More than 500 intergenerational leaders, celebrities and supporters gather to honor the civil rights icon
As actress, Cassi Davis, and journalist, Roland S. Martin, kept the program moving, civil rights pioneers Christine King Farris and Rev. C. T. Vivian, joined new-school leaders like Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, nearly 100 student Change Agents, and over 500 attendees to celebrate Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery’s 98th birthday. Presented recently by the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights (Lowery Institute), the evening included performances by award-winning vocalists Regina Belle and Y’Anna Crawley.
“Many of the soldiers in the Civil Rights Movement who traveled with us on our journey to justice are no longer here,” Rev. Vivian noted in his moving remarks to Rev. Lowery. “It’s truly a privilege for me to be here to celebrate your birthday with you,” added the former lieutenant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Joseph Echols Lowery was one of the founding pastors with Dr. King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” Ambassador Andrew Young commented. “Dr. King told us, ‘we probably won’t make it to 40, but if we do, we’ll have to live to a hundred to get this country straight.’ Well, Dr. King didn’t make, it but I have felt obligated to keep this country straight and so has Joe Lowery and C.T. Vivian. We might not make it, but we’re going out swinging.”
Rev. Lowery shared, “I feel blessed to be here to celebrate my birthday with my family, friends and so many chaplains of the common good. I’m proud to see the Lowery Institute Change Agents, who are our future leaders, and alumni of the institute who’ve graduated and are continuing to be of service to people in need.”
Themed “Celebrating the Work and the Man,” the biennial birthday bash raises funds to help the Lowery Institute perform its mission to continue the advocacy work of Rev. Dr. Lowery and his late wife, Dr. Evelyn Gibson Lowery. Much of that work is achieved through their Change Agent program which focuses on civil and human rights, social justice, civic engagement and community health. The initiative has grown to over 100 Change Agents each year, spanning five metro Atlanta college campuses.
“The Change Agents were excited to celebrate my dad’s birthday,” said Cheryl Lowery, president and CEO of the Lowery Institute. “They asked him what he wanted when they interviewed him for their weekly podcast. He said he wanted them to get people registered and make sure they vote. They decided to gather names from people across the country that wanted to sign a birthday card and also pledge to vote. They collected over 200 names from California to Africa.”
Known as the “Dean” of the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Lowery assumed and executed a diverse series of roles over the span of his life: leader, pastor, servant, father, husband, freedom fighter and advocate. The close confidante to Dr. King played an integral role in the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and four decades later proudly delivered the benediction during President Obama’s Inauguration. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the nonviolent struggle for justice, human rights, economic equality, and voting rights.
The Lowery Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to training, developing, and empowering future leaders to improve their communities for the common good. Sponsors supporting Rev. Lowery’s birthday celebration and the institute’s year-round programming include: Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power, Georgia Pacific, AT&T, The Coca-Cola Company, William Josef Foundation, and Kroger. The daily digital news show, #RolandMartinUnfiltered, served as media sponsor and streamed live from the event on major social media platforms.
For more information or to donate the Lowery Institute visit www.loweryinstitute.org .