By ERRIN HAINES (Associated Press)
At age 87, civil rights veteran C.T. Vivian could have easily retired from the struggle for justice and equality, but instead he is the new vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
As the venerable civil rights organization emerges from years of turmoil over its management and finances, Vivian’s return to the leadership lends SCLC a renewed credibility and a tangible link to what can seem like a bygone period.
“It just feels good to know that the organization that really changed America in the last half of the 20th century is, in fact, going to be back in full operation,” Vivian said. “That’s why I come back as vice president. You’re only worthy of what you’re willing to continue to do.”
A veteran of more than six decades in the civil rights struggle, Vivian joined in his first sit-in demonstrations in the 1940s in Peoria, Ill., long before the movement became front-page news. He met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. soon after King’s victory in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and became an active member of the fledgling Southern Christian Leadership Conference — which King co-founded — just a few years later.
Now, at an age when many of his contemporaries are long retired or long gone, Vivian is still working in the struggle for justice and equality for African Americans. He said the movement for civil rights isn’t just something that happened years ago — it’s something for the younger generation to continue today. “Most people think of Martin King as history … it was something past, not something you can use today,” Vivian explained. “Young people always want to know, ‘What was it like?’ All of us wish Martin was here. We did it. We were involved.”
The minister, author and activist says he wants SCLC’s attention again focused on the nonviolent direct action, to address the lingering