Last night, an angel for Civil Rights and Justice was called on to glory as the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a civil rights hero, passed away at the age of 98.
Rev. Lowery worked closely with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped to organize key milestones in America’s civil rights history, including the storied Montgomery bus boycott in the 1950s. His bravery, selflessness, and tireless commitment to economic empowerment and civil rights for African Americans serve as a shining example of the power of grassroots activism and moral leadership.
In December 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa, I was staffing Rev. Lowery who was a surrogate for then Senator Obama’s Presidential campaign. Rev. Lowery told this amazing story. He said that if he could figure out how to work his iPhone, he would call up Martin in the grave and say, “Martin, look how far we have come. That I’m in Des Moines, and a black man is on the front page leading the polls to become President of the United States.” It was a beautiful moment of connecting Civil Rights past, present and future.
As a black political leader advocating on behalf of fellow Bronxites, I know that much of Lowery’s work is unfinished. Poverty and race are still inextricably linked. Stark disparities still exist in the criminal justice system. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, the disproportionate hardships that fall upon low-income people of color are tragically clear. These challenges make Rev. Lowery’s legacy even more important. As we move forward in our quest for racial justice and equality, we must continue to honor the sacrifices made and victories achieved by this civil rights legend who President Obama honored with the Medal of Freedom due to Rev. Lowery’s lifetime of service.
Rest In Power Rev. Lowery. We are indebted to you.