The SCLC

Let me be up front.  I believe in activism but I also believe we need institutions.  Continuity, resources and expertise matter.  Defund and thin the ranks at OSHA – you get mining disasters.  Let rating agencies become industry lap dogs – you set the stage for the Great Recession.

This story about Rev. Markel Hutchins, who ran for congress in 2008,   and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) made me very sad.   (h/t the Atlanta Journal Constitution and What About Our Daughters?)  It can days to destroy what it took decades to build. (Dr.

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The Atlanta activist’s () marching orders were pretty specific from the two Dayton, Ohio, men trying to keep their grip on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, according to court testimony Tuesday. Take over the SCLC headquarters building “by any means necessary.”

The Rev. Markel Hutchins, by then claiming he was interim SCLC president, allegedly moved swiftly. On the witness stand Tuesday, he was asked if he cut off the power to the Auburn Avenue building, welded the back door shut and padlocked the gates in one of the more dramatic steps in the months-long fight for control of the once-premier civil rights group.

When asked Tuesday about that night several days following his May 11 appointment, Hutchins said, “I am forced and have very little choice, at this moment, to invoke my Fifth Amendment rights.”

He also gave that answer to questions about bringing a locksmith to the offices after 9 p.m. on May 17. And that was his answer to questions about cutting the power and about disabling the alarm system at the two-story headquarters.

Hutchins did respond, however, when attorney Charles Mathis asked if he took anything from the SCLC office.

“I have never, ever removed any item at any time from the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” Hutchins said.

Tuesday was the fourth day Fulton Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey had heard testimony in the legal struggle over who is — and who is not — in key leadership positions and on the board of directors for the SCLC.

The Rev. Bernice King, the youngest child of SCLC co-founder the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has not assumed her elected role as president of the group. She wants to wait until the turmoil has been resolved, according to testimony last week.

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Don’t get paranoid.  African Americans aren’ t the only ones who pull these kind of stunts.  Remember the wrangling at Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital bed.  At the same time, the hubris, possible mental instability and institutional impotence that seem to be at play at the SCLC force questions about the viability of black leadership:  old school and young turk alike.

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About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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