A new scholarship fund has been established at Vanderbilt University to honor James M. Lawson Jr., a leading figure in the civil rights movement and an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The new scholarship was made possible by a gift from Doug Parker, an alumnus of the Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt, the CEO of American Airlines, and a new trustee of the university, and his wife Gwen.
The new scholarships will be given to students from underrepresented groups who have shown a commitment to civil rights and social justice.
Lawson, enrolled at the Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1958. While a student he helped organize sit-ins at lunch counters in downtown Nashville. In 1960, he was expelled from the university for his participation in civil rights protests.
Lawson completed his divinity studies at Boston University and then served as director of nonviolent education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1974 to 1999, Rev. Lawson was the pastor of the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
Lawson returned to Vanderbilt as a distinguished visiting professor form 2006 to 2009. An endowed chair at the Divinity School was named in his honor in 2007.
African-American athletes are displaying Black excellence on the ice. Nearly a month after it was announced that 17-year-old Maame Biney made history as the first Black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic speedskating team, Jordan Greenway broke a similar racial barrier by becoming the first African-American man to be on Team USA’s hockey roster at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Korea, The Undefeated reported.
Greenway, 20, has had a standout athletic career at Boston University. He was selected in the 2015 NHL draft by the Minnesota Wild, but made the decision to stay in school and continue to pursue his degree. During the winter Olympic games—which are slated to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month—Greenway will be one of four college students who will play for the United States. It’s the first time in three decades that the USA men’s hockey team is comprised of college athletes, players from overseas and some retired athletes since the NHL didn’t send any of its players to compete in the Olympics.
Greenway—who hails from Canton, New York—said he was humbled by the honor and wanted to use his platform as an avenue to increase the racial representation in the sport and encourage Black youth to play hockey.
“I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of good things and just allowing a lot of African-American kids who are younger than me who see kind of what I’m doing, I hope that can be an inspiration for them,” he told the Undefeated. “Go out and do something different against the typical stereotypes that most African-Americans play basketball, or whatever the case is.” There are only 13 Division 1 players who are Black, according to The Undefeated.
Black athletes will be making historic moves during the next Winter Olympics. Prior to Greenway and Biney’s milestones, Nigeria’s women’s bobsled team became the first group of Africans to qualify for that category in the Olympics.
WASHINGTON (AP) — As a Head Start and Yale Law School graduate, Cornell William Brooks calls himself a direct beneficiary of Brown v. Board Education. Now the lawyer and activist is taking over as the next national president and CEO of the NAACP, whose legal arm brought that landmark legal case challenging segregation in public schools.
On the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision that said separating black and white children was unconstitutional, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization announced Brooks’ selection. The NAACP’s board made the final decision Friday night, and chair Roslyn Brock told The Associated Press about Brooks’ new position on Saturday morning. Brooks will be formally presented to the Baltimore-based organization’s members at its national convention in Las Vegas in July.
“I am a beneficiary, an heir and a grandson, if you will, of Brown versus Board of Education,” Brooks told the AP.
“My life is the direct product, if you will, of the legacy of the blood, sweat and tears of the NAACP and so today I’m particularly mindful that the NAACP has made America what it is, and certainly made my life possible and we are all grateful heirs of that legacy.”
Brooks, 53, of Annandale, New Jersey, will become the NAACP’s 18th national president, replacing interim leader Lorraine Miller. Miller has served in that position since Benjamin Jealous ended his five-year tenure last year.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to be entrusted with the opportunity to lead this powerful historic organization,” Brooks said in an interview. “In our fight to ensure voting rights, economic equality, health equity, and ending racial discrimination for all people, there is indeed much work to be done.”
Brooks, a minister, is originally from Georgetown, South Carolina. He currently is president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, a Newark, New Jersey-based urban research and advocacy organization. He graduated from Jackson State University, received a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology and got his law degree from Yale.
Brooks has worked as a lawyer for the Federal Communication Commission and the Justice Department. He also ran for Congress as a Democrat in Virginia in 1998. He still owns a home in Woodbridge, Virginia.
“Mr. Brooks is a pioneering lawyer and civil rights leader who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the association,” Brock said. “We look forward to leveraging his legal prowess, vision and leadership as we tackle the pressing civil rights issues of the 21st century.”
The organization had hired The Hollins Group Inc., of Chicago to lead its search for a new CEO, and Brooks was selected from more than 450 applications, Brock said. The organization held more than 30 interviews, she said.
Brooks said he would start talking to and listening to the NAACP’s membership to plan for the organization’s future.
He said he would present his vision for the NAACP at the organization’s convention after he’s held conversations with the members.
“As long as America continues to be a great, but imperfect nation, there will be a need for the NAACP,” Brooks said.
Jealous called Brooks’ selection “the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for the NAACP.”