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HUD, Federal Partners, City of Atlanta and State of Georgia Recognize the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in the King Center

HUD Region IV Regional Administrator Jennings speaking.


City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Kasim Reed speaking.

Some fifty years ago on July 2nd the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Recently, in recognition of this historic Act, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Region IV, Regional Administrator Ed Jennings, Jr. joined with senior leaders from the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Georgia Commission of Equal Opportunity along with city, civic and civil rights leaders to celebrate fifty years of "Looking back and Moving Forward" at the historic King Center in Atlanta.

Hundreds of adults, families and teenagers to include small children came to the King Center Freedom Hall Auditorium to learn firsthand about the historic impact of the Civil Rights Act, the efforts and sacrifices of the civil rights leaders and what challenges lay are ahead for the nation regarding civil rights.

"This was truly a remarkable day and one in which I will always remember and recall the historic acts of brave men some of which are here today that gave so willingly to sacrifice their all to make a difference in the Civil Rights Movement," said HUD Regional Administrator Jennings. "They are heroes in every sense of the word and this celebration is as much about the Civil Rights Act as is it about them helping to bring about the passage of the Civil Rights Act into law."

The day's program was kicked off by a musical medley of jazz music with Monica Pearson, renowned television personality, serving as the emcee. Following her welcoming remarks the historic video of the Civil Rights Act signing was shown and City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke about the Civil Rights movement having been deeply rooted and lead by those from Atlanta. Ms Lily Patel, gave an emotionally moving and heartwarming solo tribute to the civil rights movement by singing "We Shall Overcome" which brought the audience to their feet.

Dr. Bernice A. King, Chief Executive Officer of the King Center and the youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, recognized the legacy of her father and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and challenged members of the audience to continue the work as it is not done.

"Despite the difficulties and obstacles that remain on our path to the Beloved Community of my father's dream, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made possible tremendous strides toward a more just nation," said King. "Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won," she added.

Highlighting the day's events was the History Makers panel consisting of civil rights icons U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young and Dr. C.T. Vivian. Pearson moderated the lively discussion and Ambassador Young recalled his years of experience in the civil rights movement and as an Ambassador and Mayor of Atlanta to recognize the progress that has been made by those we hear often about and those we do not.

"Though we feel now that we still have problems, the truth of it is if Martin Luther King had known 50 years ago that we would be where we are today, he would be very, very pleased," said Young. "I think if I had said to him 'I think I'm going to be the Mayor of Atlanta, and I'm going to be an Ambassador to the United Nations. And I'm going to help a Georgia Governor get to the White House' he would say 'Boy, you are sick!'"

Dr. C.T. Vivian, one of the freedom riders and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted too a special message to those in attendance adding, "I want them to take home the idea that this was done by young people that moved into Mississippi and into every state of this country," said Vivian. "And there's a cost that they paid for this new generation to learn how to do it and to know the power of it."

Jennings and other leaders of the federal agencies concluded the day's events by providing reflections on what the Civil Rights Act meant and how it impacted their agencies history and mission.