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Remembering Ivory Lee Young, Jr.

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This last Saturday, December 1st, 2018 I joined hundreds of others at the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel in celebrating the Life, Legacy and Spirit of The Honorable Ivory Lee Young Jr.  Dozens took voice to share their experiences of this remarkable man, including two former Atlanta mayors, Ambassador Andrew Young and Kasim Reed, current Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the United States Congress most notable representative of civil justice, U.S. Representative John Lewis.  A letter was also read from American’s first African American President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama.

Ivory’s family gave moving and deeply emotional tribute, beloved tribute, as Ivory laid in state in the Chapel’s whose mission “is to teach, encourage, inspire and support the development of everyone we touch as ambassadors of peace for the Beloved World Community.”

As the coffin was closed during the celebration ceremony, we were reminded by the pastors that Ivory’s spirit had already risen in a new kingdom.  As I heard this, and look at the now closed coffin, I imagined a celestial hand opening it and Ivory rising to step into his new neighborhood. And I imagined who might be among the first to greet Ivory in this eternal community.  Ivory represented Atlanta City Council District 3 since 2001. He was a resident of choice in Historic Vine City. And I thought that some to first welcome him might some of his neighbors from Vine City, such as:

Alonzo Herndon (1858-1927), the founder of Atlanta Life and Atlanta’s first African-American millionaire, a truly remarkable feat who you consider this was achieved shortly after the end of the Civil War. He built his home at 587 University Place in Historic Vine City between 1908-1910 that is operated as a museum today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Q.V. Williamson (1918-1985), who was elected in 1965 to the City of Atlanta Board of Aldermen, which preceded the Atlanta City Council. He was the first black member of the board since Reconstruction.

Dorothy Lee Bolden (1923–2005), the founder of the National Domestic Worker’s Union of America and champion of women’s rights.  

And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose home at 234 Sunset is just a short walk from Ivory’s home on Griffin Street in Historic Vine City.

I can hear in my mind these remarkable leaders saying, “welcome neighbor,” and Ivory greeting them with his huge, bright smile.  “Welcome to your new neighborhood.”

I am grateful to Ivory Lee Young, Jr.  As the newly announced Executive Director of the Westside Future Fund in 2016, Ivory extended to me his hard-earned credibility in Vine City and English Avenue.  He could have taken a more cautious stance, waited to see how I proved myself. But he didn’t do that. He extended his trust, he extended his knowledge, he extended his political capital, he extended his friendship.  

As so many of his neighbors before him in Vine City, Ivory strived to build the “Beloved Community.”  And the what of his efforts is the progress of affordable housing, parks, improved public safety and job-training in Vine City and his District.  But Ivory understood more important than the what is the how.

To quote from Dr. King:

“But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. The type of love that I stress here is not eros, a sort of esthetic or romantic love; not philia, a sort of reciprocal love between personal friends; but it is agape which is understanding goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in the lives of men. This is the love that may well be the salvation of our civilization” (The Role of the Church in Facing the Nation’s Chief Moral Dilemma, 1957).

And I felt this agape love from Ivory Lee Young, Jr and I saw it at work.  Thank you, Ivory Lee Young, Jr. Thank you. Thank you for giving me this love.  And I love you too.

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