Some of my favorite memories as a kid in the 1980s are of my Aunt Claudette bringing me to work at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference national office on Auburn Avenue. The people there “poured” their stories and hopes into me during that time, which in many ways prepared me for what I am doing today. The memories embedded in my mind from those experiences and many of the Civil Rights Movement veterans who have transitioned since those days has made my heart heavier than usual this past week. While dealing with the deaths of our brothers and sisters at the hands of police, rising COVID-19 numbers, and the aftermath of social uprisings against systemic racism, we lost more titans of the Civil Rights Movement – Emma Sanders, Congressman John Lewis, Rev. C.T. Vivian, and Charles Evers – not to forget Rev. Joseph E. Lowery earlier this year.
We stand on the shoulders of these servants of humanity and others who came before us. And as our elders make their transition to ancestors, we must continue to run in the marathon relay race for racial equity. Let us honor their memory by getting into more “good trouble”. Let us take up the baton and finish the race for justice. Let us vote to make sure that public policy reflects the values of the “Beloved Community” instead of greed, fear, and violence.
The focus of the July 2020 Onward Towards Equity is our youth engagement work and the timing is not lost on me. We at the Partnership for Southern Equity firmly believe that youth engagement and leadership are essential to the Equity Movement. Most of our Civil Rights Movement servants were young when they led marches, boycotts, and sit-ins. Our hope is that the young people who are poured into by PSE’s work today will be inspired and prepared to carry on the work of equity in order to realize a new American South. A place where the systems of white supremacy are dismantled. A region where everyone can reach their full potential.
Rest well, elders. Thank you for your light that guides our journey. We will press on.
Nathaniel Q. Smith, Jr.
Founder and Chief Equity Officer