UPDATE: Well that didn't take long. But rather than old white men, it's an old white woman of the far-right wing of the Republican party telling black leaders to mind their place.
FURTHER UPDATE: Bush was there while everyone spoke. Does anyone think MLK or Mrs. King would pass up that opportunity to give them an a piece of their minds? Doubtful.
At the funeral of Coretta Scott King, the grande dame of America's civil rights and progressive activist community, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, a revered elder of that same community, criticized President Bush, and the war, and the fact that America still has so many poor and needy. Kind of something you'd expect at the funeral of a woman who after her husband was assassinated, yet the day before he was buried, led a civil rights march of 50,000 people. A woman who spoke at an anti-war rally in NYC only 3 weeks after her husband was mattered. A woman who devoted her entire life to non-violence.
I say this because you know it's only a matter of hours before the Republican Swift Boating of Rev. Lowery and Coretta's funeral begins. How dare a black man not know his place at a funeral, they'll say. As if the Republican party and its surrogates have any right whatsoever to speak on behalf of Mrs. King, to tell black America what they can and cannot do to honor one of their most revered leaders.
A party that doesn't have a single African-American member of Congress has no right lecturing black people about knowing their place.
And you know that lecture they will.
They'll be all over Coretta and Lowery, with the help of the media they'll trivialize her funeral, her death, the honor being paid to her, by claiming her funeral was all a big stunt, a big act, one big political opportunity for the Democrats to abuse a poor old dead woman, they'll say.
But that's because the Republican party, and increasingly the media, have no clue about black America, about progressives, about civil rights, and about what it means to be a committed activist who actually cares about our country and the direction its heading. If Coretta, on the occasion of Martin's death, could launch (and continue) a decade's-long campaign for equality and justice in his name, we should only be so honored to do the same to mark her passing.
Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps the old white men of the GOP (read: Ken Mehlman) and their media enablers will sit well enough alone. Perhaps. But I doubt it. Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, and the legacy they leave behind, is far too dangerous to the right-wing extremists that run our country. They'll have to do something to mar Coretta's legacy. I have a hunch this will be it.
So, in advance of the GOP and media Swift-Boating of Coretta and the Rev. Lowerly, I want you to read who Rev. Lowery is:
Lowery began his work with civil rights in the early 1950s in Mobile, Alabama, where he headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted to the desegregation of buses and public places. During this time, the state of Alabama sued Lowery, along with several other prominent ministers, on charges of libel, seizing his property. The Supreme Court sided with the ministers, and Lowery's seized property was returned. In 1957, Lowery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and Lowery was named vice president. In 1965, he was named chairman of the delegation to take demands of the Selma to Montgomery March to Alabama's governor at the time, George Wallace.
Lowery is a co-founder and former president of the Black Leadership Forum, a consortium of black advocacy groups. The Forum began protesting apartheid in South Africa in the mid-1970s and continued until the election of Nelson Mandela. In 1979, during a rash of disappearances of Atlanta's African American youth, Lowery provided a calm voice to a frightened community. After becoming president of the SCLC in February of 1977, Lowery negotiated covenants with major corporations for employment advances, opportunities and business contracts with minority companies. He has led peace delegations to the Middle East and Central America. In addition to serving as pastor to several churches over the years, Lowery's efforts to combat injustice and promote equal opportunities has led to the extension of provisions to the Voting Rights Act to 2007, the desegregation of public accommodations in Nashville, Tennessee and the hiring of Birmingham, Alabama's first black police officers.
After serving his community for more than forty-five years, Lowery retired from the pulpit in 1997. He also retired in January of 1998 from the SCLC as president and CEO. Despite his retirement, Lowery still remains active. He works to encourage African Americans to vote, and recorded a rap with artist NATE the Great to help spread this message.
Lowery has received numerous awards, including an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, the Martin Luther King Center Peace Award and the National Urban League's Whitney M. Young, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Ebony has twice named him as one of the Fifteen Greatest Black Preachers. Lowery has also received several honorary doctorates from colleges and universities including, Dillard University, Morehouse College, Alabama State University and the University of Alabama.
Lowery is married to Evelyn Gibson Lowery, an activist in her own right.