Friday, prominent Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers – who was murdered in 1963 in his own driveway after meeting with NAACP lawyers – was honored with the naming of a Navy Supply Ship after him.  This follows a Navy tradition of giving ships in the support fleet names of honored pioneers, explorers, and other notables.

Medgar Evers, Civil Rights Activist and Honoree

Medgar Evers, Civil Rights Activist and Honoree

The announcement was made during  former Mississippi governor and current Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’s speech at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.

Evers, who was the NAACP’s first field secretary for the state of Mississippi, was integral during the Civil Rights Movement in MS, in organizing nonviolent protests, voter registration drives, and boycotts.  And, his tragic death was the impetus that prompted President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill.

An administration statement that was released in conjunction with the Navy’s announcement said the following of Evers:

“At a time when our country was wrestling with finally ending segregation and racial injustice, Evers lead civil rights efforts to secure the right to vote for all African-Americans and to integrate public facilities, schools and restaurants.”

Medgar Evers was thirty-seven years old when he was shot, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sojourn to the Past remembers, recognizes, and honors Civil Rights activists who came before us like Mr. Evers.  We hope to continue his legacy of nonviolent, educated actions in the fight for equality for all.

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!

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Fifty-five years after the Supreme Court ruled that all of America’s children are entitled to an equal education, the nation’s most vulnerable — minority children and children from low income families — are still sometimes subject to a substandard educational system.

Troubled that millions of students are left behind because they don’t have access to the resources required for a high quality education, Congressman Chaka Fattah (from Pennsylvania) has introduced the Student Bill of Rights to address the inadequacies and inequities in educational opportunity. “America is the land of opportunity,” Fattah said. “It is a national scandal to deprive poor children of a decent education simply because they live in a certain neighborhood.”

The Student Bill of Rights is similar to legislation previously introduced by Fattah and calls for states to provide highly effective teachers, early childhood education, college prep curricula and equitable instructional resources to all students who attend public schools. Current law requires that schools within the same district provide comparable educational services; this bill would extend that basic protection to the state level by requiring comparability across school districts.

What can you do to help? If you also believe in equal rights for students, speak out and make your voice heard! Write to your local government officials and let them know that you, too, would like to see ample opportunities for education across the country.