Keeping the Highlander Center in our thoughts

CHRISTINA GREER PH.D | 4/4/2019, 10:20 a.m.

Some of you have heard by now that the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee suffered a fire that destroyed an entire building and countless artifacts from the Civil Rights Movement and social justice struggles from several decades past. My heart breaks to know that this center will need to be rebuilt, a place that has been an incubator for social justice leadership as well as a training school and cultural center for upcoming generations of organizers and activists. Of the many services Highlander provides, the training and education of emerging and existing movement leaders cannot be understated. In their capacity, they have trained and served groups throughout the South, Appalachia and the world. This center must be rebuilt and we should all contribute what we can to make sure this happens.

A quick glance at their website introduces you to the diverse group of leaders who are committed to advancing the cause of racial justice and equity. They state, “We are a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. We work with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny.” This is an organization that helped train the likes of Rosa Parks prior to her historic role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. According to their site, the Highlander School (as it was once called) also provided training for many other movement activists, including members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Septima Clark, Anne Braden, Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Hollis Watkins, Bernard Lafayette, Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis in the mid-and-late 1950s. If you do not know who all of these brave individuals were, please take a moment to research these American heroes.

It is imperative that we do not allow such an important piece of our collective history to burn into the ether. As the Highlander Center prepares to rebuild, we must stand shoulder to shoulder with them to make sure the center receives the necessary funds, community support and national attention, to emerge even stronger than before.

As this particular Republican administration in Washington, D.C. continues to assault immigrants, the working poor, people of color, social welfare recipients, those in rural communities and cities alike, we must continue to organize and utilize our respective talents to build a collective of concerned citizens who are committed to holding America accountable for truths she deems to be self-evident. Issues ranging from environmental racism, police brutality, and disinvestment in communities affect us all. The mission of the Highlander Center needs to remain in the forefront of our minds.

If you are interested in getting involved and helping to support, the Highlander Center will provide ongoing updates via its Facebook page.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC, and the host of The Aftermath and The Counter on Ozy.com.