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Legendary Civil Rights Leader Joins January MLK Celebration
Published:
12/20/2012 12:02:48 PM
Last Updated:
3/1/2013 3:45:13 PM


US Congressman John Lewis
 

Charleston SC- Two iconic civil rights advocates, US Congressman John Lewis of Georgia and South Carolina AFL-CIO President Emeritus Donna Dewitt, will receive the prestigious Harvey Gantt Triumph Award at the Sunday, January 27, 2013, MLK Tri-County Ecumenical Service,  4 p.m. at Morris Street Baptist Church, 25 Morris Street in Charleston. The January service will culminate the 41st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration sponsored by the YWCA Greater Charleston. The celebration’s theme is: “Working for the American Dream.”

 According to YWCA Executive Director Kathleen Rodgers, the lowcountry MLK celebration is considered South Carolina’s largest event honoring Dr. King. “More than 25,000 participants, patrons and businesses support the MLK Celebration,” Rodgers said.

 Lewis will also give the keynote speech at the MLK January service where US Congressman Jim Clyburn and newly elected State AFL-CIO President Ken Riley will present the Gantt awards respectively to Lewis and Dewitt. The award is named for Charleston native Harvey Gantt who rose to national prominence as the first African-American to attend Clemson University in 1963 and to become Charlotte, N.C. Mayor in 1983. Clay Middleton, US Department of Energy Special Assistant, chaired the Gantt Award selection committee. Rev. Robert L. Capers of Bethel Presbyterian and Salem Presbyterian churches, chaired the ecumenical service committee.

 A large audience including top clergy, labor and civic leaders is expected to attend the January event to hear Lewis, a powerful orator who is often called “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced.” Lewis is the last remaining speaker to address the historic 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King gave his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech. At the January MLK service, Rev. Deborah P. Carter of Graham AME Church will preside and the East Cooper Interdenominational Mass Choir will provide music. Turnout for the MLK event will also be driven by President Obama’s Inauguration one week earlier.       

 Both Lewis and Dewitt have dedicated their lives to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties. In 1965 while leading a march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, state troopers cracked Lewis’ skull as demonstrators were beaten in their attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The day became known as Bloody Sunday.

 In 2000, Dewitt joined with Ken Riley, International Longshoremen Association (ILA) Local 1422 President, in an eighteen month conflict between ILA and Nordana, a Danish shipping company, over that company’s use of non-union labor at the Charleston port. At a January 19 demonstration that year, 600 law enforcement officers clashed with ILA workers in a bloody scene with many persons being injured and hospitalized. The incident spurred the arrest of five ILA members charged with conspiring to incite a riot. The five were later cleared of any charges after Dewitt and other local, state and national labor leaders organized “Free The Charleston 5” campaign that attracted worldwide union support and media attention.

 Lewis and Dewitt have been cited for their lasting contributions to civil and human rights.  Among her many awards, Orangeburg resident Dewitt is a recipient of the NAACP’s Benjamin Hooks Keeper of the Flame Award presented to her in 2000.  President Obama awarded Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a February 15, 2011 White House ceremony.

 Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, for the thirteenth consecutive year, is serving as honorary chairman of the MLK Business and Professional Breakfast, set for 7: 30 A.M., Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena, 301 Meeting Street. Some 600 civic leaders attended last year’s breakfast.  Keynote speaker at the January 2013 MLK Breakfast will be Eva Tansky Blum, Senior Vice President of PNC Bank, Pittsburgh, P.A. Blum directs PNC Grow Up Great, a ten-year, $100 million program to support early childhood education. An alumna and trustee of the University of Pittsburgh, Blum and her brother Burton Tansky, recently retired CEO of The Neiman Marcus Group, currently co-chair the school’s $2 billion capital campaign. MLK Breakfast advance reservations are available at $30 each by calling the YWCA at 843-722-1644.

 For the second year, a panel discussion entitled “Remembering The Civil Rights Movement From The Black And Jewish Perspective - Part II” is set for 7 p.m., Thursday, January 17, at Brith Sholom Beth Israel (BSBI), 182 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston.  Dr. Andrew HaLevi, Program Director at the Septima P. Clark Corporate Academy, will be the panel moderator. Panelists include: Reverend Nelson B. Rivers III, Attorney Arthur C. McFarland, Retired Educator Liz Alston, Attorney Armand Derfner and Civic Leader Joan Fox. Last year’s panel discussion was called ‘an intense meeting of some of the best minds in the Jewish and the African-American local communities.’ The panel event is co-presented by BSBI and the YWCA and is open to the public.

 “Our annual MLK Holiday Parade in downtown Charleston, set for 11 a.m., Monday, January 21, 2013, will draw 150+ parade units and 15,000 spectators, as last year’s record turnout indicates,” Rodgers said.  Charleston County Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley is the  MLK Parade Marshall. The parade starts at Burke High School, 244 President Street, then proceeds down Fishburne Street and Ashley Avenue to Sumter Street to King Street and ends downtown at Marion Square. After the parade, a “Youth Speak Out”  including current events discussions and snacks for area youths will be held at 12:30 p.m. at Burke School, co-sponsored by Jack & Jill of America Inc. Charleston Chapter and the YWCA. The youth speak-out is free. 

 Now a time-honored lowcountry tradition, the MLK Celebration will again open with thousands of people gathering at nine worship services at area churches and a synagogue. A detailed schedule of the Sunday, January 13, 2013 - MLK Area Worship Services, will be announced at a later date.

 Rodgers says that the MLK Celebration theme ‘Working for the American Dream’ is designed to extol the virtues of hard work and excellence. “Images that widely cast women, minorities, low and middle income working families, the elderly and the young, as less productive and therefore less American, are just simply wrong and ill-conceived,” she said. “Dr. King’s life example counters these myths with the truth of how everyday Americans gave their very best efforts, even their lives, in order to protect and extend the American dream. And much work remains to be done in this regard.” 

 A quote by Dr. King from his March 10, 1968 speech at the Salute to Freedom Celebration in Washington, D.C. sponsored by 1199 Service Employees International Union will appear on  this year’s MLK souvenir program cover. It reads:   “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”  Three weeks and 3 days after Dr. King gave that speech, he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39, while in Memphis, Tennessee to support striking sanitation workers.

 MLK Celebration events are admission free unless otherwise noted. For more information contact the YWCA at 843-722-1644.

 

 

 


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Submitted By: Paul Rollerson Submitted: 1/27/2013
Thank You Charleston Chronicle for the news you bring to us. I read that article with much interest.Iam Proud to say that I was a destributor of the chronicle newspaper in Cross S . C . back in 1971 and, the black cat column ? wow


 
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