SCLC Leader Recognized for Achievements in Civil Rights
During President Barack Obama’s eight years as chief executive of the United States, the Civil Rights Movement, once led by young leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was coming under attack from some opponents, who said young people and students were no longer drawn to the organizations, because they were no longer relevant.
But times have changed drastically since President Obama, the nation’s first Black President, left office less than three years ago. Under the presidency of Donald Trump, many Civil Rights gains are being reversed and race relations are worse than they have been since the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s.
Despite attacks on Civil Rights organizations many of its traditional leaders, visionaries and dedicated community servants, such as Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., the president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), stayed the course. With upstart organizations and young activists emerging, Dr. Steele never stopped advocating for the poor and less fortunate. This unwavering leadership is why Dr. Steele was recently inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame. The recognition took place during the National Black Hall of Fame Foundation’s 34th Annual Induction Ceremony, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta.
Dr. Steele joins a distinguished list of more than 300 inductees who have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Legendary Opera Singer Leontyne Price, Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall, TV Maven Oprah Winfrey, Ambassador Andrew Young and former Chicago Bears football star Walter Payton.
“Congratulations! It is my pleasure to inform you that the Board of Directors of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc., has selected you for induction into the 2019 Class of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame in recognition of your exceptional achievements in the field of Civil Rights,” said Thomas W. Dortch, Jr., chairman of the board. “The Hall of Fame is dedicated to the growth and development of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs). We are committed to securing supplemental scholarships for students attending HBCUs, as well as, highlighting the tremendous accomplishments of distinguished alumni of these institutions.”
Dr. Steele, who attended Mississippi Valley State University and has been the leader of the SCLC for nearly 12 years, described the induction as an “historic moment.”
“It is more enlightening than one can imagine because often in this arena you feel like a lone ranger,” said Dr. Steele, emotionally moved that Black colleges are recognizing his influence on the Civil Rights and political landscapes. “I am motivated and stimulated by the Hall of Fame induction from the mere fact that this generation has come to the realization that I stayed on the frontline of the battlefield regardless of the difficulties and lack of support. It takes courage to take on the issues impacting poor people and the less fortunate, but those in a leadership role must stand when justice and inequality desist.”
With this recognition, Dr. Steele said young leaders see a lot of work must be done in Civil Rights, especially when major gains are being lost, such as Section 4 and Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“Losing those gains under the Voting Rights Act will be devastating to poor people and people of color,” Dr. Steele said. “That is why the support from organizations such as the National Black College Alumni is so important. This is very encouraging because the great work of a nation of people is not dependent on a generation or the age of its leader. Your age or generation does not matter if you are not productive. If you cannot bring about opportunities to help those who are less fortunate or help eliminate poverty for all people, then you are just a nonparticipant when it comes to the upper mobility of people.”
ABOUT THE SCLC:
Established in 1957, the SCLC, whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a now an international organization made up of chapters and affiliates with programs that affect the lives of all Americans: north, south, east, and west. Its sphere of influence and interests has become international in scope because the human rights movement transcends national boundaries.