The Lion’s Roar Still Rings Out “It shows how much one individual can do to change lives and societies for the better … He was
“It shows how much one individual can do to change lives and societies for the better … He was known and respected throughout the world for the bold and innovative role he played in the global campaign to dismantle the system of apartheid in South Africa.”
Kofin Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Being treated this way and seeing other minorities treated poorly was nothing new to the future civil rights activist having grown up in West Virginia in the 20s and 30s. After all, at an early age, he was refused a Coke because he was black and tried to sit at a drugstore counter.
Being black and a US citizen, having something as basic as a cold beverage denied to you comes as no surprise. Even now in 2020, just exchange the word “Coke” for education, adequate health care, above-poverty level pay, accessible housing, or food security and you’ll see the story remains unchanged.
Earning the nickname “The Lion of Zion”, he fought these societal shames from his post as pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia. His work was so fundamental to the rewriting of the black experience in the city and abroad that the city dedicated a portion of north Broad St to him. Armed with the influence that came with being on the Board of Directors at General Motors, he fulfilled the promise he made half-naked in a South African airport to take aim at the Afrikaan-led institution. It is here, in this state of systemic inequities, that organizations like Called to Serve carry on the mantle of Sullivan’s legacy.
The dismantling of injustices like apartheid and creation of economies that work for all do not happen without the concerted efforts of many. Sullivan galvanized multinational corporations and governments around the world against those that sought to dehumanize. Similarly, Called to Serve draws on its relationships with local organizations and officials to renew our community into one that is resilient, inclusive, and Beloved.
In his book “Build, Brother, Build”, Rev. Sullivan surmises that this mission of leveling the playing field was simply an extension of a ministry that spanned nearly 60 years. “They (The 10-36 plan, OIC, and the Selective Patronage initiative) represent for me the transition of my ministry into concrete, living terms. The inspiration for the work came out of the Bible, and the motivation for doing the things done have come out of the desire – perhaps the bedside of a dying grandmother – to do something to help African Americans rise.” One could not have said it better.