"We Shall Not Be Moved" ~ Two Civil Rights Heroes to Receive Peace Award
FOR’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Award was established in 1979 to recognize persons or groups working in the United States in the tradition of Dr. King. This year FOR is honored to present the award to two of Reverend Dr. King’s colleagues and friends from the civil rights movement who, just like “the tree planted by the water,” have persevered in the way of transformative nonviolence and continue to work for peace and justice today. Dorothy F. Cotton and Vincent G. Harding will receive FOR’s 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Award at a Gala Dinner and benefit for the Dorothy Cotton Institute in Ithaca, NY.
The Gala will be held on Tuesday, December 10th in celebration of International Human Rights Day in the Ballroom at the Trip Hotel (formerly the Clarion, One Sheraton Drive, Ithaca. A reception featuring live R&B jazz will begin at 6:00 pm, with dinner at 7:00, followed by a program and entertainment. Mr. Cal Walker will serve as Master of Ceremonies and the program will include remarks from Andrew Young, Dr. Vincent Harding, Dorothy Cotton and Congressman John Lewis (via video). FOR Executive Director, Kristin Gill Stoneking, and IFOR President, Hans Ulrich Gerber, will present the peace award.
Dr. Dorothy Foreman Cotton is the inspiration for and cofounder of the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI), an internationally renowned education and resource center. DCI’s mission is to develop, nurture, and train leaders for a global human rights movement. It offers programs to build a network and community of civil and human rights leadership; and explores, shares, and promotes practices that transform individuals and communities, opening new pathways to peace, justice and healing.
In October 2012, DCI launched its first major international initiative as part of its Palestinian/Israeli Nonviolence Project. A delegation of leaders from the U.S. civil rights movement, both veteran and younger human rights activists, were sent to Israel and the West Bank to meet with Palestinians and Israelis who are at the forefront of a grassroots nonviolent movement. This historic coalition of African Americans, Jews, Christian and Jewish clergy and social justice advocates included both Dr. Cotton and Dr. Harding.
Dorothy Cotton is best known for her leadership in the civil rights movement. As director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) Citizenship Education Program (CEP), a position that situated her in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inner circle of executive staff, Cotton was the highest ranking woman in SCLC during most of the 60s. CEP was critical in preparing legions of disenfranchised people across the South to work with existing systems of local government to gain access to services and resources they were entitled to as citizens, and taught them to demonstrate peacefully against injustice, even when they were met with violence and hatred. Cotton’s autobiography, If Your Back’s Not Bent, offers her account of how the CEP was key to the movement’s success.
After Dr. King’s death, Cotton served as the Vice President for Field Operations for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. Under the Carter Administration, she served as the Southeastern Regional Director of ACTION, the Federal Government’s agency for volunteer programs. Traveling extensively throughout the world, including visits to the former Soviet Union, The People’s Republic of China, Switzerland, Africa, Vietnam, and Europe, Cotton has participated in international workshops and discussions on a broad range of current social and humanitarian issues. Her lifework - based on the philosophy and practices of nonviolence, reconciliation and restoration, and grassroots leadership development - offers valuable models upon which the Dorothy Cotton Institute has been built.
Dr. Vincent Gordon Harding is an acclaimed historian, religious scholar, teacher and activist known for his decades of social justice work and his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is currently the Chair of the Veterans of Hope Project at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.
Founded in 1997 by Dr. Harding and his wife, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, the Veterans of Hope Project is a multifaceted educational initiative on religion, culture and participatory democracy. The primary mission of the Veterans of Hope Project is to encourage a healing centered, intergenerational approach to social justice activism that recognizes the interconnectedness of spirit, creativity, and citizenship. Through educational materials designed to support reconciliation, nonviolence, and an appreciation for the value of indigenous and folk wisdom for contemporary times, Dr. Harding and other “long distance runners” of the movement pass on the values, faith and practices that have guided their lives and work.
Perhaps best known as the coauthor of Martin Luther King’s famous anti-Vietnam speech, Dr. Harding has a long history of involvement in domestic and international movements for peace and justice. In the early 1960’s, he and his wife moved to Atlanta and co-founded Mennonite House, an interracial voluntary service center and gathering place for the Southern Freedom Movement (also known as the American civil rights movement). The couple traveled throughout the South working with Martin Luther King, Jr. and others as reconcilers and nonviolent trainers in the Movement, assisting the anti-segregation campaigns of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Harding occasionally drafted speeches for King, including the anti-Vietnam war speech “A Time to Break Silence” which King delivered on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, exactly a year before his assassination. In 1968, Harding served as the first director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center and one year later established and directed the Institute of the Black World, both in Atlanta.
Before becoming Professor of Religion and Social Transformation at Illiff (1981 -2004), Harding taught at Pendle Hill Study Center, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Spelman College. Among his numerous publications are The Other American Revolution; There Is a River, Vol. 1; Hope and History; Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, and We Changed the World (with R. Kelly and E. Lewis). He was senior academic consultant for the award winning PBS television series Eyes on the Prize.
For more information about the Dorothy Cotton Institute Gala, please contact Kirby Edmonds at email@example.com or call 607-277-3401. Tickets are $125 a plate and all proceeds will benefit DCI.
For more information about FOR’s peace awards, please contact Linda Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 845-358-4601 x 35.