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Brittney Griner Sentenced to More than 9 years in Russian Prison

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision. “We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

WNBA Superstar Brittney Griner has been sentenced to more than 9 years in a Russian prison following her conviction on drug charges.

Her lawyers called the verdict a disappointment and vowed to appeal.

The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

“The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea. This contradicts the existing legal practice.

“Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal,” they added.

Russian officials contended that Griner committed the crime on purpose. They also levied a fine totaling about $16,400 American dollars on the basketball star.

Authorities arrested Griner on Feb. 17 at an airport in Moscow after finding less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

She has been detained since then.

Recently, American officials revealed that the Biden-Harris administration had offered notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Biden said.

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

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Report: Human Rights Violations in Prisons Throughout Southern United States Cause Disparate and Lasting Harm in Black Communities  

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

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NNPA Newswire

NEW YORK – The Southern Prisons Coalition, a group of civil and human rights organizations, submitted a new report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the devastating consequences of incarceration on Black people throughout the southern United States.

With the long-term goal of eliminating all forms of racial discrimination in the criminal legal system, including the carceral system, the report describes the widespread, disparate harms resulting from the arrests, harsh prison sentences, and incarceration on Black communities.

The report also cites the devastating impacts of solitary confinement, prison labor, the school to prison pipeline, and incarceration of parents on Black families.

On August 8, 2022, the UN will review the United States’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for the first time since 2014.

Among the ongoing stark racial disparities throughout prisons in the southern United States, Black people are five times more likely to be incarcerated in state prisons.

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, where Black communities comprise 38% of the total population, Black individuals account for as much as 67% of the total incarcerated population.

While incarcerated, Black people are more than eight times more likely to be placed in solitary confinement, and they are 10 times more likely to be held there for exceedingly long periods of time.

By submitting the report to the United Nations, the Southern Prisons Coalition hopes to solicit concrete recommendations from the UN Committee as well as commitments from the United States delegation about their plans to address systemic issues in the United States prison system, particularly in the South.

According to the report, several states in the United States have also failed to meet several of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of incarcerated people, including:

  • Work should help to prepare incarcerated people for their release from prison, including life and job skills;
  • Safety measures and labor protections for incarcerated workers should be the same as those that cover workers who are not incarcerated;
  • Incarcerated workers should receive equitable pay, be able to send money home to their families, and have a portion of their wages set aside to be given to them upon release.

“The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We hope the Committee will help to shine a light on these very dark truths and prompt the U.S. to take its obligation to make significant improvements more seriously.”

“The abuses of forced labor are inextricably tied to racial discrimination in our nation,” said Jamila Johnson, Deputy Director at the Promise of Justice Initiative.

“In Louisiana, for instance, people are still sent into the fields to labor by hand in dangerously high heat indexes, for little to no compensation, and with brutal enforcement reminiscent of slavery and the era of ‘convict leasing’.”

“This report reveals the suffering of Black people in southern U.S. prisons, whose stories of marginalization and discrimination echo the racial subjugation of slavery and convict leasing during our country’s most shameful past,” said Antonio L. Ingram II, Assistant Counsel at the Legal Defense Fund.

“Despite widespread knowledge of the longstanding racial inequalities in the criminal legal and carceral systems, the United States continues to allow egregious human rights violations to persist for Black incarcerated people in violation of international law. This report serves as a sobering reminder of how far we need to go.”

Read the full report here.

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Celebrate your birthday with 10 free items

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

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By Angelina Liu, Entertainment Editor of The Trendsetter / Texas Metro News

Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

1. Chocolate Secrets

At Chocolate Secrets, located at 3926 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219, you can celebrate your birthday by getting one free piece of candy under their candy cases.

2. WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”

Head to WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”, located at 684 W Pioneer Pkwy Suite 100, Grand Prairie, Texas 75051, to claim a free small personal daiquiri on your birthday. Quench your thirst with signature flavors such as “Strawberry Shortcake” or “Bahama Mama.”

3. Sephora

Sign up for a free, Beauty Insider account and receive your choice of 250 bonus points, Laura Mercier, Amika or Tatcha sets on your birthday. The choice of powders, lipsticks and skincare is bound to make you look fabulous for your special day.

4. Starbucks

Need a quick pick-me-up on your birthday? Starbucks has it covered! Join the Starbucks Rewards Program seven days prior to your birthday and make one purchase. Starbucks will then email you a coupon for a free food or beverage item two days before your birthday. The birthday reward qualifies for anything on the menu, including any size handcrafted drink or food item.

5. Jersey Mike’s

In the mood for a sub? Head over to Jersey Mike’s and receive a free sub and drink. Make sure to sign up for the Jersey Mike’s Subs Email Club prior to your birthday to receive this reward. Nothing tastes quite like melted cheese and meat in between a toasted baguette, along with an icy cold drink.

6. The Cheesecake Factory

Celebrating with friends? Tell your server it’s your birthday and receive a free treat as well as a song. It may be mildly embarrassing, but hey, it’s free!

7. Culver’s

Need something cold and sweet to beat the Texas heat? Head to Culver’s for a free sundae when you sign up for their rewards program. The sweet creaminess will surely not disappoint.

8. IHOP

Want to indulge in a sweet breakfast before birthday festivities? Join the International Bank of Pancakes rewards program to receive a free stack of pancakes on your birthday. Pair your pancakes with a choice of chocolate chips, syrup, fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream.

9. McDonald’s

Need a snack before embarking on your next birthday adventure? Download the McDonald’s app and join MyMcDonald’s Rewards to receive free large fries. Mmm, the taste and smell of fresh, perfectly salted french fries.

10. Smoothie King

Want to celebrate your birthday with a healthier option? Enjoy a birthday smoothie at Smoothie King. Download the Smoothie King app to receive this offer.

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