DeErricka Green | Managing Editor
Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian spoke to N.C. State faculty and students Monday evening, on his experience with activism, the Civil Rights Movement and the direction he sees social justice taking now.
“Social Justice: the Movement Then and Now” celebrated the third year of the Living Legends series hosted by the African American Cultural Center and Africana Studies Program. “The series aims to honor African-American pioneers in North Carolina, and their commitment to impacting future generations,” said Darryl Lester, Assistant Director of the African American Cultural Center. In 2011, the series documented the lives of Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson, founding members of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), as well as other North Carolina pioneers. Last year, legends from St. Agnes Hospital were interviewed, telling the story of the only hospital in the area that served Black patients.
“90 years young,” as he refers to himself, Vivian is a living legend of the Civil Rights Movement, author, and close friend and lieutenant of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He has a history with social justice that spans 70 years, participating in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across the country. “We were looking for a means to get racism off our backs, to be fully accepted by society,” said Vivian. The Civil Rights Movement, according to the activist, provided the strategy necessary to support the moral and spiritual vision of African-Americans at the time.
Vivian spoke on his relationship with Dr. King, remarking that he “never minded sharing the leadership amongst all of us.” He also stressed the importance of college students getting involved with the movement and the power education has to combat racially charged violence.
“College students were especially important to the movement. They represented educated youth from towns and cities all across the South. Being educated will end violence,” said Vivian.
His BASIC (Black Action Strategies and Information Center) Race Awareness Seminar is just one of the ways in which Vivian has focused on the power of education in social justice. The University has hosted the workshops in previous years. This two-day seminar first began in 1975, aimed at the elimination of racism on campus. It required participants to engage in an intense, candid assessment of their individual and collective racial attitudes and has since graduated over 1,000 participants.
Today, Vivian still conducts workshops through the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. In August, President Obama named Vivian as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the country. Throughout his work he continues to promote knowledge of social issues and strategy within the African-American community. “Back then, we were fighting to be able to act fully human and to know what being fully human meant. Today, we still have work to do.”