[MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE]
ALOJA AIREWELE: Good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
ALOJA AIREWELE: On behalf of everybody who has ever cherished freedom, justice, human dignity, and brotherhood, sisterhood, I want to welcome you here. We want to welcome you here. This is our beloved community. And the reason we're here today is our dear friend, relative, aunt, mentor, icon. There are many ways to describe Dorothy Cotton-- not the late Dorothy Cotton. I mean, Dorothy Cotton.
It is said that, you know, God does not talk of his sons as if they're in the past. So Dorothy is still very much with us. I want to thank you for coming and just give you what the dress code is. It's called celebration and joy. So there's the Reverend here today. There are presidents. Three of them. Historic. All women.
You couldn't get a better celebration of what Dorothy represented by just what we have here. Thank you. So I just want to let you know it is legal to be joyful. Actually it is illegal for you not to be joyful. So we do welcome you. And my wife, Peggy, who is here with me, part of the organizing committee who talks better than me. I'll hand over to her.
SPEAKER 2: And if our Dorothy was right here with us today, I think she'd be very moved. And not just because we're here to honor her as a champion of civil and human rights, as a feisty feminist, as a cherished aunt, cousin, sister, and mother, but she would be moved because we are gathered here-- her family, her friends, her comrades.
She'd be delighted because we're in a community where we gather different colors, cultures, creed-- a community where we have three female formidable college presidents. No doubt about that. And also because we are here to pay homage to the work that was done in the past and to the progress made. We're here to draw on the strength of those who made it possible for all of us to gather today, and also to draw inspiration from one another because of the struggle ahead.
So like I just said, like all the planning committee has said, this is a joyful celebration. So thank you all very much, and enjoy in Dorothy's spirit.
ALOJA AIREWELE: Thank you. And today's master of ceremonies is none other than a dear friend of Dorothy, my good friend, brother Cal Walker. Thank you.
CAL WALKER: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. For all of you who knew Dorothy, it is absolutely no coincidence that the rain stopped--
In time for this glorious celebration. Dorothy brought the sunshine.
Ladies and gentlemen, this celebration is made all the more complete because each and every one of you are here. So thank you very much. Thank you certainly to Cornell University relations for its tremendous support in helping to making this event possible. And I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Bill, David, and George, the management, technical, and operational staff of this beautiful, beautiful venue. They have been absolutely the model of excellence in partnership and collaboration.
Just a couple brief clarity announcements. For those of you who have not yet heard, neither Congressman John Lewis nor Ambassador Andrew Young are going to be able to be here in person today. Both have been experiencing health challenges. And we will share the written expressions that have been sent in their absence.
There is also an important program lineup change. Reverend Barber-- we're just so delighted that he's here. But he does have a very, very strict schedule. Therefore, we are moving his remarks up in the program that you have for your review-- after the choir has sang and after an appropriate introduction, that is when Reverend Barber will come.
Now the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers was founded in 2010 by Dr. Baruch Whitehead, Associate Professor of Music Education at Ithaca College and is dedicated to the preservation of the Negro spirituals. Dr. Whitehead also directs the choir, which was named in honor of Dr. Cotton in part after he listened to her on a syndicated radio show.
And he said, I've got to meet this woman. And realized, oh my god, she lives right here in Ithaca.
And after meeting her-- after meeting her for the first time, he learned that she also had a passion for singing. And with Dorothy's blessings, the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers was established. This choir has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and in various other parts of the United States and also in Canada. They will be-- they are currently planning a celebration concert in Dorothy's hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina.
And so-- yes. That is-- that is worthy of recognition. So here with total praise, the first of several selections that they will be doing today, are the magnificent Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers.
[MUSIC - DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS, "TOTAL PRAISE"]
DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS: (SINGING) Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills knowing my help is coming from you. Your peace you give me in time of the storm. You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life. I lift my hands in total praise to you.
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.
You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life. I lift my hands in total praise to you. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.
CAL WALKER: Thank you so very much. Thank you so very much. This moral giant that's behind me, the leader of our country, the doctor Reverend William J. Barber is the president and senior lecturer of repairs of the breach, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, and National Call for Moral Revival. He has been so instrumental in bringing to light the plight of the poor in this country and around the world.
He's an author of several books. And he was a good friend of Dorothy. I understand that you guys grew up in the same hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina. So we're very excited that we're going to be bringing the singers there in May to celebrate Dorothy, because she will be a prophet that's been honored in her hometown. Would you please make welcome the Dr. Rev. William Barber.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We honor Dorothy. God bless you today. God bless you. God bless you. Let's give it up for Dorothy. Let's give it up for Dorothy. There's a saying that we have in North Carolina in the Moral Movement. It says, "Forward together. Not one step back." I say, forward together, you say, not one step back. Forward together.
AUDIENCE: Not one step back.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Forward together.
AUDIENCE: Not one step back.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: We are certainly thankful today first of all to God for being able to be here for this tremendous and timely and important-- as they would say in the book, in the Old Testament, laying down the stone of remembrance so that when the children ask who was Dorothy and what movement did she represent, we will be able to tell them this story.
I am really, really thankful to God because just yesterday, we were on the west coast, took a red eye to New York and had a series of meetings, a train to DC to preach at Washington Hebrew cathedral, where more than 800 people, black and Jewish, Christian and Muslim, gathered prior to this foolishness of the so-called Unite the Right rally today--
But also to remind the nation that Unite the Right is not really the racism we need to worry about. The racism that we need to worry about is that right in the Congress and in the White House that's passing white nationalist policies.
And Dorothy would tell you that as well. Dorothy would tell you they didn't organize the civil rights movement to stop Klan rallies. They organized the civil rights movement to stop policies of injustice and treating people.
And in many ways, those who promote the policies are, at best, the enablers of white nationalism. And at worst, they are the practices, the practitioners of white nationalism-- though they may never call you the n word, because at the end of the day, white nationalism is not just anti-black. It is anti-America. It is anti God.
And so I'm glad to be here. We got on a train and then we hopped a flight. And it was two hours late and three hours late. Then the light bulb went out and they have to check-- of course, I'm not mad that they checked, because you really can pull over up in the air.
You know, I mean, some people were-- you know, some people were cussing and carrying on. And I said, calm down now. Calm down, because you know, if you have a problem at 20,000 feet, you can't just stop and pull over and check the engine. So we got here. But I'm honored I would only-- and I did that labor of love for Dorothy and for my dear friend, whom I've known and loved and thanked god for-- Her niece, I call her Ava Barbie, who is in the audience tonight. She's been a tremendous prayer warrior through the years and I thank God.
We also today want to honor John Lewis and Andy Young. You know, the devotees of the civil rights movement are moving on up in age now. And that is why it is incumbent that we not only remember, but we also remember that the greatest form of flattery is imitation. And we imitate. In the Bible, in the 16th chapter of Romans, there is this mention of a person named Junia. And instruction by Paul was simply this-- commend Junia.
Junia is the only female listed as one of the-- as an apostle in the entire New Testament. And oftentimes in the chauvinistic presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is contrary to the work of Jesus, we don't lift up women like Deborah in the Old Testament and Huldah, and Huldah who rescued the scriptures when the men couldn't even read the old Hebrew.
But Junia, Paul says, remember and commend Junia. If I might borrow from those first century words today and say, we must remember and commend Dorothy. Now it might seem strange for me to start with these words in the commemoration, but bear with me. Oh, I wish I were in the land of cotton. Look away, look away. Old times there are not forgotten. Look away, look away, Dixieland.
When that song was song, it was a signal of racism. But Dorothy Cotton was born in the land of cotton. She was born in a textile small town called Goldsboro. She was born by the Providence of God in a town known for its segregated mental institutions for black people. The only segregated-- the only mental institution in North Carolina for black people was in Goldsboro.
And so Goldsboro was seen by some as a 20th century Nazareth from which nothing good could come out of Goldsboro. Many times if you went anywhere and said in this country, you are from Goldsboro, they said, oh, you're from the place of the mental institution. And it was a horrific experience. I was talking to your wife coming here and talking about political memory.
We don't yet know how the people of Goldsboro memory was affected, because in order to work at the mental institution that was sometimes the best jobs, people were forced to be quiet about what was happening there, and the ugliness and the trauma that was happening to black people. Dorothy Cotton was born in the land of cotton. She came from the land of cotton.
Now I learned about her story from her niece, my dear friend and a great woman in her own right, Ava Barbie. Ava and I were classmates in college. She was much smarter than I. She graduated cum laude. I graduated thank you Lordy.
And Ava, like her auntie, was about business. She let all the little brothers know she didn't have time for foolishness. She got that from her niece and her mama. Now I didn't know though at the time her aunt was Dorothy Cotton. And when she told me I was just in awe because here was someone connected to the person my father and mother used to pay homage to. I mean, Dorothy Cotton.
To say that name in the '60s was like Paul saying about Junia, the apostle. She was an apostle of civil rights. And then when she invited me to her family reunion, Ava did, to meet Dorothy and to talk to her. And I remember the day she blessed the Moral Monday movement and told me how proud she was.
You know, I was like some little kid, you know, about to cry. Because this is Dorothy Cotton.
You know? And I said, the Dorothy Cotton is your aunt? Dorothy Cotton, raised in the South in the heart of Dixie. The Dorothy Cotton that didn't look away, look away, from Dixie, but looked at it. Dared to look it right in the eye. Dared to look at Southern and Northern and American racism in the eye, and all of the horror of it-- and rather than look away or run away, to face it.
The Dorothy. Our Dorothy. She didn't look away. She knew she had to be a part of a movement that would take on racism right in the heart of Dixie with determination to work until Dixie had a heart for love and for justice. This was-- and, right-- is our Dorothy, for she is passed on, but she now is in the great cloud of witnesses that's yet pushing us to go on.
The Dorothy. The Dorothy Cotton who was the SCLC's educational director and whom most scholars say was arguably the highest ranked female member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And there weren't but two.
Her and our sister over the Children's Defense Fund, Mary Wright Edelman. Two. The Dorothy who defied the lies of racism and white supremacy, and coming from that place that some call the modern day Nazareth, she, this Dorothy, managed to matriculate at Shaw University and then Virginia State University, and then Boston University, the same school that Dr. King would later matriculate through for his PhD.
The Dorothy, the Dorothy who implemented citizenship schools in the 1960s when it wasn't dangerous to teach a Negro, when it was-- to be caught teaching black people for a women, and particularly teaching them what she was teaching, could get you raped and killed. And yet she, with other courageous people, pushed forward.
And she was so committed to the principle of nonviolence that she bore an injury for all of her life from one of the nonviolent campaigns. The Dorothy Cotton who helped the citizenship schools teach reading and writing in order that African-Americans might be able to pass the unholy, unconstitutional literacy test for voting.
But not only they didn't just teach that. They also taught citizenship right, because see, Dorothy understood that freedom was never enough, that the ultimate goal of the freedom movement was full citizenship, because if freedom was all that you needed, we didn't need the 14th Amendment, equal protection under the law, or the 15th Amendment, the right to vote, because the 13th Amendment in 1863 said y'all is free.
But we said freedom for people who spent 250 years of free labor is not enough. You can't just hold us, use us, and then set us free. We have to be free with full citizenship.
And Dorothy understood that. And Dorothy-- and Dorothy understood that white people and brown people could not have their full citizenship until African-Americans had their full citizenship because the truth of the matter-- we are all inextricably bound together, as Dr. King would say.
And so in those citizenship schools, they taught citizenship right. They taught black history. They taught economic opportunity. They taught how to organize credit unions in poor communities. And then the graduates of those citizenship schools would be sent back to communities all over the south, teaching them the importance of political power. There would have been no President Barack Obama without the citizenship schools of Dorothy Cotton. Let's be clear.
Every member, every black member of the United States Congress owes part of their being there to the studying and the teaching of those citizenship schools that laid the foundation for black political power and fusion political power between black folk and white folk and brown folk that have worked to change this country to where it is today. And while we may not be where we ought to be, we would not be where we are if it was not for the sacrifice of those like Dorothy Cotton.
The citizenship education program trained over 6,000 men and women when it was dangerous. Dorothy Cotton was there to help James Beville organize the students doing the Birmingham Campaign. And you talk about Birmingham, beginning in the spring of 1963, and you remember those four little girls were blown up 15 days after the march, 17 days after the March on Washington-- after the Birmingham Campaign was successful.
That's why they were blown up. They weren't blown up because it wasn't successful. They were blown up because it had been successful. And a lot of that success was because of the work of Dorothy Cotton. Dorothy Cotton was the one who accompanied Martin Luther King to Oslo, Norway when he got his Nobel Peace Prize. And more than likely, the speech that he gave then was typed by Dorothy on that old typewriter that you couldn't just cut and paste.
And scroll backwards. Dorothy Cotton is the one who worked with Clarence Jones, attorney Clarence Jones, to type the speech Normalcy No More in a hotel room in Washington DC, which we came to know as I Have A Dream. See, I Have A Dream, he didn't have to write that. That was a hoop, if anybody know about black church. Dr. King had got that from Langston Hughes poem, "America has never been America to me, but America will be. We must take back our mighty dream again."
He had gotten that part from them and from another person. And he had used that. He had used that in Rocky Mount. He used it in Detroit a few weeks earlier. But the 17 minutes leading up to the I Have A Dream was text, if you ever look at it. The text-- that was text he was reading. He was he was preaching, but he was reading.
And he doesn't look up until he looks away and Mahila Jackson hollers at him and says, Doc, don't close there. Tell them about the dream. But all of that text five score years ago in the shadow of a man whom we now stand, that's Dorothy. That's Dorothy Cotton typing. Dorothy, the Dorothy, her name literally means gift of God. It's what the name Dorothy means.
And she was a gift. And sometimes God gives us gifts like Dr. King that come quickly and then they're gone. And then sometimes he gives us gifts that keep on giving. She served. She bled and the movement that God gave us was a gift. Dorothy was our gift from God. In 1968, she was right there in the Poor People's Campaign. We're reviving the Poor People's Campaign.
We're reviving the citizenship schools because what Dorothy did now is so needed now-- what Dorothy did then is so needed now. My God, Americans need to come to understand what citizenship really is.
I have a sneaking suspicion that if Dorothy was alive, she would say, stop fussing and fighting so much about Trump and organize and vote and deal with it.
Deal with it. It we dealt with George Wallace, deal with it. Come together. Come together. And so now the spirit of God, Dorothy came to this earth. And she was given a mighty assignment. Some say she was one of the last voices to talk to Dr. King. She was there at the hotel. She probably helped him get ready till that last speech that he didn't want to give.
He was too tired to give. He was depressed. Probably was Dorothy that encouraged him. I mean, they tell the man's side, but it probably was Dorothy to sit down, sit down. You can do this. You can do this. She was there when he was broken and she didn't try to break him anymore because she knew what the system had done.
So last night I listened to a video of her talking and I'm through about the movement. And I sent it to Able when I got in late last night. And it was Dorothy interpreting an old spiritual song. Now the original song says, when the spirit says you got to move, you got to move. You got to move. You got to move. You may be high, you may be low, you may be rich, you may be poor, for when the Lord gets ready, you got to move.
But Dorothy in that tradition of the freedom singers in the civil rights movements, they transposed that song. And when they sung it, they said, I got to march when the spirit say march. I got to march when the spirit say march. If the spirit say march, I'm gonna march, oh Lord. I'm gonna march when the spirit says march. I go to jail if the spirit says jail. I go to jail if the spirit says jail. If the spirit says jail, I'll go to jail, oh Lord. I'll go to jail if the spirit says jail.
That was the song. And Dorothy moved when the spirit said move. When the spirit said move, leave Goldsboro, she moved. When the spirit said, risk your life down in Florida for nonviolence, she moved. When the spirit said train, train, train, young citizens. She moved when the spirit said, hook up with Ithaca College and continue to share your lessons of life. She moved. She moved. And the other day after 88 years of serving, the spirit said one more time, move.
Dorothy, it's time for you to get your reward. It's time for you to move. Your work is done. You've trained enough now. Your legacy is set. There are enough people in the earth that know what to do. Now it's up to them to do. You changed the land of cotton, Sister Cotton. It's time to move. You worked on the heart of Dixie. It's time to move. It's time for you to move.
And so on June 10th thereabout, the spirit said move, and her spirit had to move. Dorothy, you were my sister, our mentor, our hero, our woman apostle. You were a gift from God. But the other day, God said, I want my gift back. I don't want my gift back in the land of Dixie. I don't want my gift in the land of Oz. I want my gift back in the land of glory, where every day is Sunday and the Sabbath has no end.
God said it's time to move, Dorothy. I want my gift back. So she moved, like she say she would do. When the spirit said move, I'll move. She moved to sing in the heavenly choir. She moved to join the great glories of those who are cheering us on from the balconies of heaven. When the spirit says move, you got to move, whether you be high or you be low, whether you be rich or you be poor, you got to move.
So now she moved. You know, she moved. To shout a little bit with Emmett Till. She moved to hang out with Martin Luther King. She moved to be there with Sojourner Truth. She moved to stand there with Ida B. Wells. She moved to talk a little while with Harriet Tubman. She moved to stand some more with Rosa Parks. She moved to be with Fannie Lou. She moved to be right there, because if the spirit says move, you got to move.
So how do we honor Dorothy? If we're going to honor Dorothy, then let us say, in our time, when things need to be done right now, if the spirit say march, let's march, y'all. If the spirit say, go to jail, let's go to jail y'all. If the spirit say take on Donald Trump, let's take on Donald Trump, y'all. If the spirit say vote, let's vote y'all. If the spirit says stand up for freedom in the 21st century, let's stand up, y'all.
That's the only way to honor Dorothy. If the spirit say shout, let's shout. If the spirit say, glory, let's say glory. If the spirit say, stand, let's stand. Thank you, Dorothy. Thank you, Dorothy. Thank you, Dorothy. And thank you for letting the spirit have his way.
CAL WALKER: Please be seated. Please be seated. Oh my goodness. We just thank Reverend Barber so much. This man has an absolutely incredibly busy schedule, and yet he said he was going to make it, whatever it took. And so we thank you for your indulgence.
One of the things that we wanted to do during this celebration is to have several instances where you are able to hear Dorothy's own voice. And if you were not able to meet Dorothy and never heard her speak, you're going to have that opportunity today through technology. And so one of the luminaries, one of the many luminaries who wished he could be here, is Tavis Smiley, the syndicated radio show and television show host and author.
And the video that we are going to share with you now about an eight minute video presentation of an interview that Tavis did with Dorothy. And incidentally, Tavis was the keynote speaker just over three years ago right here in Ithaca at the 2014 Dorothy Cotton Institute gala event. And he had so wished to be here today, but was unable to. And OK, screen, come down.
So I wonder if I wave my hand and tell my bank to drop a deposit--
Tavis wasn't able to be here, much to his regret. But I'm going to share with you a very brief letter that he wrote upon hearing of Dorothy's passing just about a couple of months ago. And then we'll go directly into this eight minute video of his interview with Dorothy. "To the family and friends of our beloved Dorothy Cotton, come ye, disconsolate, where ye languish. Here, bring your wounded hearts. Here, tell your anguish. Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. The words of this sacred song remind us that pain is real, but it is not permanent." This is Tavis talking here.
"For Dorothy Cotton and for each of us, our work becomes our afterlife. Her life is no more, but her legacy lives on, if we insist upon it. And I do. What is that legacy? Love and service." Tavis goes on to write, "To you, to me, to those who never met her, to those who never heard mention of her name, to children yet unborn, we owe Dorothy Cotton a debt that we can never repay. All we can do is keep her legacy alive." Reverend Barber just told us that.
"And to pay it forward by living lives of love and service, just as Dorothy did. I will miss talking to her on television, at her kitchen table, about the present and certainly about the past. I will miss laughing with her, especially when she tickled herself telling stories about herself.
I will miss her wisdom. I will miss her guidance, her presence, and her passion. Dorothy Cotton was an original, not a copy. She was an authentic voice, not an echo. We can best honor her in this moment by doing exactly what she did-- turn the pain into power and keep your spirit rising. The world is still ours to lead. And so good night, sweet princess. May the flight of angels take thee to thy eternal rest. In loving gratitude, Tavis Smiley."
TAVIS SMILEY: So much history on this one program, I'm having a difficult time containing myself. She's alongside me right now. Dorothy Cotton, who worked with Dr. King at the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which happened to be the only organization that King ever founded in his lifetime. And she had not just the honor of working alongside Dr. King, the greatest American icon we ever produced, but also traveling with him to Oslo when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Still to this day, the youngest person ever to be so honored. Dorothy Cotton, what an honor it is to have you on this program.
DOROTHY COTTON: Well, thank you so much. I'm really honored to be here with you. I watch you every night at 10:00. You do good work.
TAVIS SMILEY: And you've done some good work yourself.
DOROTHY COTTON: I think so.
TAVIS SMILEY: Let me start with this very uncomfortable question first. With all this history walking amongst us, y'all have got to get these books out. So Clarence Jones is working on his.
DOROTHY COTTON: Yes, yes--
TAVIS SMILEY: What's the story?
DOROTHY COTTON: I'm working on mine. I have signed a contract now. So I've got a deadline. So I've got to really--
TAVIS SMILEY: So did Clarence Jones. That don't mean nothing.
DOROTHY COTTON: No, I'm going to meet my deadline. I'm turning in the manuscript in March. And it'll be out in December-- if they like what I turn in. There's an editing process.
TAVIS SMILEY: They're gonna have to like it. So next year, we already know we'll have two--
DOROTHY COTTON: That's right.
TAVIS SMILEY: Two wonderful texts out. One from Clarence Jones, one from Dorothy Cotton--
DOROTHY COTTON: You know what the title is?
TAVIS SMILEY: What's yours?
DOROTHY COTTON: If Your Back's Not Bent. And that's from a quotation from a speech that Dr. King made, actually more than once. Nobody can ride your back if your back's not bent. And the title of my book is, If Your Back's Not Bent-- the Civil Rights Movement from Victim to Victory. Because you're too young to know that black folk, a lot of us lived as victims in a certain part of our history.
And we had to really erase that tape. We're not victims. We are citizens, but only if we declare that we are and know it consciously and function from that knowing.
TAVIS SMILEY: Tell me more about your role. I know you had a multiplicity of things that you did with and for Dr. King, but what was your official role with Dr. King?
DOROTHY COTTON: Well, I had the title of Education Director. And--
TAVIS SMILEY: For the SCLC.
DOROTHY COTTON: Yes, yes. For SLCS. When I gave reports to the staff and the board, the larger staff and board, I would always say to them, you board members, you all don't know this, but this is the best thing SCLC has going, because we had massive numbers of people coming-- thousands, over 6,000 people, in all the years that we ran a program called Citizenship Education.
Andy Young was the administrator and I'm Director of Education. But our focus was a kind of education that probably wouldn't be very welcome in academia because, you know, I worked at Cornell for about 10 years. And we used to have to do-- I did these programs that were called-- it was a re-entry program, because once the people, students, would go through academia, they'd forget how to be with ordinary folk.
One of the points I want to make in my book here, it was the ordinary folk who really made the troops that made the movement. You know, Dr. King appreciated that these were the people who really made the movement. And the leaders emerged, including Dr. King, out of what the people were doing. He didn't tell Rosa Parks not to go to the back of the bus. He didn't tell the students in Greensboro, North Carolina to go sit at those lunch counters.
They decided that themselves. And when students ask me as I speak on campuses even now, when-- they're really asking, when are we going to have another Martin Luther King or another Rosa Parks or whatever. And I said, well, when are you going to get some work going, because if you get something going, your leadership will emerge out of what you are working on.
But I think there's a myth abroad in the land that we had a blueprint laid out. No. We didn't.
TAVIS SMILEY: Tell me more about why you think, to my earlier point, that SCLC was the only institution, the only organization, that King ever started. He could have started any number of organizations with any number of missions, but he chose this thing called SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Why that organization? Why was that his creation, you think?
DOROTHY COTTON: Well, we need to look at probably whether he really chose it or not. I think the great spirits that run the universe probably chose him and the moment and the event.
TAVIS SMILEY: That's fair.
DOROTHY COTTON: We will take note of the fact that Dr. King went to Montgomery to pastor the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. It was a group of women already working on having a boycott of the buses. And actually they envisioned a one day boycott. But then they made the mistake of arresting, you know, this gentle, wonderful, dignified woman named Rosa Parks. Everybody knows Rosa Parks.
And Dr. King got a phone call. And fast forward here, because it's a lot of details to that story. And I asked him if he would come and provide the leadership of the Montgomery Improvement Association. And he was the new kid on the block, the new preacher in town-- you know, preachers get a little jealous of each other.
TAVIS SMILEY: Absolutely.
DOROTHY COTTON: You have heard that before.
TAVIS SMILEY: Still do.
DOROTHY COTTON: So since he's the new preacher in town, you know, let's ask him to come and you know, and try leadership. And I'm working on a chapter on nonviolence. And so I've re-read a lot of material that I had read before. But I'm still fascinated when I look at how Dr. King studied the theologians and the philosophers and the you know, Thoreau and Rauschenbach and Hagel and Tillich, and look at how he would, even as a student, decide who he agreed with and who he didn't agree with.
So I mean, he was working. He was thinking. Young people don't know that. Fast forward. I shudder to think, suppose there had been another new pretend town steeped in a different kind of philosophy, because in addition to those I just mentioned, he was fascinated by what Mahatma Gandhi did in India. Absolutely fascinated by the whole concept and theory of nonviolence.
What is this soulforce? What is this truthforce? And this, a Baptist preacher, now is looking at how all of his theological and spiritual training can be brought to bear on the injustice so rampant in the land. Not just in Montgomery. We ultimately what happened.
TAVIS SMILEY: Tell me right quick about that trip to Oslo.
DOROTHY COTTON: Well, when the call came he won-- I don't think there were any photographs, but two or three of us were running up and down the sidewalk on Auburn Avenue saying, we won.
We won. We knew he had been nominated. And so I was sitting there with him and paying attention to the mood he was in. And I saw this more than once-- a very pensive, reflective mood. And talking about his life as a student. And actually a little bit of a sense that, what is this? I didn't deserve all of this almost. These are my words now.
But just being very humble in receipt of this fantastic prize. And you know, he divided the prize money between all of the civil rights organizations. But yeah, we went off to Oslo. I remember, I got all dressed up. We took off our movement clothes and I had--
TAVIS SMILEY: So in your text you wore nice dresses?
DOROTHY COTTON: Yeah. Yeah. I had a maroon Velvet suit made and a hat to match. But at some point, an orchestra struck up a number of tunes, a score from Porgy and Bess. And I remember that somehow that's when I cried. It was like they had done their homework and they thought that would speak to black folks, to African-Americans--
When they would play some of the songs from Porgy and Bess. Well, I'm really sorry that we didn't get a chance to talk about the Citizenship Education Program, because one thing that I'm really tired of and hope to change with my book is I get to run around on the number of college campuses and other places and speak.
And folks say, and how we present, Dorothy Cotton or whatever they call me, and who marched with Martin Luther King. And the reason I decided I've got to get this book done, because people need to know we didn't just march. We had a training program. And that was my-- we didn't get to that. That's my specific job.
TAVIS SMILEY: I made one-- we'll make a deal here. We'll shake and make a deal. I'm going to end this conversation now, and I promise to have you on for the full show all by yourself when the book comes out, if you promise to go home and finish writing it.
DOROTHY COTTON: It's a deal. It's a deal.
TAVIS SMILEY: All right.
CAL WALKER: Just making it go up. Don't even have to turn around and look at it. Dorothy was, as you heard, Education Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was an educator extraordinaire. I was blessed to have known Dorothy for close to 30 years. And you know, it is-- her being such a phenomenal educator, it was most appropriate that she made Ithaca her place of residence for over 3 and 1/2 decades.
This place, where education is, in fact, our brand. We're blessed with three exceptional higher education institutions-- Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins-Cortland Community College. Each are represented here today at the very highest level. And we are honored that President's Pollack, Collado, and Montague could join us in this celebration.
They are highly distinguished leaders in their own right who undoubtedly would have shared a bonding, kindred spirit with Dorothy Cotton. Now it's my pleasure to welcome Martha E. Pollack, the 14th president of Cornell University, who will introduce her colleagues.
MARTHA POLLACK: Thank you, Cal. I'm truly honored to be here and be here today with my colleagues and my friends, President Shirley Collado from Ithaca College and President of Orinthia Montague from Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
I have to tell you that I'm not someone who's easily intimidated, but it's pretty intimidating to be asked to make comments following Reverend Barber. But spurred on by the final comments in that video in which we saw Dorothy Cotton in what I think of as her Cornell Red, I want to speak very, very briefly about one of the many ways in which she inspired us, and that's as an educator.
In the 1960s, as Dr. Reverend Barber has already said, she led workshops for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that taught literacy, citizenship, and the tactics of nonviolent protest-- doing so to empower and encourage African-Americans to register to vote. This was a time at which few women held leadership positions in our society.
And Dorothy Cotton was a role model for countless other women, inspiring them to teach and to lead. She came here to Cornell in 1982, serving as Director of Student Activities until 1991. And while here, she lead anti oppression workshops. And by word and example, she taught our students to act on their convictions, to speak out on vital issues, and to work for a more just and equitable world.
We at Cornell are proud to have had Dorothy Cotton as a progressive educator on our campus. And we feel privileged that such a strong and principled woman was also a member of our community and the greater Ithaca community for so many years. Her legacy continues through the human rights advocacy of the Dorothy Cotton Institute and in the labor of all who work together on issues of equity and inclusion.
She stood for, and throughout her life, acted upon the principle that all people deserve respect, dignity, and the opportunity to thrive-- principles that are at the core of who we are at Cornell University. And as we remember her and remember these facts about her, Dorothy Cotton can still be our teacher today. President Collado?
SHIRLEY COLLADO: Thank you, Martha. I am very grateful to be here today. What a blessing to be in this room. It's really, really powerful and beautiful. And to share this important moment that honors the work and life of Dorothy Cotton. . As President Pollack just shared, Dorothy influenced the lives of many through her work in the civil rights movement and in higher education and education broadly.
Hers was a resoundingly voice that encouraged dialogue, facilitated empowerment, and brought many, many people together through education, through music, through relentless conviction and action. Dorothy challenged us to embrace our calling as contributing citizens of the world-- to be open to discovering our own tremendous power.
She acknowledged the difficulty embedded within this task, particularly for people from communities that have been disenfranchised and pushed down. Dorothy's message resonates with me very deeply as a member of my community and probably as a member of this community, and in higher education. And I know-- I know especially today-- that I am not alone in drawing inspiration from her and from her extraordinary spirit-warrior life.
Dorothy's legacy energizes us and reminds us to live thoughtful, compassionate, and courageous lives together. Thank you so much for being here today to celebrate Dorothy Cotton.
ORINTHIA MONTAGUE: Good afternoon.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
ORINTHIA MONTAGUE: It's an honor to be included today at the celebration of an amazing woman. The tireless commitment of Dorothy Cotton's work and legacy allows me to stand before you as president of Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
Without her devotion and commitment to educating others in how to be engaged citizens advocating for change, I may not have had this opportunity. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I am, we are, TC3 is, committed to continuing the legacy of Dorothy Cotton, a champion for education, political activism, and supporting humanity in all rights. So again, thank you.
CAL WALKER: Thank you all so very much. You all are truly a major inspiration in this community and beyond. And we are just so grateful that you all took time today to come. Every time I see you all standing together, as I have in several different events in this community, it makes a powerful statement. So thank you.
So if you look at your programs, Yara Allen is actually a musicologist who travels with Reverend Barber. She was not able to be here today. But we're not going to deprive you of a song. Dr. Baruch Whitehead is going to come and lead you in a sing along. Now, sing in whatever key works for you.
If we wind up with 139 different keys, you'll just have to work with that, after which time the phenomenal Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers will do a second selection.
BARUCH WHITEHEAD: Thank you. We couldn't not honor Dorothy without having a sing along, right?
So last week at our camp at Southside Community Center, the kids did a rap. And I want to teach it to you. It was in honor of Dorothy. The words are, we honor Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dr. Dorothy Cotton. Join me.
ALL: We honor Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dr. Dorothy Cotton.
BARUCH WHITEHEAD: And here you--
ALL: We honor Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dr. Dorothy Cotton. We honor Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dr. Dorothy Cotton.
BARUCH WHITEHEAD: Come on now. Get on your feet.
ALL: We honor that Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dr. Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dr. Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dorothy Cotton. We honor that Dr. Dorothy Cotton.
BARUCH WHITEHEAD: (SINGING) This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
ALL: (SINGING) This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
BARUCH WHITEHEAD: All around Ithaca.
ALL: (SINGING) All around Ithaca, I'm gonna let it shine. All around Ithaca, I'm gonna let it shine. All around Ithaca, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
BARUCH WHITEHEAD: This little light.
ALL: (SINGING) This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
BARUCH WHITEHEAD: One more time. This little light.
ALL: (SINGING) This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
[MUSIC - DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS, "I WANT TO BE READY"]
DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS: (SINGING) Oh. I want to be ready. I want to be ready. I want to be ready. Lord, ready to put on my long white robe. Lord, I want to be ready. I want to be ready. I want to be ready. Lord, ready to put on my long white robe.
I'll not be a sinner. I tell you the reason why. Cause if my Lord should call on me, Lord. I want to be ready to die. I want to be ready. I want to be ready. I want to be ready. Lord, ready to put on my long white robe. Lord, I want to be ready, I want to be ready. I want to be ready. Lord, ready to put on my long white robe.
I will not be a gambler. I tell you the reason why. Cause if my Lord should call on me Lord, I want to be ready to die. I want to be ready. I want to be ready. I want to be ready. Lord, ready to put on my long white robe. Be ready to put on my long white robe. Just ready to put on my long white robe. Lord.
SPEAKER 3: Good afternoon.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
SPEAKER 3: If you would all just take a moment to look around the room, just to acknowledge that this beautiful venue is filled to capacity, especially at a time of year when so many Ithacans leave on vacation, right before the semester begins. It's a tremendous acknowledgment of Dr. Cotton's influence on people near and far that so many of you have come here to celebrate her life and legacy today. Thank you.
In addition to the planning and sponsoring organizations of this celebration, we'd like to appreciate the representative's presence present from the following organizations-- the New York State assemblywoman's Barbara Lifton's office, Ithaca City Mayor Svante Myrick's office and Deputy Mayor Deb Molinoff, the city of Ithaca Common Council, the Tompkins County legislature, the Southern Poverty Law Center--
The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Faith and Politics Institute, the Thomas Merton Center and the International Thomas Merton Society, the United Way of Tompkins County, the History Center of Ithaca, the Village at Ithaca, the Greater Ithaca Activity Center, Cornell United Religious Work, the Cornell Office of Community Relations, the Ithaca College Office of Government and Community Relations, and the Southside Community Center.
And now it is my honor to introduce Aljosie Aldrich Harding. Aljosie Aldrich Harding's life work has been as a teacher, researcher, librarian, organizer, and activist. Mother of three, grandmother of 10, great grandmother of one, and auntie to numerous young people across the United States.
Her passion is spiritual eldering-- nurturing young people and families to continue the work of building a just society. Using her skills, experiences, and relationships, she engages in dialogues with families, groups, and organizations across the country to encourage and support the work of creating quote "a country that does not yet exist."
She continues the work that she shared with her coworker, partner, and beloved late husband Vincent Harding. Aljosie Harding identifies as a builder of networks, a pollinator in peace and justice work, and contributes in her servant leadership role with the National Council of Elders. Mrs. Harding was a longtime friend of Dorothy Cotton and is a national advisor to the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Please join me in welcoming Aljosie Harding to the stage.
ALJOSIE ALDRICH HARDING: Thank you very much. Thank you. First, I would just like to say thank you very much to all of you who've put this program together, all of you who've come here. And I'm just honored to be here. And I put on my pollinator button to give me a little courage, because I think you all would admit with me that I have-- to dare to come on this stage after Dr. Barber--
To dare to come on this stage after these three female presidents and then behind this beautiful choir-- the physical part of me says, run back to your seat.
But the spiritual part of me says, all I have to do is to stand and let my little shin.
So I can take my little notes and almost throw them away, because most of what has already been said about Dorothy Cotton is what I sat and scribbled about what I was going to say about Dorothy Cotton. And then I thought, well, at least I'll be able to play on "Let My Little Light Shine."
And before I could get up here, we started singing "this Little Light of Mine." And then beyond that, I come with this choir. I don't know if you know how spectacular this is to have acquired constituted of more Caucasian faces than black faces that are singing spirituals.
And this wonderful soprano. Well, all I can say is--
All right. I knew Dorothy Cotton before I knew Dorothy Cotton, because Dorothy Cotton was from Goldsboro, North Carolina. And I was from 182 miles away in Salisbury, North Carolina. So even though at that time I didn't really know the value, the importance of Dorothy Cotton's work, we shared a similar life. We both were from small towns, but we knew we wanted to get out of there before we ever got out.
We knew there was something else and somewhere else to go. I look at pictures of Dr. Dorothy Cotton and she had on her pearls back in high school on her pictures. As we all know, she's-- in her later life, she was stylish. She was always beautifully dressed. She was articulate. She was so much. But what I'm knowing now is that Dorothy Cotton was always that. She was always that.
And so in the few minutes that I'm going to take today-- because everything that we could say about Dorothy Cotton has been said and we know in our hearts. But I just want to say I give thanks for Dorothy Cotton. I give thanks for her example, her leadership. Dorothy Cotton did not help Dr. King Either help this person. Dr. Dorothy Cotton was a leader in her right.
So I just want to say a few things about how we need to nurture leaders, and especially in this time of women, I want to call on the women to step forward and take our rightful place.
I want to call us to come out of some of the kitchens that we have stayed in too long and come out of some of the other places where we have assisted too long and step forward and to use the gifts that we have been endowed with from our very creation and our wisdom and our leadership skills and our capacity to care about all children and all people-- that it's now our time.
And in the name and spirit of Dr. Dorothy Cotton-- and I want to use that. Dr. Dorothy Cotton. Sister Dorothy Cotton. I call on us to come forward and take our rightful place.
And how are we going to take that rightful place? Well, I can't tell you specifically how you're going to do that. All I can do is to encourage you to look deep within your heart and to think about the abilities and the gifts and the skills that you have. I am living in Georgia now. That's my base. So I'm going to support Stacey Abrams.
And for people who have any kind of moral character, that's an easy decision. One of the things that I intend to do-- you heard about these grandchildren and great grandchildren. And so sometimes we see them going along a path and it's not quite the path that we might have them go on. So I have something that I call Nana Rules.
And so when Nana is in the position of offering guidance, I often say that. Nana Rules mean we put those cell phones away. And Nana Rules say that you help to cook and you help to clean up and you take on responsibility. So the new thing for me with my Nana Rules is I want to go about in a community in Jefferson, Georgia where four of my grandchildren live and where they go to an integrated school.
And I want to take them with me and let them guide me to some of the homes of their classmates. And I want them to go with me and let us knock on the door and tell some of their white classmates and their parents why they should support Stacey Abrams.
And I want to take them with me as we do this and talk about it. And I want to ask them to share with me some of the money that they have, because as you may know, some young kids have a lot of money. And so some of them have some money, and I want them to take some of that money and to give it to support, to put their money where their mouth is, and to support Stacey Abrams.
And so I've done that. I can stand here today because I just contributed what I was able to do. And that's all we are all called to do, is to do what we are able to do. So I want you to think about how you can serve in your community and how you can take the spirit of Dorothy Cotton and the lessons from Dorothy Cotton and the spiritual power of Dorothy Cotton and teach and share in your home and in your community and with all the people you come in contact with.
I'm also a sports lover, but I get really upset that we can spend hours and hours watching football together, but if we want to spend 15 minutes talking about Dorothy Cotton or watching a YouTube video about Dorothy Cotton or the videos of Tavis Smiley about Dorothy Cotton, sometimes some of us will say, well, you want to be serious all the time. Well, I'm saying, can we be serious some of the time?
Can we be what we are called to be some of the time? Can we honor people like Dorothy Cotton and Septima Clark and Fannie Lou Hamer and so many of our sisters-- and again, brothers, you know, I understand what you've done. But today, I'm calling out the sisters.
Can we honor our sisters in struggle by putting ourselves out here to teach and to train? Citizenship education is not dead. Citizenship education is needed more now than ever before.
So I'm calling on all of you to be creative and to think about it and to think about how you will honor Dorothy Cotton. She doesn't need us to stand here and praise her. She doesn't need us to do anything for her. And I'm saying that Dorothy Cotton's spirit lives as long as we remember these precepts and as long as we remember this work. And as long as we remember that she was an encourager and she was a worker, Dorothy Cotton lives.
Finally, I have a poster on my wall. And when people come into my house, I like to show them this poster. And this poster says, if I can find where I wrote that, that says-- I'm going to get there-- I am an organizer. And this poster was done by the artist activist Ricardo Morales. And it says, "I'm an organizer. I bring people together so they can unlock the beauty and power and wisdom that's in these streets and job sites and back roads. Then we get out there and demand the changes that our people need. What's your super power?"
So I will end to encourage you to find your superpower, to get out there and to serve and to make a difference, and know that it's always OK as long as you just let your little light shine. Thank you very much.
CAL WALKER: Thank you so very much, Mrs. Harding. Thank you. Now following along with your program, we will have the reading of some tributes that have been sent. I just want to mention that Dr. Peyi Soyinka-Airewele will not be able to participate in this reading. She is taking Reverend Barber and his entourage back to Syracuse. But her daughter, Yolori, will be reading in her stead.
ERIC ACREE: "Dorothy Cotton was one of the true leaders of the civil rights movement of the '60s. She began with Steven Clarke and me to awaken and train the future leaders of the south. We sought citizens with PhD minds who had not had the benefits of formal training and involved more than 6,000 natural leaders from Virginia to East Texas in voter registration and grassroots nonviolent movements.
It is no accident that leaders were recruited and trained in '60 through '62 led Birmingham and Selma in '63 through '65. Dorothy's spirit and soul inspired leaders from Fannie Lou Hamer to Martin Luther King. Dorothy was soul, mind, and spirit of the civil rights movement. She was both our sister and Mother Superior.
It has been impossible to define or place limits on her life-long contributions to our progress and freedom. Her soul and spirit will be some among us even as she takes her place on high and with the saints that have gone before. Peace and blessings, Andrew J. Young." My name is Eric Acree and it was my pleasure to read those words to you.
SPEAKER 5: Hi. I will be reading some excerpts from the message by Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is titled, "Dorothy Cotton-- a Fearless Fighter Against Racism and Injustice." "Dorothy Cotton once said, we love Dr. King. I love Dr. King. But it was not Dr. King's movement. He did not start the civil rights movement. It was started by one person here, one person there, one person over here.
If you see something wrong, sometimes you may have to start an action all by yourself. One person sees something wrong and starts doing something about it. People will join you if you do it with the right spirit. My dear friend Cotton, who died last month at 88, worked tirelessly to do something about the injustices around her that she knew were wrong.
She had a joyous, infectious spirit that made others want to join her, like Septima Clark, Ella Baker, and other great women leaders in the civil rights movement. She is too little known compared to some of her close male colleagues like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and Ambassador Andrew Young.
But as education director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dorothy Cotton was an indispensable member of the SCLC's inner circle. And her attitude about leadership has lessons for us right now. She described their mission as helping people realize that they have within themselves the stuff it takes to bring about a new order.
At one session, she emphasized that action doesn't always have to stem from a formal plan. On a lot of college campuses where I do workshops and talk, some young folk thing us old folk had a blueprint. We sat up almost all night sometimes strategizing. We would take an action based on the reaction we got. I just want to say a movement is dynamic. It's evolving. It's changing. Nobody had a blueprint. And don't let anybody tell you that we did.
She added, action springs up in a lot of different places at the same time. We were sick and tired of being sick and tired. And some folk took action and we learned as we went. She always reminded us that we can't wait for leaders. Leadership emerges from action. Her words should be an encouragement to the wave of brave and committed students, other young people, and those of all ages and communities across the country who are speaking out today against gun violence, horrific immigration policies tearing children from their parents, and the list of other injustices.
Dorothy Cotton would love the resistance springing up across our nation right now. And it must continue and grow and grow. Like Dorothy, must stand up and protest, as so many are doing, for as long as it takes when we see rampant injustice all around us. When we see something wrong, don't ask why doesn't somebody do something about it? But why don't I do something? This is how transforming movements happen-- person by person, speaking out and saying no against unjust policies. Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, July 21st, 2018."
NELSON WATKINS: Good afternoon.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
NELSON WATKINS: As a Baptist preacher I have to say, give an honor to the Lord, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the head of my life. We honor this president of this great institute and these mighty women of the other presidents, and our friends, Elijah. For inviting us my name is Minister Nelson Watkins and I represent the Faith and Politics Institute, a nonprofit organization in Washington DC.
We did not think it was robbery to not come to be here, part of this special day honoring our friend and our sister Dr. Dorothy Cotton. And on behalf of Joan Mooney, the president of the Faith and Politics Institute and our board of governors there and the founder, Doug Tanner, who was a personal friend of Dr. Dorothy Cotton-- again, we're just honored to be here.
We just want to share a little bit about how Dorothy has impacted the Faith and Politics and the work that she's done along with us. The flagship program of the Faith and Politics Institute since 1998 has been an annual week-long congressional civil rights pilgrimage led by Congressman John Lewis. Most often, the pilgrimage has been to Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, Alabama, Farmville, Virginia, and even Memphis, Tennessee.
Though some years it had been going through these different areas, we also help-- in 19, excuse me, in 2003, the pilgrimage took the form of a week-long congressional delegation to South Africa to steady the nation's pioneering efforts towards racial justice and reconciliation. Over 300 members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate has traveled with the Institute to learn from history, to experience the depth of soul and spirit out of which the Freedom Movement was shaped and led, to open their hearts and minds to its implications in the current political climate and context.
Many of Congressman John Lewis' colleagues in the movement have enriched the pilgrimage each year for participating in and helping to shape its program. Bernard Lafayette, Bettie Mae Fikes Better, Bob Zellner, Dr. Jim Lawson, Mrs. Juanita Abernathy, and Dr. Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Will Campbell and many others.
Dorothy Cotton brought her lifetime of experience, her gift for teaching and for music, her passion for nonviolent social change, and her feisty spirit-- yes, her feisty spirit-- in full force to the pilgrimages every year for well over two decades. And many decades. I'm sorry. Though the weekend's always tight and demanding schedule rarely allowed Dorothy the time she and her subject deserved, Dorothy used her place on the program to tell the story of Citizenship Education Project and its role in the movement, as many have shared here before me.
She described a typical week-long school in citizenship education for African-Americans in small Southern communities, as well as in large cities like Birmingham. She will tell how people began the week-- timid, fearful, and generally unaware of the fundamental rights of citizens of the United States. And in the week, confident and courageous, ready to claim their right to fully participate in the political process, beginning registering to vote.
At every step Mrs. Cotton, as I fondly would call her, named the songs that progress from ones of sorrow on Monday to freedom songs on Friday, and taught us to sing them with her. She would start with "Been In The Storm So Long," paint a progressively rich picture of a citizenship education school week, and have us singing, "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize" and "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" at the end of those sessions.
It was beautiful. It was powerful. It was rich. It was compelling, just like Dorothy. Nothing could have been more valuable or appropriate for participants in the Faith and Politics Institute pilgrimage to internalize than the central role that Citizenship Education played in the movement. No one could ever get that into participant's hearts, minds, and souls better than Dorothy did.
They might be reserved in the beginning and self-conscious and slow to sing, but in a few minutes, they would be clapping and singing out and standing up. The Faith and Politics Institute is honored to be represented here today. We are honored to have Dorothy share her life and her gifts and talents with us so generously over so many years. We will drink deeply from Dorothy Cotton's spirit as we speak and seek to carry on the work and the legacy of Dorothy Cotton in the life of the Faith and Politics Institute. And I want to introduce my colleague, Adwoa Rey.
ADWOA RAY: (SINGING) This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine--
ALL: (SINGING) I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
ADWOA RAY: When I met Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, I was a congressional staffer participating in my very first Faith and Politics Institute pilgrimage. I had a chance to talk to Dr. Cotton on several occasions and had a great conversation with her. And each time we spoke, she would encourage me to find my inner light and to let it shine as brightly as it could be.
As you can imagine, as it was then when I worked on the Hill and as it is now, sometimes Capitol Hill can be a challenging place.
And on the most difficult days and the rewarding days, I was reminded myself of those many conversations I had with Dr. Cotton. And I said, Adwoa, find that light and let it shine. This has become my truth, the truth that I live every day. I will always be grateful for Dr. Cotton's love for humanity, her courage to stand up to injustice everywhere, and her resolve to make life better for generations. Thank you.
CAL WALKER: There are two other pieces of written correspondence that I want to share, the following which the NEO Project will come with the song, "People Get Ready." Then there will be a 10 minute intermission. Letter one. "State of New York Executive Chamber, Albany, New York, Andrew M. Cuomo. June 18th 2018. Addressed to the family of Dorothy Cotton. Dear friends, on behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to extend my deepest condolences on Dorothy's passing. I was truly saddened to hear of your loss. Please know that you have all been in our thoughts and prayers.
Throughout her remarkable life, Dorothy served as a pioneering voice for civil rights and an indelible role model for countless others throughout Ithaca, New York and the nation. Her leadership and passion for serving others not only help advance equality for all, but also brought much needed hope and light to places where it was needed most.
Once again, my heartfelt sympathies to you and your entire family. I hope that you can find some comfort in Dorothy's extraordinary legacy and in knowing her great impact will live on for many years to come. Please know that you are in my continuing thoughts and prayers and those of all New Yorkers during this time. Sincerely, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor."
This letter is from the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. "To the Dorothy Cotton Institute Celebration Committee, we couldn't stop. Didn't think about stopping. We were not going to let our energy die. The words of Dr. Dorothy Cotton, when asked about the civil rights movement and the constant barriers just prior to April 4th, 2018.
She was one of the icons invited to the National Civil Rights Museum's MLK 50 commemoration. She wanted to come, but was too ill. She was certainly missed. We payed tribute to her in absentia via the video interviews. Dr. Cotton was with us for another time, though, when she was honored in 2010 with the National Freedom Award. She made it very clear then that she worked in the movement, not just marched.
One of Dr. King's closest confidants, the only woman in his inner circle, and one of the highest ranking women in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, she used her influence to benefit the movement. As director for the SCLC Citizenship Education Program, she advanced personal and civil liberties using songs of the movement to tell the story of the struggle.
And her uncanny ability to reach young people was a wake up call in the 1960s when this nation was undergoing turbulent change. Although Dr. Cotton is no longer with us, her efforts and contributions to fight for freedom, liberty, and justice will be with us always. Dorothy Cotton, a symbol of courage, vision, and leadership. Thank you, Terry L. Freeman, President National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Memphis, Tennessee.
[MUSIC - THE NEO PROJECT, "PEOPLE GET READY"]
SPEAKER 7: (SINGING) People get ready, there's a train a-coming, picking up passenger's coast to coast. People get ready, there's a train a-coming. Don't need no ticket. You just get on board. People get ready, there's a train that's coming, picking up passengers from coast to coast.
People get ready, there's a train that's coming. Don't need no ticket. You just thank the Lord. There ain't no room the hopeless sinner who's hurt all mankind just to save his own. Whoa, well, his chances grow thinner. Lord, he's got to get on board.
People get ready. Oh, that train's coming.
Picking up passengers from coast to coast. All you need when you hear that diesel humming, you don't need no ticket. You just get on board.
CAL WALKER: Ladies and gentlemen, the NEO project.
For your comfort, we will now have a 10 minute intermission resuming immediately, again, at four o'clock.
DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS: (SINGING) Ride on, King Jesus. No man can hinder thee. Ride on, King Jesus, no man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. Ride on, King Jesus, no man can hinder thee. Ride on, King Jesus, no man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee.
In the greatness of morning, fare the well. Fare the well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare thee well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare the well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare thee well. When I get to heaven, gonna wear a robe. No man can hinder thee. Gonna see King Jesus sitting on a throne. No man can hinder thee. Gonna walk all over those streets of gold. No man can hinder thee.
Joy to a man where the devil cannot go. No man can hinder thee. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare thee well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare thee well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare thee well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well, fare thee well. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee.
No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. No man can hinder thee. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well, fare thee well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare thee well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well, fare thee well. In the greatness of morning, fare thee well. Fare thee well. In the greatness of morning fare thee well, fare thee well, in the greatness of morning, fare the well. Fare thee well.
CAL WALKER: Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers.
We extend a very especially cordial welcome to Dorothy's family. As I understand, they are here from Virginia and North Carolina, upstate New York, and perhaps other places. And so right now, we want you to stand and be recognized and appreciated. Dorothy's family.
Thank you all. Thank you so very much. And I want to point out that some of Dorothy's nieces and cousins and nephews and grans and other relations were here a couple of months ago at the funeral services, which were also held right here at Cornell at the historic and marvelous Africana Studies and Research Center. And I know on this occasion, there are some additional ones who are here.
If this is your first time in Ithaca, we certainly welcome you and invite you to please come back as to your schedules would allow. We want you to know that we love Dorothy. And we're just pleased and honored to have her as a citizen in this community for as long as she was here. And thank you all for sharing her with all of us.
Speaking for the family will be Elder Gwen Hinton Perry. And we ask her to come down.
GWEN HINTON PERRY: Wow.
This is such a large showing to show the love that you had for our Aunt Dorothy. And we thank you. And he says, we loved Aunt Dorothy. And it shows in Ithaca that you loved her and still love her. And it's her spirit lives on in you. So I give you all a hand--
Everyone spoke in a whole different vein than which way I'm about to go, because everyone talked about all of the great things that our wonderful aunt did in civil rights and education and many other things. But she was something a little different, you know, to us. I said-- I spoke at the funeral, which was a bit private, so I'm going to say a few of the things I shared there, I will share again, because this is a whole different crowd.
But one of the main things that I did share was she was our Aunt Dorothy. I did not really see who Aunt Dorothy was really to the world until I was-- I probably was in my 40s. And she came to Richmond, Virginia, where I'm from. And she was speaking there. And when she came to speak there, I was in awe because for the first time, I believe, I really listened with a different heart.
I heard her. I always heard her. She always talked to us about these things. We lived the civil rights movement, because if she's in this arena, we are in the arena with her. So when you live something, you don't really recognize the power or the impact that someone had on other people, on actually the world, because she was just Aunt Dorothy.
And when she spoke-- and I said this at the last one-- was she was in a room, if you all will totally hear me, with these Southern gentlemen on the Mason-Dixon line. And all of these good old boys was in the convention center to hear what this-- she never liked to call us black or African-American really. She liked to call us brown people.
And they were listening to this brown woman talk to them about the movement and singing her songs and just attentive. And when she finished speaking, I believe I saw her and her work in a new light-- not just as my aunt anymore. And these men, these southern gentlemen on the Mason-Dixon line, they gave her a standing ovation.
GWEN HINTON PERRY: They give her-- they gave her-- they wanted an encore because it was not enough. And when I tell you they did not stop, they just clapped and clapped and clapped and clapped. People were coming to me, and they were not of our persuasion. And they were saying to us, oh, wow. Your aunt. You knew-- they kept trying to come up to her and say-- ask her questions.
And I stepped in because I serve as an armor bearer in the ministry I'm in. And I went, she has to speak first. Let her get her thoughts together. And I just stood in front of her, because everyone wanted to bombard her. And I mean, I was watching this time. And they came up. They said, did you know of Fannie Lou and Hamer.
And she was like, know of them. They were my friends and I can tell you some real stories. And she began to tell back stories that were not in anybody's books--
That she knew of. So it was very interesting to me. But I say all that to say that the paper in Ithaca stated how I wrote that she was just our Dorothy. They left out one word. She was our Aunt Dorothy. They left out the aunt word, which meant a lot more than just our Dorothy, because she was your daughter, too. But she was our Aunt Dorothy. And she was hard on us, you guys.
She was an educator. And she never knew how to turn it off.
I told the story-- I told the story of-- she sent-- we have a cousin. She couldn't come this time. She came in June. And I told this story and I'm going to tell it again. Her name is Sanina, but we call her Nini. And she's like, why do you let them call you Nini? You have such a beautiful name. You know, and it was like, your name is Sanina.
So I will call her Sanina in this story. She wanted to send a letter to our wonderful Dorothy. And so she sent a letter to her wanting to just talk to her aunt. But what happened-- I hear the laughter already--
What happened was, Aunt Dorothy, being the wonderful educator she is, decided she wanted to correct this entire letter with a red pen. And return it to Sanina, because she needed to know that that was not correct. You have a lot of grammatical work that you need to do. But I'm gonna-- it's going to get better. Sanina got fired mad about this letter, because her point was, as I said before, I just want my Aunt Dorothy.
I didn't want the educator this time. I just wanted to talk to her. So this wonderful cousin of mine decided that she wanted to return a letter. But this time, she's going to be the educator. She wrote a one long two page run-on sentence.
No punctuation. No capital letters. She probably threw in a few misspelled words on purpose. And I guarantee you that Aunt Dorothy never corrected another one of her letters.
I sit there-- what makes me laugh the hardest is all I can imagine is Aunt Dorothy's face and what she had to say about this letter. But that was the thing I had to say, that I knew, we knew, from what she taught me was that Aunt Dorothy was going to be different from childhood. People that are different, I don't know what's a better word for it. I don't want to use the word eccentric, but they are different.
When you are going to be different and make a change in the world, you are not normal, whether you want to be normal or not. You are not normal. I am not normal.
AUDIENCE: Right, right!
GWEN HINTON PERRY: Oh, thank you for the vote of confidence.
But when you are not normal-- she's always wanted to make change. And I'm going to tell you another story I shared in June. Aunt Dorothy, she has four-- I mean, it was four of them. Three siblings. And they had to pick cotton in Goldsboro, North Carolina. And when you're picking cotton, It's hot. And we are poor. Don't have anything. So they drank out of the same water bottle. Everybody in the field had to share this same water bottle.
But not Aunt Dorothy. She said, that is unsanitary. So I will not drink after all of these people. So she walked to the watering hole, which was a nice long walk. But as a child, she didn't think it through. You got to walk back. And it's hot. And she had to walk back. But the point I'm making, that is she was for change even then. We need more water bottles. We need to have our own.
And if we don't have our own, I refuse to be the one to drink after everyone else, because it was just unsanitary. And that said to me she was different from the beginning. And if Aunt Dorothy was going somewhere, nothing stopped her. If she had a mind to go somewhere, nothing stopped her. And I'm saying there's not even that highway, when she missed her exit, where she was taking us on this long trip--
I couldn't go. I was a little too young for this trip-- and she said, oh, I missed my exit. The middle of the night, Aunt Dorothy stops the car and she backs down the highway--
To make that exit. And her niece is there-- their eyes were big as saucers. They were terrified. But guess what? She would not miss that exit. She's going to go and play to the beat of her own drum. But one thing I want to say is, she was hard on us. And my daughter once said, she said, I thought that Aunt Dorothy just was picking on us just to pick on us.
And she said, until I got older, which she's still only just 29-- but she said, I got older and I realized that she wanted better for us. Change does not just start in the community and she didn't just start with the community. She started with her family. And she always wanted us to have more and be better than what we were. But as youngsters, we don't understand that. We didn't understand at 13 when she wanted us to take a nap because she'd paid for an 11 o'clock luau for a 13-year-old.
And she said, you will not waste my money. You're gonna be woke at 11 o'clock, so you have to take a nap at 13. And then she has one aunt that's trying to save us from all of the stuff that she would make us do, like eating wheat germ. You remember that? And eating foods that we didn't want to eat. And she's trying to save us, and it's like, no. It was no saving us. I'm just going to say. It was no saving us.
So I say this to say that she always wanted more for us. She wanted better for us. She wanted us to be somebody. She never settled. I'm going to tell this story also. We were in a-- she told me this story. They were in a restaurant-- not myself, herself and her sisters-- and she wanted our mindsets to change. And one of her sisters saw this beautiful hotel that they were eating in that they wanted-- that Aunt Dorothy took them to.
Well, it was their sister Dorothy-- took them to. And one of the sisters says, wow, this is such a beautiful place. I would love to work here one day. Aunt Dorothy corrected her and says, why can't you aspire to own this one day?
Not work here. So her mindset was always over the top for her family. And it was hard for us sometimes, you guys, to understand where she was coming from. But as I got older, I began to understand where she was coming from, what she meant, what her goals were, even when she didn't go about it maybe the way we wanted her to go about it, she always had the right motives and right goals for us and in our lives.
And you know what? I'm speaking directly to the family now, because even though that was the way that she was, all of you have a piece of her in you-- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You have a piece of it. And sometimes I see some of the things that you do and I see her. Always have. And even though you were saying, no, I wasn't like that, yes, you are.
And I see my children in the back shaking their head saying, yes, they are, because that's-- they are-- so we all carry a piece of her into our lives. And we pass it on to our children, and the next children, and the next children. It'll go from generation to generation to generation, because it started with family. I have no notes. And I can go on and on and on talking about my Aunt Dorothy, but I can't.
I don't know if my 10 minutes is up, as I've had. But I tell you, there was this soft spot, part of Aunt Dorothy, where she said I'm her bed on my-- I visited as often as I could and we sat on the bed and she just held me and she sung a Barbra Streisand song. I don't even know the song. But the point was, she was telling me how much she loved me and how special I was to her. Those are memories I will always cherish about her. And how she carried that, herself, with family.
She loved us. She didn't want to miss a reunion. She wanted everybody to be well. She spoke often in Ithaca. The only-- she loved Ithaca. And she would say, I love it here. I only have one regret-- that it's so far away from my family. And I wish I could visit more. I wish they could visit more. And she said that to everybody because that's what she wanted.
So I'm going to end this to say that those pieces of Aunt Dorothy, when you see them and they show up in you, know that legacy lives within you and it will always live within you. And as long as we are here, she lives. And if we pass it on to our next child, they live. And if they pass it on to the next child, they live, just like it was told-- and I may be wrong because I'm not from the great motherland, but that's how stories got carried, as we tell.
So that's what I charge the family to do is to tell the next one. And I have my grand-baby here. Tell the grand-baby. We have five generations that's here today. I'm one. Then my mother is here. Then I'm here. My daughter is here. Her daughter is here. So that's-- and Aunt Dorothy makes the fifth generation and there's God.
I made it a point to fly my mother in from as far as-- she came in from Vancouver. And to fly her in, Vancouver, Washington to fly her in so that we can have these five generations represented here, because if we tell the story from person to person to person, she will never die. She will never die. We have to tell it over and over and over again. We don't want this to die. We want to make change, just like she made change.
And that's the only way we can do it. We have a goodly heritage. That's our motto for the Pelham family-- a goodly heritage, as well as a godly heritage. So keep God first, keep him first, and always remember your heritage and your legacy. Don't let it go. Don't let it die. Let it continue from generation to generation, because it could easily die. Don't do it. Don't let it die.
CAL WALKER: Thank you so very much Elder Hinton Perry. What a blessing it is for all of us to have heard directly from the family, sentiments and anecdotes that only you can share as family. As we prepare for a second video, I want to introduce the person that has produced it. And then he will come and take a minute or so to introduce it more completely. But I want to introduce him.
Dr. Clayborne Carson, selected in 1985 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King to edit and publish a multi-volume edition of the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Clayborne Carson is the King centennial Professor of History at Stanford University and Ronnie Lott Founding Director of the King Research and Education Institute, which serves as the home of the King paper's project.
Dr. Carson has edited numerous books based on King's papers, including the autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. and a memoir, Martin's Dream, My Journey, and the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Carson served as senior advisor for the PBS series Eyes on the Prize, parts one and two, and has participated in the making of numerous other documentaries, including Freedom on my Mind, nominated for an Oscar in 1995. Freedom Riders, Black Panther-- Vanguard of a Revolution--
The recently broadcast I am MLK Jr. and Have You Heard From Johannesburg? A multi-part documentary about the International Campaign against apartheid in South Africa. Dr. Carson's close relationship with Dorothy Cotton began when they were both affiliated with the King Center in Atlanta during the 1980s.
Dorothy visited the King Institute at Stanford on many occasions and Clay and his wife Susan hosted Dorothy in their Palo Alto home as she was finished working on her memoir, If Your Back's Not Bent. Dorothy later invited Clay to serve as National Adviser to the Dorothy Cotton Institute, which has brought him here today. Please welcome Dr. Clayborne Carson.
CLAYBORNE CARSON: Thank you for that kind introduction. I found that as I get older, the introduction gets longer.
But I actually, when I found out I was going to be on the program, I was somewhat embarrassed. And I mention that I felt that-- well, let's put it this way-- if you'd looked at the program, who would you want to be after on this program?
It's like being after to the "I Have a Dream" speech. No one wanted to follow that. But I think also I realize that there is this saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. And if you look in your program, they've already given me thousand words. It's right there for you to look at. So I've used them up. But I did bring a picture. And it's made up of all the images that I was able, when I heard about-- that this was going to happen.
I just went through my storehouse of everything I could find about all those times when Dorothy came and visited and I interviewed her in classrooms and had her talk to my students. And tried to bring all that together. And this was the result. So no more words. Here it is. Thank you.
[MUSIC - "THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE"]
SPEAKER 8: (SINGING) This little light of mine--
DOROTHY COTTON: I want you to know that people were in motion working to change an unjust system. I have to say that, because I find in too many places, people acting as though they're waiting for Martin Luther King back finish fixing the world.
A little white boy was riding down the street that I lived on. And I think I around 10 years old. And this little boy was singing, "Deep in the heart of Nigger-town." And I don't know if you all ever remember the song, "Deep in the Heart of Texas," is it? Deep in the Heart of-- well, he paraphrased it, this little boy. And I remember getting so angry and upset. I knew something was very, very wrong with that, but I-- what do you do? I'm 10 years old.
Right there, [INAUDIBLE] the third grade, didn't know [INAUDIBLE]. Mrs. Rosa Gray, my English teacher, when she took an interest in me, is the reason I moved out of that neighborhood, having been born in a little shack of a house with an outhouse in the back yard. It was because of my English teacher that took an interest in me.
My then husband and I in Petersburg, Virginia, where black folks could use a public library. There was a little cubby hole kind of place in the basement, like a place where they brought in the boxes of books or whatever. That's where black folks could go. So the minister of my church, Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker, was also the regional director of the NAACP.
And he said, we're gonna take this on, the fact that black folk couldn't use the public library. And I was very active in the church, the [INAUDIBLE] Baptist Church, at the time. And so I started working with Wyatt. We were walking with picket signs in front of the library and ultimately the Woolworth stores. And but of course, we had mass meetings every night.
Reverend Walker had met Martin Luther King at a conference at a college up in Richmond, Virginia, inviting this preacher from Montgomery to come to Petersburg because he heard-- he wanted to show him what we were doing with our little movement there to break down the barriers around the library and other public places.
He invited Reverend Walker to move to Atlanta and to work with him to build the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And Wyatt Tee Walker said, I will do that if the people who help me most here will come with me. So I said to my then husband, George Cotton, I think I'll go down to Atlanta and help them out for about six months. And I stayed 23 years--
Just became my life.
People were really energized and feeling that you're doing something really worthwhile is what everybody was going through, because we'd been sort of stewing in this place of-- I call it American style apartheid. And not knowing where to go and what to do with it and how to really make a difference. The work off the organization was-- actually, this also was an evolving kind of thing, because we looked around and it just became clear to us that we needed to work with certain segments of the population.
For example, we had someone in charge of working with ministers, for example. Fast-forward, we inherited that program, the Citizenship Training program. And Dr. King was talking to me, I'm clear now, that because he was looking for somebody, if we're gonna inherit this program, we need somebody to really focus on it. That's how-- Andrew Young came in, too, as the administrator of the program. And I became Director of Education.
And we had a fantastic workshop. Andrew Young and I-- and [INAUDIBLE], because we hired her. She worked with it when it was Highland. But we have this training site, a building owned by the Congregational Church at the time. And Andy Young, being a congregational preacher, and I think that's why we got that building.
But we would bring 40, 50 people to this building every single month. And they would stay with us for five days-- I learned much more about civics and civic education, helping these people who went to fourth and fifth-- but they were leaders in their community. These people in the center, this was the best program SCLC had. SCLC, the organization founded by Dr. King.
The best program that we had, because these were the people that spread out across the land, went back to their home towns, and those home towns were never the same again. First amendment, people have a right, King said, to assemble, to petition the government for redress of grievances.
They were there to understand what a citizen is. The most popular session, I say, was having those people discuss what a citizen is. And before they left at the end of the week, they were understanding that the 14th Amendment says all persons born and naturalized into the United States are citizens of the United States. And therefore, no state can abridge, can take away your privileges.
And for five days, we struggled with that. And when they left at the end of the week, they were no longer singing the old sorrow songs, like-- (SINGING) "I've been in the storm so long, I've been in the storm so long, children. Give me your [INAUDIBLE]." By the end of the week, they were singing-- (SINGING) "I'm gonna do what the spirit says do, what the spirit says do, I'm gonna do, oh Lord. I'm gonna do what the-- I'm gonna vote when the spirit says vote."
INTERVIEWER: So you were telling us about this incident in Birmingham when you and other members of the SCLC staff were faced with a difficult decision.
DOROTHY COTTON: It was whether or not we, Dr. King and his team, and there were local people there as well, not just staff people, friends of Martin's, we were debating whether Dr. King should go over to 16th Street Church, because the church was filled with people, as I've said, waiting for Dr. King to come to lead them on a march through town.
And while we, his team, while we were debating whether he should do that, go lead them or go north, where I think it was Harry Belafonte, who was ready to take Martin to some funders who were going to give us money to continue the civil rights movement. Dr. King never said a word. We used to sing a song-- (SINGING) "And he never said a mumbling word."
That was a song talking about the great spiritual teacher, Jesus. When Martin went into his suite, he came out with clothes I never saw him wore-- I never saw him wear such clothes before. But he had on jeans. We call them dungarees when I was a child.
And we knew that his decision was made. We all stood up. And now tears were rolling down my cheeks and down the cheeks of us in that circle. It must have been at least 15 or more of us in that room. And the tears were rolling because we knew Dr. King had made his decision. He was going to go over to the 16th Street Church and march out with that large crowd of people waiting for him to come and lead them out of the church on a march through the town there in Birmingham.
We stood in a circle, crossed our right hand over the left, and started singing, "We Shall Overcome" in this big, quite a large circle of people. And as we sang, "We Shall Overcome," we didn't have to ask Martin what his decision was. We knew. And when we finished singing in this circle, hands crossed, our theme song, Martin headed out the door.
And we headed out behind him to head to the church, where he would lead this crowd of people out. And before he could get to the church, a policeman grabbed him in the back of his trousers and he was, indeed, arrested.
I took a group of youngsters to the beach in St. Augustine, Florida. And the first group of children that I took were running back down a little path you had to go through to get to the actual beach. And I'm bringing a second carload. And they said, Ms. Cotton, Ms. Cotton, there's some men back there who said they were gonna beat us up if you all come onto this beach.
And what I remember is that I grabbed the hands of two of the children in the second group and I went walking with great resolve to go to the beach. And people asked me, like how did you do that? And did you ever read stories like people being able to do things like lifting a car off of somebody?
So you don't know you have that kind of strength, but something happens and like, you do it, because I didn't analyze, you know, I didn't think about fear, because people ask right away, were you afraid? I don't know. But I do know that I was determined to go through that path to the beach with the second group of children.
CROWD: (SINGING) When the spirit moves, I'm gonna do what for. I'm gonna do what the spirit will do.
DOROTHY COTTON: I think he was in the hospital when the word came that he had gotten the Nobel Peace Prize. You know, it was a really big moment. And I had the privilege of going with him to Oslo, Norway, as about 20 other people. It was just a very celebratory time. I remember I had this fantastic maroon velvet outfit made, hat and all.
And I could talk about getting to Oslo and, you know, the ceremony and how it felt when we walked in the auditorium and the orchestra started playing music that you all never hear. (SINGING) "Summertime and the living is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high."
CROWD: (SINGING) I'm gonna do what the spirit says go. I'm gonna work when the spirit says work. I'm gonna work when the spirit--
DOROTHY COTTON: Martin had a great sense of humor. And we were on our way to a meeting, four of us in the car. And I'm not sure who was driving, but I was sitting on the front seat next to-- it might have been Andrew Young, but we two were on the front seat and Martin was on the back seat with someone else. But the radio was on.
And we didn't play disks so much in those days. But we were listening to-- oh, who was sing. "Until the 12th of never, that's a long, long time." I've written about that. And but Martin on the back seat, me on on the front. He leaned over, touched me on the shoulder, and Dorothy, he's just singing. He said the 12th of never. How long is the 12th of never?
When is it? And all I could do, I turned my head just a little ways and I said, well, Martin, it's a long, long time. The 12th of never is a long, long time. And he laughed and I laughed and we all laughed. But he was a real funny guy, and a fun guy to be with. But in a moment, when he needed to put on his marching clothes and his speaking voice, his convincing voice, he could get into that moment, into that character, that part of him, that part of his being-- instantly he could get into it.
I want people to know Martin as a person. And he was my best friend. And Andrew's best friend. And Wyatt Walker's best friend. And the three of us were-- one of us was always with him.
CROWD: (SINGING) Do what the spirit will do. I'm gonna work if the spirit says work. I'm gonna work if the spirit says work. If the spirit says work, I'm gonna work. I'm gonna work if the spirit says work. I'm gonna pray if the spirit says pray. I'm gonna pray when the spirit says pray. When the spirit says pray, I'm gonna pray all day. I'm gonna pray when the spirit says pray. I'm gonna clap when the spirit says clap.
I'm gonna clap when the spirit says clap. Sounds like Freedom. When the spirit says clap, I'm gonna clap, oh Lord, I'm gonna clap when the spirit says clap. I'm gonna mark when the spirit says march. I'm gonna march when the spirit says march. When the spirit says march, I'm gonna march, oh Lord, I'm gonna march when the--
DOROTHY COTTON: Think of yourself as someone who can change a situation. And that's what happened in these workshops. So now the DCI, the Dorothy Cotton Institute, we are looking at citizenship education for the 21st century-- for now. The challenges are different, but that's the first thing that we do in the workshops is help people identify what's not working right now.
What's wrong with our school system? Why are so many children dropping out of school? And you know, we have some really glaring challenges facing us. Helping people identify what's not working right, but before they leave, they are dealing with this question, what can I do about it? Rather than saying somebody ought to do something about it. They discover that they are somebody.
CROWD: (SINGING) When the spirit says go. We're gonna go when the spirit says go. When the spirit says go, we're gonna go, oh Lord, we're gonna go when the spirit says go. I'm gonna yell when the spirit says yell. I'm gonna yell when the spirit says yell. When the spirit says yell, I'm gonna yell, oh Lord, I'm gonna yell when the spirit says yell. Let's pray. I'm gonna pray when the spirit says pray. I'm gonna pray when the spirit says pray. When the spirit says pray--
DOROTHY COTTON: I'm fascinated by the nonviolent approach to healing. And I think that if we can hold the goal of living in the world where nobody is hostile to any other group, I have to continue to hold that view. I don't like to think of anything as impossible. People told Mahatma Gandhi it was impossible. People told Martin Luther King it was impossible. You will never have black folk and white folk in Mississippi going to the same school. You will never. But hey, look what we did.
(SINGING) I'm gonna sing if the spirit says sing. If the spirit says sing, I'm gonna sing, oh Lord, I'm gonna sing if the spirit says sing. I'm gonna do what the spirit says go. I'm gonna do what the spirit says do. What the spirit says do, I'm gonna do, oh Lord, I'm gonna do what the spirit says do. I'm gonna pray if the spirit says pray. I'm gonna pray if the spirit says--
SPEAKER 9: (SINGING) Oh, oh, freedom. Oh, freedom. Oh, freedom. Oh, free. And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave. Go home to my Lord and be free.
No more mourning over me. And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave. Go home to my Lord and be free.
KIRBY EDMONDS: So we had planned to show another video, but how much of it you have just seen. So we don't need to see it again. My name is Kirby Edmonds. I'm Senior Fellow and Program Coordinator with the Dorothy Cotton Institute. I just want to say that we at the Institute recognize and take on willingly the responsibility of continuing the legacy of Dorothy Cotton and her life's work.
So I want to spend a little minute on remembering her part. Toward that end, we've begun planning a full length documentary of Dorothy and the Citizenship Education Program and its impact. We've nominated her to be inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
And we'll continue to nominate her until she takes her rightful place alongside the other women who've been honored there.
We're a partner along with the History Center of Tompkins County, the Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Community Arts Partnership, Wharton Studio, Historic Ithaca, the Discovery Trail, and the Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation in the new Tompkins Center for History and Culture where, when it opens, we will have many opportunities to honor Dorothy and her work and to highlight social justice struggles locally, nationally, and around the world.
And of course, we will be honoring her at our December 6th DCI gala. And now we're going to repeat a lot of what you've heard in a little bit different way. The true honoring of her legacy is not in promoting Dorothy herself, but in continuing the work she devoted her life to-- ending oppression everywhere, ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights for everyone, and bringing about a beloved community.
Well, that's work that we take on willingly. We understand that it's not work we take on alone. Every day each one of you makes decisions and choices about how you live your life. Every action each one of us takes or chooses not to take makes a difference. I call on each of you to commit today to be a champion of Dorothy's legacy.
If you're not registered to vote, then register to vote.
And after you register, then vote. Urge your children when they become of age to register and to vote. Urge your neighbors to register and to vote. These are simple actions you can take. Now on the back of your program, there's a quote from Dorothy. She said that the most powerful lesson of the citizenship education program is that change is possible. And with that in our mind, we should be hopeful.
I think it's actually more accurate to say that change is inevitable. And it's up to each and every one of us through our actions every day to determine what that change will look like-- how we treat our family and our children, how we treat our neighbors, how we take responsibility for our communities. Will we choose chaos and, like fools, bring about our own destruction? Or will we choose beloved community and create a better world?
The choice is for each of us to make. I choose beloved community. And I trust that each of you will choose beloved community. That is the most important and powerful way to honor Dorothy and her legacy. Thank you.
CAL WALKER: Thank you very much, Kirby. As we move to a close to what has been a glorious celebration, and as the choir transitions back to the risers to bless us with another of his phenomenal songs, we're going to have some acknowledgments and some appreciations. Ms. Mimi Melegrito.
MIMI MELEGRITO: Today our hearts are filled with abundant joy and endless gratitude for what you were, what you had been, and what you are to our friend Dorothy-- a beautiful friend who gently, boldly, and magnificently came into our lives. And not only did she leave her foot prints in our hearts, but she left her hand prints and soul prints in our lives.
So there are many people, organizations, and businesses we want to thank. But I'd like to start with the family and Aloja will do the businesses. It's wonderful to have our family with us. And they all came from many places in the country. We have families coming from-- I'm going to name them all. Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, Raleigh, Warrenton, Virginia, Vancouver, Washington, Richmond, Virginia, Goldsboro, North Carolina, Knightdale, North Carolina. Did I miss any?
I named them all. That's great. Oh, thank you so much for being part of our celebration and we thank you for being our family.
ALOJA AIREWELE: I really do want to say thank you very much to the Office of the President of Cornell University, the Office of the President of Ithaca College, of course, [INAUDIBLE], that is well-represented here by the president, Ambassador Andrew Young, Professor Clayborne Carson, if he's still somewhere in that crowd. And our good friend, Tavis Smiley, Center for Transformative Action here in Ithaca.
African Studies and Research Center here in Africana-- No, the African Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell. John Henry Clarke African Library at Cornell University. The Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, with our good friend Dr. Baruch Whitehead. The Dorothy Cotton Institute and Laura and Kirby are here. And Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.
I'm almost tempted to call them Tom and Jerry, but I know that--
I'm not going to say that.
MIMI MELEGRITO: Wegmans.
ALOJA AIREWELE: And of course, our good friend Wegmans.
MIMI MELEGRITO: Why would we forget Wegmans?
And lastly we'd like to thank the Planning Committee for the funeral events, the celebration of life and legacy. There are so many people. And I hope that I won't miss any name, but starting with this beautiful person Aloja and Peyi.
You know, I was always with Dorothy, but when Aloja came into her life, she kind of put me aside.
No, I'm just kidding. Then we have Jared and Bonnie Harrison from Elmira. Thank you.
Elizabeth Edmondson. Eric Acree from the Africana. Cal Walker. Kirby Edmonds, Laura Branka. Anke Wessels. Ken Clarke. And of course, that tall, dark handsome Baruch Whitehead. Jack Roscoe and Kat Lynch. [? Triva Lavine, ?] Judy Stock. Donna [? Panessi. ?] And forgive me if I misname, but these are all members of the Planning Committee. Thank you so much.
ALOJA AIREWELE: Thank you. Thank you.
[MUSIC - DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS, "FAITHFUL OVER A FEW THINGS"]
DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS: (SINGING) You must be faithful over a few things to be ruler over many things. Be now faithful unto death and God will give you a crown of life. And god will give you a crown of life. You must be faithful over a few things to be ruler over many things. Be now faithful unto death and God will give you a crown of life. And God will give you a crown of life.
If you have a song to sing, faithfully sing that song. If you have some love to show, show it the whole day long. If you have a kind word to say, try to say it each and every day. If you have a prayer to pray, pray on in Jesus' name. Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of God.
Know that your labor is not in vain. You shall receive a just reward. Be thou faithful and God will give you a crown of life. And God will give you a crown of life. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. Well done, well done, well done. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Now good faithful servant, well done. Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. Be thou faithful and God will give you a crown of life. And God will give you a crown of life.
CAL WALKER: The Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers. Now what a rousing and fitting way to bring to conclusion what has been a joyous, glorious, and uplifting celebration service. Now let me just say, after having heard that song, if you normally get up on a Sunday morning and go to a place of worship, you don't get a pass because of this.
You still need to get up and go. I'm just saying. Now let me say this-- Ben and Jerry's was mentioned. And I want to say that many of you know that Ben and Jerry's is one of the most progressive and human rights focused corporations probably in the world. And we have a local connection in the person of Mr. Jeff Furman, who is a very long time--
He's a long-time advocate and activists in this community, in this state, in this region, and literally around the world. And one of the reasons that Ben and Jerry's has remained such a human rights focused company, even though they were sold to Unilever, is because John Furman has been the president of the board for many, many years and has insisted and guided and directed to make sure that that company remains true to its founding values.
And because of Jeff's generosity and many of our love for ice cream, Jeff has arranged to have one of the nearby Ben and Jerry's stores be out on the plaza right in front of Bailey Hall. And as you leave, you will get complimentary ice cream. Thank you, Jeff. Thank you all for coming. What a glorious celebration. And the Jubilee Singers will sing us out with a song called "Anticipation," which I absolutely love, which will serve as our recessional. Thank you all.
[MUSIC - DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS, "ANTICIPATION"]
DOROTHY COTTON JUBILEE SINGERS: (SINGING) Can't wait to see him, look upon his face. Bow down before him, thank him for his grace. Shake hands with the elders, the twenty and the four, say hello to my loved ones who'd gone on before. Can't wait to see him, look upon his face. Bow down before him and thank him for his grace.
Shake hands with the elders, the twenty and the four. Say hello to my loved ones who have gone on before. Jesus is preparing a place just for me. If you want to see me, in heaven I will be.
Time will be my friend, day will never end. Summer, winter, spring, or fall, won't have to come at all. Hope to see you there where all the saints will be. Oh. Come and go with me. Oh, come and go with me.
Time will be my friend, day will never end. Summer, winter, spring, or fall, won't have to come at all. Hope to see you there where all the saints will be. Oh. Come and go with me. Oh. Come and go with me.
Time will be my friend, day will never end. Summer, winter, spring, or fall, won't have to come at all. Hope to see you there, where all the saints will be. Oh. Come and go with me. Oh. Come and go with me.
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The celebration of the life and legacy of Dorothy Foreman Cotton Aug. 11, 2018 in Bailey Hall provided highlights of her life as a civil rights pioneer, educator and community organizer and called on participants to keep her legacy alive. Attending were representatives from five generations of Cotton family members and about 700 local and national leaders, friends and community members.
A close colleague of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Cotton was the highest-ranking woman in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s, where she led the group’s Citizenship Education Program, teaching literacy, citizenship and the tactics of nonviolent protest. A role model for women, she served as director of student activities at Cornell from 1982 to 1991. She subsequently led seminars and workshops on leadership development and social change, and published a memoir in 2012. She died June 10 in Ithaca at age 88.