Tag: Civil Rights

A Tribute To the Freaknik Lawyer

By Michael September 30, 2019 0

Greetings Mr. Harvey, educator, coach, baseball legend, author, journalist, lawyer, defender, organizer, trailblazer, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS, my hero and so many wonderful things to so many people.

I am honored to have met you. Thank you for your selfless service and contributions to our community. Thanks for sharing yourself and talents with the world. read more

Freaknik Lawyer: It’s A Love Story

By Michael September 22, 2019 0

Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance by Harold Michael Harvey is more than a simple memoir of a movement of resistance.

It’s a love story about the author’s family and it is through that lens where we discover that the spirit of resistance that resides deep in Harvey’s soul, didn’t just happen but was born out of centuries of struggle – and the urge – no the need to resist. read more

A Synopsis of Freaknik Lawyer

By Michael May 28, 2019 0

This memoir connects the dots from Plessy to Brown to Obama and the quest of millennials to throw off the shackles of the Curse of Plessy and the unkept Promise of Brown.


Freaknik is not quite as freaky as it sounds. Certainly, Freaknik Lawyer is not about a lawyer getting his freak on when the lights go off.
read more

In the Shadow of a King

By Michael February 18, 2019 0

H

Charles Steele, Jr. was 22 years old on the day that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the third-floor balcony of a colored motel in Memphis, Tennessee. By that time, King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference had won two important victories.

First, congressional passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This measure opened areas of public accommodations to the nation’s Negro citizens. Despite King’s work in this area, on his April 1968 visit to Memphis, he chose to patronize the Black-owned Lorraine Motel. read more

A Seed inside a Seed: Memphis Fifty Years After King

By Michael April 4, 2018 0

Note: This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book on the meaning of Memphis fifty years after Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Memphis, “The King” may be Elvis, but the city since April 4, 1968 has been defined by what happened to “A King” on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel outside of room 306.

Like Dallas, Texas, Memphis, Tennessee suffers from a sense of metaphysical guilt over the blood, in this instance, of a King, who came in peace and was slain in its city. No city leader wants this type of tragedy to occur in their geopolitical space. It simply is not good for business; and if not good for business, city leaders walk on eggshells to cleanse their collective guilt for a crime committed within their political subdivision; and some may argue with their acquiescence. read more

Ralph Worrell A Servant Warrior Goes Home

By Michael March 28, 2018 2

Ralph Worrell was a servant warrior. Like any warrior he was tenacious. But he was above all else a servant. He embodied the spirit of the drum major Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached was necessary to be first in the kingdom.

Worrell was born in Barbados 88 years ago. His ancestors were among those Africans who could not be broken for service as a slave in America.

They did not make it to the mainland during the period of enslavement. The slaveholders feared Africans with the warrior spirit would revolt thereby toppling the free labor system which drove the American economy.

At an early age, Worrell moved to New York where he became active in a Black labor union. He organized Black union members to fight for their fair share of jobs.

Around 1964, Worrell’s  union sought to lend a hand to Blacks in the south who were fighting for justice and equality. They sent Worrell to work alongside Dr. King. He was instructed to assist King in whatever manner he deemed necessary. The union paid his salary on Dr. King’s staff.

Worrell was essentially what we call a “body man” today. He was Dr. King’s body man. He unselfishly did whatever it took to make King comfortable. And when the word was given it was time to march, Worrell was ready to go.

One could say he was the spook who sat by the door. Spook not in the sense of a spy, but a ghostly figure, who was always present, but never calling attention to himself, yet forever ready to spring into action and be of service to the president of the organization or a guest waiting to see the president.

For 54 years Worrell was first in rendering service to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was the straw that stirred the SCLC drink. He turned the lights off in the evening and turned them back on at the beginning of a new day.

Worrell served all of the SCLC presidents from King to Charles Steele, Jr., who eulogized Worrell as “a man who served with an empty pocket, but was always ready to be of service to somebody else.”

Perhaps no figures cast a larger shadows over the work of SCLC than King and Worrell.

Worrell died last week. Two weeks before the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King.

When the servant warrior set out for home, there were no network television cameras at Cascade United Methodist Church to witness it. No one from the Pulitzer Prize winning daily newspaper in town was present to record Worrell’s farewell.

The media did not know that nothing was done at SCLC in the last 54 years without the aid and service of Ralph Worrell. You can google him and his name will not come right up.

He did not want to take credit for what he was doing. He did not have a need to feel important. He wanted to do God’s will. He did his work quietly, gracefully, expertly, tenaciously.

“What I learned from Mr. Worrell is wisdom,” said Samuel Mosteller a longtime member of SCLC.

“I traveled all over Louisiana one year with Mr. Worrell. I got to know him pretty good. He did not speak unless he knew what he was talking about. He would study an issue until he knew what was going on.”

Mosteller said that many people thought Worrell was a mere driver and were not aware of his many contributions to the movement.

“He was very smart, but he did not care to show it. The only reason he was the driver is because he came south to Atlanta to do whatever made Dr. King’s job easier. After Dr. King was assassinated he stayed and did what he could to help Dr. Abernathy [Ralph David] and the rest of the presidents, Mosteller said.

According to Maynard Eaton, Communications Director for SCLC, Worrell got his name in the newspaper one time. That was recently.  A story that Eaton pitched to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“He was real pleased with that. It made him happy. I am glad that I pitched that story to the AJC,” Eaton said.

In his eulogy, Dr. Steele promised the spirit of Ralph Worrell,”we will continue to march.”

Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, President Emeritus of SCLC said, “Ralph was my friend. He always made me comfortable. He drove me most places I went.”

Then Lowery’s voice cracked: “I am going to miss Ralph for the rest of my days. So long Ralph, I will see you in the morning.”

Following the service, the 95 year-old Lowery without Worrell to drive him any longer, drove his motorized wheelchair down the driveway of the church to his home about 100 yards across the street.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

No Mention of SCLC At King Statue Unveiling

By Michael August 29, 2017 2

“SCLC is the only organization that Dr. King ever organized,” bellowed Charles Steele, Jr., President and Chief Executive Office of the International Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to a packed church on the outskirts of Tuscaloosa, Alabama last spring.

In spite of this fact the name of SCLC was not mentioned during an unveiling of a  statue of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the grounds of the Georgia state capitol on the 54th anniversary of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

During an hour and a half cermony with all of the solemnity fit for a man of Dr. King’s prominence there was not one single recognition of the role that SCLC played in his march towards immortality. None, not one single word, not one single letter.

Steele was not invited to participate in the ceremony. He did not attend it. Instead, Steele participated in the 1000 Ministers March on Washington called by Rev. Al Sharpton three weeks ago following the Charlottesville riot.

His chief of staff and Maynard Eaton, the SCLC Director of Communications were present. However, neither of them were recognized or asked to bring an expression on behalf of the organization that legitimized the work of Dr. King.

In many respects, SCLC continues to carry forth the work of Dr. King today. This may be the rub. Community leaders like to portray that the battles of the past have been won. Therefore, there is no place for the type of agitation that Dr. King was noted for bringing to bear on the issues of his day. SCLC’s continued presence is an indication that things are not as good as community and political leaders spin them to be.

“It hurts,” Steele said from Washington several hours after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal unveiled the statue which depicts Dr. King in full stride with his head looking toward the horizon.

“But you have to keep moving on,” Steele added.

Of the five speakers who spoke during the program, three of them were Black. The first to speak was Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Reed was not born when King organized SCLC.

Then State Representative Calvin Smyre spoke of the many people in state government who should be credited with manifesting the King statute. He was a student at Fort Valley State College when Dr. King was assassinated.

Smyre was followed by King’s daughter, Bernice King. She came close to recognizing SCLC when after a beautiful speech about the high moral standard set by Dr. King, she asked all the people that had worked with him to stand. Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Gerald Durley and a few other SCLC members stood.

“They trying to say that SCLC is dead, that we are not relevant anymore” Steele told delegates to the 68th SCLC Convention in Memphis last month.

“But I’m here to tell you they are wrong. If I worried about people trying to kill SCLC I could not get up in the morning and do this job,” Steele said.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

 

The Making of Easier to Obtain than to Maintain

By Michael December 21, 2016 2

The making of “Easier to Obtain than to Maintain” began in the spring of 2016. I received a call from a friend who asked if I would be interested in writing and publishing a book on the life of Cathelean Steele, the first lady of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

I was intrigued about getting to know the woman behind Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., the Chief Executive Officer and President of SCLC. After all Dr. Steele, had on two occasions in the 21st century resurrected SCLC from the brink of extinction. The woman supporting such a man had to be a fascinating person, worthy of the public’s attention.

We all know that the straw that stirs the drink of any successful man is the woman behind him, giving sage counsel outside the ear shot of the public. The prospect of bringing Mrs. Steele’s story to life excited me. I quickly told my friend that I would be interested in meeting with Mrs. Steele to discuss her ideas for a book on her life. A time for my introductory session with her was set.

Two days before our meeting, my friend called again to say that Mrs. Steele had decided to defer to her husband because she thought he should publish his book before her book. Good wives tend to defer to their husbands in the manner of Mrs. Steele. They push their husbands at all costs, even to the detriment of their own goals and ambitions.

My friend wanted to know if I would be willing to meet with Dr. Steele instead. I must admit that the fact Mrs. Steele wanted to push her husband’s story ahead of her own, made me want to tell her story even more. What manner of woman was this?

I changed my focus; setting my sights on the personage of the man heading up the organization founded by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I began to research his early years growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, his years as a high school football player, his childhood friendships with the writer George Curry and the cultural curator James Horton. I learned of his defiant act of civil disobedience as a young adult in Tuscaloosa and his work as a state senator in the Alabama legislature. I studied his ability to build relationships across racial and economic lines. I learned that he was an expert fundraiser.

I began to document how Steele raised $3.5 million in 2005 to build the SCLC International Headquarters two doors down from Dr. King’s old office on Sweet Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia, where Dr. King plotted and planned the destruction of Jim Crow.

I was preparing to present his illustrative story of leaving SCLC after dedicating the new building, to work as an international public policy consultant and of his return a few years later when SCLC was not able to find a steady hand to guide it following the death of Rev. Howard W. Creecy, Jr.

When the day of our initial meeting arrived, I immediately launched into my presentation of the type of biographical book I thought he had in mind. This was not the type of book Dr. Steele wanted to publish. He hastily stopped me in mid sentence.

He began to tell me about a dream he had during a visit to Africa with his friend, the late George Curry. He did not understand the dream. He told his wife about the dream when he returned home, but she was unable to decipher it for him, six months later, he return to Africa, this time he traveled with his wife. The dream recurred. He woke up his wife and related the dream to her.

This time she was by her husband’s side, moments after he awoke from the dream. She was able to unlock the riddle of the dream to him. He had to tell the world about the work SCLC had been quietly doing around the globe, resolving conflicts through the use of Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy of reconciliation.

As we began to develop a calendar for interviews so that I could gather the material needed for this book, the idea of “Easier to Obtain than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights” began to take shape.

Before our first interview session, I read every speech and article written by Dr. Steele in the last sixteen years. I discovered that he had been writing and speaking about the globalization of civil rights for quite some time. However, because SCLC was instrumental in achieving civil rights for the American Negro, the public perception was that SCLC’s effectiveness was limited to the United States of America. Even when he boldly proclaimed successes in Dimona, Israel and Berlin, Germany, the headline of Atlanta’s major newspaper questioned whether the global initiatives of SCLC were misguided.

Thus the necessity to present the public with Dr. Steele’s belief that Dr. King’s dream is realized only when civil rights are enjoyed by all God’s people. I am honored to have participated in a small way in focusing Dr. Steele’s work in furtherance of Dr. King’s dream of globalizing civil rights for all.

I collected his best speeches and writings on the subject of globalization of civil rights, augmented with background material on the civil rights struggle in America and wove them together in a singular volume, seamlessly, I hope.

And while I have enjoyed globalizing Dr. King’s dream and Dr. Steele’s work, I can hardly wait until Mrs. Steele calls and gives me the go ahead to begin work on her book.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.

 

SCLC Name Building After Steele

By Michael June 23, 2016 0

ATLANTA, GEORGIA, CASCADE PRESS (CP) This week the Southern Christian Leadership Conference named it’s headquarters, the Charles Steele, Jr. International Headquarters Building. The building is located at 320 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia. It is in the heart of the old “Sweet Auburn” financial district.

The new name of the building honors the dedication that Steele has given to SCLC. He is serving his second tour of duty. The  civil rights organization was founded by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders in 1957.

The new international headquarters of the SCLC is about thirty yards from the site of the historic office where Dr. King conducted among others, the Birmingham Movement and the Selma to Montgomery March.

Steele became President of SCLC in 2004. The office looked much like it did when King led the group from 1957-1968.

He realized that SCLC did not own the building that it called home. The group rented this space from a local Masonic organization. This reality check led him to organize a capital campaign. He envisioned a permanent home for SCLC.

Additionally, the name reflects Steele’s mission to expand the work of SCLC to the global community. He has been on this mission since 2005. It began after a conversation he had with Dr. Bernard LaFayette, the organization’s chairman.  They were on a trip to Israel.

Dr. LaFayette told him about a conversation he had with Dr. King”five hours before King was assassinated.” In this conversation with King, LaFayette was instructed to prepare a program that would bring people from across the globe into the orbit of the civil rights movement for justice and equality.

This revelation gave clarity to a vision Steele had before he became President of SCLC.  He envisioned God telling him to take the Kingian Theory of non-violent direct action over the world; to engage other cultures to benefit from the struggle for civil rights in America.

“From that day, I knew that my job was to internationalize the civil rights movement,” Steele said.

By 2009, Steele had raised $3.5 million and constructed the new headquarters for SCLC. When the building was dedicated, it opened its doors free and clear of any debt. That year he left his post as president and formed an international consulting company.

In 2014, SCLC was in search of a leader to give it new direction and stability. The board was able to pull Steele from his consulting business to lead the organization again.

In a magazine interview that year, Steele said that he saw SCLC “as an international brand – an international symbol of justice and opportunity.”

Since his return as president, Steele has traveled to Germany, Russia and Israel to discuss peaceful means to resolve contentious political disputes.

In August, Steele plans to release a book titled, “Easier to Obtain than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights” (Cascade Publishing House, 2016). In his book Steele explains that for American Blacks to maintain the rights they obtained through the civil rights movement, they must expand their movement to the global community.

Steele has proven to be a “Drum Major” for spreading economic prosperity and justice around the world.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.