Meditation Monday: Meeting a Living Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

Last night I had the honor and privilege of attending the annual banquet of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) with our older daughter Katie. She knew that I would want to hear and meet the keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette. Thank you Katie! He is truly a living legacy of the civil rights movement, especially as one of the major teachers and practitioners of non-violence. During the movement he was a leader of the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a founding member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a freedom rider, the director of SNCC’s Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma, a colleague of Dr. King in the Chicago Campaign, and chosen by Dr. King as the program coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign. His commitment to teaching and practicing non-violence was so well respected that his nickname was “Little Gandhi.” To this day, he continues to teach non-violence and peace studies throughout the nation and around the world. Knowing that he would be the speaker, I brought with me one of my favorite civil rights related books called Breach of Peace in the hopes that he would sign it. The book features photos and stories of some of the freedom riders of 1961 who were arrested and jailed convicted of the ironic charge “Breach of Peace.” Bernard Lafayette and the other freedom riders were actually promoting true peace by standing up to the injustice of racism. I was so grateful that he signed the book in two places, a more recent picture of himself and the mug shot from when he was arrested in 1961. These pictures and his signature are not simply historical memorabilia. For me they are a reminder to give thanks for the witness and sacrifice of Bernard Lafayette and the thousands of others who put their faith into action by putting their lives on the line for justice. This is a living legacy of the way of Jesus that continues to call us to non-violent direct action that confronts injustice and stands up for justice while loving our enemies. We need this legacy now more than ever.

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