As the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) 2009 Convention presses on this week in Pittsburgh, it’s an opportune time to stop and reflect what can be accomplished when people with common visions power together to work towards common goals. Unions – through their storied history in the United States – are, by definition, alliances of people or parties formed in mutual interest or benefit. ALF-CIO, a national trade union center, is the single largest federation of unions in the United States and Canada, representing more than 10 million workers in North America in all types of occupations from Air Traffic Controllers to Utility Workers.
Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

As the Convention was calling to a vote on organizing, the President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) Wade Henderson told members that union freedoms are, indeed, an issue related to civil rights. And, in addition he urged Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, assuring that the civil rights community would work in conjunction with union representatives to see that happen. “Union participation can begin to lift the dead weight of decades of discrimination. For African Americans, women and Latinos the best way to build a better life is to join together with others to form a union,” said Henderson. Need proof? The advantage of being in a union is obvious to Henderson, who cited that African American union members earn 28 percent more than their nonunion counterparts.

Student Alumni of Sojourn to the Past will always share common ground.

Student Alumni of Sojourn to the Past will always share common ground.

The past student participants of Sojourn to the Past are not unlike a union in many ways. They shared a similar experience that establishes common ground. They have a bond that even though they may not personally know those who have gone before them or after them, they look to them as a teammate. They know that together their voices are much louder than any single one of them screaming at the cause all alone. And they are committed to pushing and pulling each other through triumphant and difficult times, taking turns leading if another stumbles. The Sojourn alumni, perhaps most importantly, believe in perpetuation – they are not acting solely on their own behalf, but for the betterment of the lives of the generations to come.
Check out some of the things that students who have made the Sojourn journey have to say here and be inspired!

Myrlie Evers-Williams

May 25, 2009

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Civil rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams is perhaps best remembered as the widow of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi state field secretary for the NAACP who in 1963 was gunned down in the driveway of his home in Jackson. In the years since the assassination and two hung juries that left the accused gunman, white supremacist Byron De la Beckwith, a free man, Mrs. Evers has continued to wage a lonely war to keep her husband’s memory and dreams alive and to bring his killer to justice. Her diligence eventually paid off when Beckwith was brought to trial for a third time and finally, in 1994, found guilty of the murder of Medgar Evers, more than 30 years after the crime.

Ms. Evers-Williams is a phenomenal woman of great strength and courage. Her dedication to civil rights and equality is exemplified by her activist role, linking together business, government, and social issues to further human rights and equality. On February 18, 1995, she was elected to the position of Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). With the support of a strong member base of the NAACP, she is credited with spearheading the operations that restored the Association to its original status as the premier civil rights organization.

Evers-Williams says that she “greets today and the future with open arms.” This credo has carried her through years of struggle and success. Her children and six grandchildren remain her strongest supporters in her continued fight to secure equal rights for all people, and to preserve those rights for future generations.

We feel both proud and grateful to have someone such as Ms. Evers-Williams practicing Sojourn Living and fighting for equal rights for all.

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We just spotted someone living out the Sojourn values! Not only does he believe in equality, but he fights for equal rights for students every day of his life. Read on to find out who he is.

There are many problems children face today as far as their education is concerned. Mark Dann, a pro bono attorney, is an individual standing up for these children’s rights. Dann is passionate about making sure that all students have equal opportunities in school, today.

When he was young, Dann’s parents faced financial difficulties during an economic downturn. They thought about moving to the South where the cost of living was much cheaper and jobs were more readily available. Instead they decided to live more frugally  in order for their son to continue recieing the kind of education they valued so much.

Today Dann tries cases that challenge educational disparities among schools – the kind of inequalities that kept his family on a tight budget when he was growing up in New York.