WELCOME REMARKS FOR THE BLACK MUSLIM ATLANTIC SYMPOSIUM
given by Lucy Cook Lincoln
January 31, 2020
What an honor given me to greet you. What a miracle for me to be present and on time at this hour in the morning at this age stage. What a marvelous occasion that draws us together in this brand new inviting Ruby Art Center. What an ingenious idea envisioned by Iman Waheed, Dr. McLarney and Brother Joshua Salaam to launch such an educational symposium. What an inspirational climate created by the gathering of such distinguished professionals. What a tribute this is honoring the Legacy of C. Eric Lincoln! How did this all come about?
It was 60 years ago in 1959 when a senior student in C. Eric’s class at the then Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia submitted a term paper on the Local Muslim Presence. The professor was challenged by his student’s statement: “The Christian religion is incompatible with the Negro’s aspiration for dignity and equality in America. It has hindered where it might have helped; it has been evasive when it was morally bound to be forthright; has separated believers on the basis of color although it has declared its mission to be a universal brotherhood under Jesus Christ. Christian love is the white man’s love for himself and for his race. For the man who is not white, Islam is the hope for justice and equality in the world we must build tomorrow.”¹ The young professor, already an ordained elder in the Methodist Church, was shaken and instantly moved toward research to rebuke or validate such a statement. “Black Muslims in America” was then conceived as a thesis for a doctoral dissertation at Boston University. C. Eric navigated the Muslim Communities and received unlimited access and support from both the National and Local Leaders. Two years later in 1961, Beacon Press released his first edition of The Black Muslim in America.
Personally, I have not witnessed any such diverse open climate or open forums before or since the 1952-1962 decade in cities like Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta. Prominent figures engaged in the conversations: Cardinal Cushion of the Catholic diocese, Howard Thurman, Dean of the chapel at Boston University, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., C. Eric Lincoln, John Hurst Adams, The Honorable Elijah Mohammed with his son Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed and then mentee Minister Louis Farrakhan to name only a few. One could not miss the different philosophical strands however most times disagreement was voiced with mutual respect. Bonds were formed that lasted a life time. It was like family! During the later Muslim Leadership of Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed, inclusiveness became the order of the day. Now that era is a topic for another symposium.
A brief count of recognitions between then and now that honors C. Eric are: the numerous books and publications currently available; a C. Eric Lincoln Collection at the Woodruff Regional Library in Atlanta with digitals now boasting to be highly used for American Muslim Research; an endowed Lecture and Scholarship at Clark/Atlanta University now in its 38th year and given to be recorded in the Congressional Records by then Tennessee Senator Harold Ford. A community generated monument is now in the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park in Athens, Alabama with an accompanying Pincham-Lincoln Community Center for after school, back to work initiatives, tutorials and volunteer programs. This public park is maintained by the City of Athens while the center is supported by Athens-Limestone 501C Community Association.
Here at Duke, I have attended several Interfaith Conversation Events in Goodson Chapel, the annual Humanitarian Award Ceremony and the annual Duke University Chapel Art Fellows’ Exhibit under the programming of Duke’s C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student engagement Joshua Lazzard. My daughter-in-law, Lauren Shields, a recently ordained Minister in the United Church of Christ has also added to the conversation with her thesis at Emory’s Candler School of Theology. The Beauty Suit, recently published by Beacon Press, addresses the relationship between covering dress and women empowerment. Acknowledging the street language, it has been a useful tool in her Living Room Ministry. My daughter Hilary Anne, here with me today, was employed by C. Eric in his declining years and privileged to capture his insights and writing style. I have yet to convince her to release any of her own writings for publication.
Now here we are today for an Instructional Symposium! Your provided reading list will occupy most of my time for the next two or three years. I will confess that I scanned the notes to see how often C. Eric was referenced. I also marveled over the number of artistic genres we will sample today. Now just imagine my standing on this symbolic bridge passing a lighted torch from those who are no longer with us to you who are eagerly awaiting my closure that you might share the gifts you have brought to present. Our minds cleared, our eyes focused; and our ears are open ready to hear! Welcome to your Symposium!
¹ C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America: (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961) Preface lll.