Athens, Ga. – Georgia Hall of the Tate Student Center on the University of Georgia campus was filled to capacity as Athens-Clarke County citizens and UGA faculty, staff and students came together for the fourth annual Freedom Breakfast and President’s Fulfilling the Dream Awards Ceremony, Friday, Jan. 12.
More than 350 people listened to keynote speaker and community activist Evelyn Gibson Lowery’s words of challenge as UGA and the community began a week-long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration.
Lowery, founder and chair of Southern Christian Leadership Conference Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc. (SCLC/W.O.M.E.N.), applauded the coming together of town and gown and challenged the audience to be more like King, who she said, “Disturbed the comforted and comforted the disturbed.
“It is important for UGA to have a relationship with the community to address issues of teenage pregnancy, high dropout rates, homelessness, war, violence,” she said, “if we are to be true to the King message.”
Recipients of the 2007 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award were Maurice Daniels, Steve C. Jones, Maria Navarro, Karl A. Scott and Harry Sims. They are individuals who were recognized for their significant efforts to build bridges of unity and understanding among residents of Athens-Clarke County.
Daniels, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia, teaches civil rights and community empowerment. He has done extensive research on civil rights, which was used in the creation of a book and three films about the desegregation of the University of Georgia. He is also co-founder and director of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies, which chronicles the civil rights movement in Georgia and helped to create UGA’s Office of Institutional Diversity. Daniels actively works with several organizations in Athens that deal with poverty and social injustice issues.
Jones, Superior Court Judge of the Western Judicial Circuit and chair of Partners for a Prosperous Athens, serves the citizens of Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties delivering mandates on cases and issues important to these areas. In the community, Jones has consistently brought awareness to critical issues that affect all citizens of Clarke County, both the underserved and the fortunate. Jones, a graduate of the University of Georgia, committed himself to staying in the Athens area after graduation to help build a stronger community.
Navarro, assistant professor in the department of agricultural leadership, education, and communication at the University of Georgia, teaches three courses that address topics like hunger, poverty, gender and equity issues. One of her classes organizes a Hunger Banquet for the UGA community each semester. Her teaching focuses on establishing global, socially conscious and effective curricula in higher education. Navarro has devoted her life to addressing hunger, poverty, and equity issues across the globe.
Scott, a teacher at Clarke Middle School, started the Bethlehem Cemetery Restoration Project after he recognized the historical and cultural significance of the cemetery. Bethlehem Cemetery, which was overgrown and neglected, is located behind Clarke Middle School, and is the final resting place for hundreds of Athens’ African-American citizens, many who served in the military. Scott’s research and dedication to the project has brought together a community to restore the historical property. In 2006, Scott organized two cemetery cleanup days in which more than 270 volunteers participated.
Sims grew up in segregated Athens and has dedicated his life to serving the people of his hometown. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he spent 29 years teaching at Barrow Elementary School. After retiring, he continues to use his life as an instrument of public good through his work at East Friendship Baptist Church, where he is chair of the Deacon Ministry, and by serving on the Athens-Clarke County Commission, where he represents people from all walks of life. His work with organizations like the United Way and the Housing Authority has made him an ideal role model for the young people he has dedicated his life to helping.
Having survived a shooting incident during the height of the civil rights struggle in the 1950s, Lowery said her survival lead her to know that she was left in this world for a purpose. She would later found S.C.L.C./W.O.M.E.N., as an advocacy organization for the rights of women, children, families, which responds to the problems of the disenfranchised regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or religion. Among her many accomplishments, Lowery has founded the Women’s Empowerment Training Center for GED/computer training, created the Bridging-the-Gap girls to women mentoring program and led the purchase and renovation of the historic Tabor Building on Atlanta’s Auburn Ave., which houses S.C.L.C./W.O.M.E.N.
Lowery said she created the two-day Evelyn Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour in 1987 because, “young people need to know whose shoulders they are standing on.” The annual tour traces the steps of the civil rights movement in Alabama.
In closing, Lowery told the audience, “Don’t wait for some magical torch. Light your own torch. Walk in paths of service. Be a role model as Dr. King was, for justice, unity and peace.” She advised young people in the audience to activate their dreams.
The annual Freedom Breakfast is sponsored by UGA and the Athens-Clarke County government and school district. Corporate support, this year, included Bank of America, BellSouth, Georgia Power Company and St. Mary’s Health Care System.
For a calendar of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday events, visit www.uga.edu/diversity.