y KENYA KING (www.atlantadailyworld.com)
At his 90th birthday celebration, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery evidenced why the theme of the evening – His Words, Our Gift – befitted the occasion. “America will come to herself,” said Lowery, speaking about the state of the country during what could be his most poignant hour to hundreds who came to say happy birthday and honor him for his contribution to civil and human rights.
“Even the most skeptical congregation” could be brought to their feet by his message, said Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, who attended the event on behalf of the president and the first lady.
The event was held at the Atlanta Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center on Sunday, Oct. 9. Hosted by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, Lowery’s birthday celebration included musical performances and presentations from guest celebrities including Stevie Wonder, Tramaine Hawkins, Jennifer Holliday, Cicely Tyson, Peabo Bryson, Dawnn Lewis and many more. Spelman and Morehouse College Glee Clubs participated as well.
President Barack Obama made a birthday tribute via video and described Lowery as an ‘inspiration, a leader and sometimes a rabble rouser.’ Scarlet Pressley-Brown, Delta Air Lines director of external affairs and community relations and vice president of Delta Air Lines Foundation, also gave remarks and introduced Delta Air Lines’ showing of the new airplane named in honor of Lowery.
A video tribute to Lowery’s wife, Evelyn, who heads the SCLC women’s organization, also highlighted the evening. Mrs. Lowery has been credited with helping Dr. Lowery be successful. “She’s been very effective in women’s work and she has marched with me,” said Lowery. “She has been on the front lines.”
Days before the celebration Lowery said he was enthusiastic about all of the people who were planning to attend. “I am grateful to those artists and the other people who are coming to help celebrate my birthday. I’m very excited,” said Lowery.
Lowery also spoke candidly about the economy and upcoming election. “We’ve got to recognize number one that the struggle is not over. We’ve won some great victories. We’ve won some great battles, but we’ve never won the war. The war is still raging and we have to continue to fight. I think we have to form alliances, coalitions with other groups – White, Hispanic and otherwise. We have to form coalitions to fight on common ground for common goals,” said Lowery.
The difference between civil rights today and in the ’60s, he said, lies in the clarity of the objectives of each period. “We had clear-cut goals that you could plan to achieve. Now we’re dealing with a very complicated economic system and the goals are not