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SCLC’s Charles Steele visits Louisiana

25th November 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, visited Louisiana over the weekend, including stops in both the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas.

His itinerary included a visit to a chapter meeting at the Hall of Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Metairie on Saturday, as well as meetings in Baton Rouge that addressed incarceration legislation, a youth meeting, and a “Hope 2 Vote Breakfast” hosted by the Louisiana Democratic Party.

A focal point of the meetings was to inspire stronger grassroots activism. To achieve this goal, the SCLC plans on creating more local chapters of its organization, including a new one in Metairie/Kenner. While each chapter will focus on needs within the community, Dr. Steele said he wants them all to be aware of their place within the international community.

“The world is much smaller now,” Dr. Steele said. “We still have many fights to fight and we still need to ensure the issues of poor people stay in conversations about social justice.”

The SCLC was originally founded by Martin Luther King to combat poverty, discrimination, and injustice in the United States. Because King’s life was cut short, he never had the chance to expand the SCLC’s reach to the global level. This is a goal the SCLC is currently hoping to accomplish, with chapters established in locations worldwide, including Moscow and Israel (Dr. Steele has met with both Israelis and Palestinians). Dr. Steele emphasized the importance of citizen-led grassroots movements in ending poverty and war.

“No president can bring about peace…No world leader of any country can bring about peace,” Dr. Steele said. “They’ve got too much blood on their hands already.”

On a local level, U.S. chapters will work on educating young African Americans about their past, instilling a sense of pride in their identity. If children do not learn about their history, the hard-won progress of the civil rights movement might be lost. Dr. Steele cited the Supreme Court’s recent invalidation of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as proof that the powers-that-be will roll back civil rights if people are not eternally vigilant.

“We’re ashamed of where we came from,” Dr. Steele said. “We’re not teaching our youths about the civil rights era, Jim Crow and slavery.”

Other goals for the SCLC include educating local citizens about their rights under the Affordable Care Act and lobbying for legislation and research that will address the troubling incarceration rates in America. Dr. Lue Russell, SCLC Louisiana’s State Coordinator, said the organization is currently working with Southern University’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences on researching the issue. Discussions will be held in the upcoming months on what legislation should be lobbied for in Congress next year. Drs. Russell and Steele both believe a well-thought out plan is integral to long-term success.

“We must also make sure we are meeting outside of the marches and the rallies to strategize and plan our success,” Dr. Steele said. “We not only need to make sure we have strong grass roots, but the resources to water and fertilize them…We must all play our part.”

This article originally published in the November 25, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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