In today’s socio-political moment of racial reckoning, many institutions are honoring pioneers of racial justice. USF’s Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice has made this effort, awarding former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young with the inaugural Dr. Clarence B. Jones Award for Kingian Nonviolence at the “Let Freedom Ring” event Feb 9.
The award was presented in recognition of Young’s “lifelong dedicated service to humanity through the disciplined, heroic practice of nonviolence alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in furtherance of the Beloved Community Dr. King envisioned,” according to a press release.
The award’s namesake, Clarence Jones, is the recently retired inaugural director of the Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice. Jones also served as a trusted legal adviser to King during the peak of the civil rights movement. He contributed to landmark legal cases like New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan, which involved the first amendment, and helped draft King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. Jones was an integral part of the general counsel for the Gandhi Society of Human Rights, a fundraising branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and also worked on the legal defense team of the SCLC.
The conversation portion of the event began with moderator, Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, vice provost for diversity engagement and community outreach at USF, singing the hymnal, “I Woke Up This Morning With My Mind,” a signature song of the civil rights movement, with Young and Jones. This set the tone for a conversation about the intersection of nonviolence and spirituality present in Young and King’s work alike.
Young was honored for his numerous life accomplishments, spanning several decades. As a senior aide to King and executive director of the SCLC during the ‘60s, Young advocated for racial and economic equity, provided logistical support for numerous demonstrations, and helped draft famous legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the 1970s, Young entered the political stage, becoming the first Black congressional representative from Georgia since the Reconstruction Era.
Jonathan Greenberg, director of the Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, who presented the award at the event, said of Young that, as a Congressman and Ambassador, he “showed us the power of human rights, the power of internationalism, the power of faith, prayer, and the journey of nonviolence as a deep, spiritual practice — the contribution made to freedom, justice, and equality is immeasurable.”
After serving the nation as an ambassador, Young continued his advocacy work as mayor of Atlanta, bringing the city international prestige and recognition. Additionally, in 2011, he received an Emmy award for Lifetime Achievement. Today, Young is on the board of many foundations and is the co-founder of GoodWorks International, a consulting group focused on facilitating economic development in the Caribbean and Africa.
The award presentation also included a panel discussion; a conversation between Young, Jones, Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, and Greenberg.
Having lived through the civil rights movement and the Black Lives Matter movement, Jones and Young reflected on the influence that technology has had on developing social movements. “[With the civil rights movement,] you had a tidal wave of success and consciousness very similar to Black Lives Matter, only we weren’t as big and we didn’t have cell phones,” Young said. “I’ve often speculated of what the power of our organizational abilities — how they would’ve been magnified — if we had laptops and cell phones,” Jones added.
Despite the separate paths Young and Jones have taken since, their lives overlapped during the civil rights movement. “Dr. King, and Clarence Jones, and Andrew Young practiced militant nonviolence to successfully end Jim Crow apartheid that was a revolution in our country. And [it is] our job is to follow them because the evils that Dr. King identified: racism, poverty, extreme inequality economically, militarism, and pervasive violence remain intractable and we have to find a way out,” Greenberg said during the ceremony.
Greenberg continued by explaining why Young is an inspiration to him and others. “One of the books that was written by Andrew Young is ‘A Way Out of No Way’ and you get to the place where the problems are intractable. We don’t see the way. How do we get out? How do we find the way out of no way?” Greenberg asked the audience at home. “Ambassador Young’s life and his work has shown that when you get to the point of crisis, failure, frustration, and there’s no way out — somehow through prayer, through faith, and through disciplined organized nonviolence — a way emerges. So our job is to learn from them because Dr. King’s warning remains true today: the choice is not violence or nonviolence, the choice is between nonviolence and nonexistence.”
One viewer of the award ceremony said they felt “filled with gratitude” by the event in the comments of the Zoom webinar.
Young said that he has, “seen the movement of the Holy Spirit through the academic institutions changing the world almost everywhere,” and it appears as if USF is no exception.
Maggie Aldrich is an English major and staff writer at the Foghorn. She has previously covered campus life and sports. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.