Authors: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
This morning the world lost an unwavering champion of justice and freedom.
Dr. Dorothy Height, eulogized as "the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement" by President Obama, passed away at the age of 98 after a lifetime of courageously fighting for equality for women and people of color in the United States.
After being turned away from Barnard College in 1929 for exceeding their quota of two black women per class, Dr. Height went on to get a masters degree at New York University and work for the New York City Department of Welfare.
In the nineteen forties and fifties she got involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and went on to lead the National Council of Negro Women for forty years.
Dr. Height became the only woman to enter the highest level of leadership in the Civil Rights Movement, meeting and organizing as a peer with Dr. King, James Farmer, A. Phillip Randolph and others.
Representative John Lewis reflected today, "Long before some of the younger activists in the movement came to the forefront, like Dr. King and I, she was out there educating and empowering women, children and families in the South."
Dr. Height was a remarkable pioneer for African American women, and for anyone who strives to create a brighter future for all. Leading with love and understanding, she focused on solutions and bridge building, rather than bitterness and despair.
In 1964 Dr. Height organized "Wednesdays in Mississippi," in which black and white women from the North and South met in Mississippi to combat segregation and build alliances. Dr. Height called this, “women’s work…the work of making connections and building community.”
This is the work we continue today, as we build a 21st century movement for equality, justice, and opportunity for all.
Our movement for an inclusive green economy, strong enough to lift people out of poverty and end the climate crisis, requires the same commitment to solutions, love, fierceness, and the ultimate goals of justice, equality, and freedom to which Dr. Height dedicated her life.
I had the honor and privilege of meeting Dr. Height at the White House last year, at the launch of the Green The Block campaign. It was a transformative moment for Green For All to have the woman who shared the platform with Dr. King as he gave his "I have a Dream speech," the woman who embodied all that the Civil Rights Movement made possible, give her blessing to our work. Her presence and words of support were an overwhelming affirmation of our significance and purpose. It was an arresting reminder of all we owe to our elders, and to future generations.
I am at once proud and humbled to follow in Dr. Height's footsteps, knowing that without her paving the way, my road would be that much harder to walk, and without her shining her light, it would be that much harder to see the way forward.