In bestowing the award to Lowery, President Obama called him the “giant of the Moses generation” for his tireless efforts in battling Jim Crow and other forms of racism.
Rev. Edwin Rowe, senior pastor of Central United Methodist Church, called Lowery, a fellow Methodist preacher, “the pastor of the Civil Rights Movement,” while introducing him to receive the pastor’s award as well as keynote the dinner.
“We need pastors to lead with some courage, not just with their request for money,” Rowe said. “We need pastors to be a little crazy for justice, anti-racism.”
Other honorees that evening including U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith who received the Henry Hitt Crane Award.Rowe explained that Crane was a conscientious objector during World War 1 and World War II. Keith’s senior law clerk, India Geronimo received the award on his behalf as Congressman John Conyers read the judge’s citation.
Marilyn Kelly, chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, received the Maryann Mahaffey Award, named after the late firebrand Detroit City Council president. After receiving the honor, Kelly pledged to work further to uphold the nobel ideals of justice that Mahaffey espoused.
Former Michigan congressman and labor leader David Bonior received the Labor Award for being a strong fighter in Congress for the labor movement.
Bonior indicated in his acceptance message that the fight had not ended and that labor is still an important part of the fabric of the working class. He called for an end to the infighting among labor leaders that often distract them from fighting the real causes of social justice.
“There was a time in this country when labor shared the economic pie,” Bonior said. “We know people want to join the labor union.”
Bonior, who is now chair of the American Rights at Work Board of Directors, was the second ranking Democrat in House of Representatives for a decade before he retired.
Rowe reminded the audience that the legacy of the church (Central United Methodist) is also their legacy recalling the causes that the church has been taking on.
“If we don’t work together, we will never create the world that God intended. The problem is that we have to speak together,” Rowe said. “We have to create a legacy for our youth. The legacy is an awesome responsibility.”
Rowe also noted that it is important for activists and others who are about the business of causes for the underprivileged to be reminded that “those who have no desire for peace and justice will make sure we are not successful.”
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