Mercer to Welcome Civil Rights Leader C.T. Vivian for 12th Annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium


MACON – Mercer University's 12th annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium will focus on the theme “Building Leaders to Change the World” and will welcome noted minister, author and civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian. Events will take place Feb. 25-26 on the University's Macon campus.

The symposium will open with a banquet Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center, featuring Dr. Vivian's first keynote address, titled “Martin Luther King Jr., 21st-Century Man.”

Macon-Bibb County Sheriff David Davis will be the featured speaker for breakfast on Feb. 26, 8:30 a.m., in the fellowship hall of Centenary United Methodist Church.

Dr. Vivian will deliver his second keynote address, titled “Continuing the Beloved Community,” at 10 a.m. in Newton Chapel. Additionally, the Central High School Chorus, with director Isaac Gibson, will lead the Negro National Anthem.

A series of breakout sessions will follow at 11 a.m. The sessions will be moderated by the Rev. Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Mercer's McAfee School of Theology. McAfee students will serve as table facilitators.

The symposium will conclude with an address from Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life the Rev. Dr. David Gushee at noon, followed by lunch.

Admission to all sessions is free and open to the public. Reservations are required for meals and may be made by contacting Trish Dunaway at (478) 475-9506 or by Feb. 22.

“Dr. Vivian is surely one of the most energetic 91-year-olds amongst us. We are very fortunate to be able to host a man of his stature. A tireless advocate of human rights, he speaks from rich experience in reconciliation work, and his bright, sparkling countenance warms even the coldest hearts,” said Dr. John Marson Dunaway, founder of the symposium and professor emeritus of French and interdisciplinary studies at Mercer.

Dr. Vivian, a close friend and lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, participated in the Freedom Rides and sit-ins across the country, and helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network and the Center for Democratic Renewal.

He is attributed with founding the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that organized and trained students to embark on a movement to end segregation in Nashville. He also joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), leading to his arrest and beating at Parchman Prison.

Following his release, Dr. King asked him to work on the executive staff of the SCLC as national director of affiliates. As an SCLC strategist, he worked to help get the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed. In 1965, he famously confronted Sheriff Jim Clark on the steps of the Selma, Alabama, courthouse while leading blacks to register to vote.

Dr. Vivian was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013. In his remarks, the president recognized Dr. Vivian as “the greatest preacher to ever live,” echoing the words of Dr. King about his friend.

Dr. Vivian is currently director of the Urban Theological Institute at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta and serves on numerous boards. He has provided civil rights counsel to presidents Johnson, Carter, Reagan and Clinton, and continues to lecture on racial justice and democracy across the country.

Dr. Dunaway founded the Building the Beloved Community Symposium in 2005 as a way to help the church demonstrate unity through collaboration across denominational and racial boundaries based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s concept of the “beloved community.”

Guests of this year's symposium are also invited to attend “What Color is Your Brother?,” a free performance of music and spoken word organized by world-renowned violinist Robert McDuffie at The Grand Opera House Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Reservations are required and may be made by calling (478) 301-5471 or visiting The Grand's box office at 651 Mulberry Street.

Kyle is senior director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he serves as editor of the Mercerian alumni magazine and News@Mercer e-newsletters, and he coordinates hometown and university news releases.