August 6, 2020
On July 17, 2020 we lost two Civil Rights icons., Rev. C.T. Vivian and the Honorable Rep. John R. Lewis. Rev. Vivian was a leader in the earliest stages of the modern Civil Rights movement and later president of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). He was a constant friend and advisor to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who referred to Rev. Vivian as, "the greatest preacher to ever live.” Earlier in March, Rep. Lewis was quoted as saying, “get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America”. His now signature statement was made on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama where there was a commemoration of the tragic events of Bloody Sunday. That Sunday, 55 years earlier is when Lewis was severely beaten along with others as they were simultaneously protesting for voting rights and also the February death of a Black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, at the hands of the police. How ironic that all these years later there are still protests against police murders of Black people and for the constantly threatened voting rights secured following those 1965 protests.
The fact that Lewis and Vivian passed away on the same day should not be lost on us. Here were two stalwarts, two legends, two giants that until recently most folks knew very little about. I dare say that this writing may be introducing Rev. Vivian to some. We need to know our history. The protests that are occurring today have happened before and will likely have to happen again if we do not learn from our past. The sacrifices of less well-known (or unknown) individuals like Rev. Vivian, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Amelia Boynton Robinson and others are no less important than those of better-known individuals like Dr. King and now Rep. Lewis.
As we plan for safe returns to our respective campuses (who knows for how long) there remain many uncertainties. The spike in coronavirus cases and deaths are reasons for major concern as is the concern for the disproportionate way this disease is affecting African Americans. But there should also be concern for students returning with the righteous indignation resulting from the ongoing call for racial justice. Their physical presence on campus along with others who may not share their concern or worse be demonstrably opposed to racial justice could make for a fractious and potentially confrontational semester. We need to prepare for this as well.
There is still a need to protest for the rights of African Americans in this country and for black people everywhere. There is still the need to vote, to protect the right to vote, and to encourage others to do the same. We must vote as if our lives depend on it, because they do. There is still the need for us to get into, “good trouble”.
Next Friday (at 12:00pm cst / 1:00pm est) we will have our fourth installment of our Webinar Series, The Impact of the Pandemic on Colleges and Universities: Re-Opening Campus in the Midst of a Pandemic. Much like our previous sessions, this will surely be packed with rich information and dialogue. Please register at https://www.aabhe.education.
Plans are underway for our 2021 AABHE Virtual Annual Conference. We will be delivering as much of our regular annual conference content as we can possibly deliver in an online format. Great speakers, panels, sessions, awards, and even social events are all being planned. “See you” next March…
Our Writing Bootcamp is continuing and participants have been quite busy with their respective writings. Stay tuned for future updates.
Again, regardless of what restrictions are lifted in your area, please remember that we are not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 has ravaged the African American community at a significantly higher rate than other communities. Protect yourself and be your own judge for when it’s safe to return to certain activities. Please remember to stay safe. The updated guidelines from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
“It’s all about the students”,
Dereck J. Rovaris, Sr
Dr. Dereck J. Rovaris, Sr.