The Struggle for Civil Rights Begins with Inclusivity

The Struggle for Civil Rights Begins with Inclusivity

When Did Civil Rights Start?


By Heyward Watson


In January, the United States honors its Civil Rights history and celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr, the modern Father of Civil Rights.


Honoring civil rights for all people is an important concept built on a culture of inclusivity championed by MLK Jr. and leaders in the nonprofit sector throughout the generations. But when did civil rights get started?


The Origins of Civil Rights in the U.S.


As far back as 1662, laws were established on the concept of Civil Status (as it was called during the early years of settlements), which recognized slavery “as a hereditary, lifelong condition.”As stated by Thirteen Media, “There were objections to the legal subjugation of Africans before the American Revolution and in 1773 to 1774 Massachusetts slaves saw an opportunity to fight for their independence”.


The Civil Rights struggles experienced today by people of color, women, LGBQT+, people with disabilities, immigrants, and those seeking religious freedom mirror what Africans brought to the early colonies of the United States experienced.


All have one thing in common. They wanted to be included in the six goals of the Constitution of the United States of America – without restrictions. This means that the concept of inclusivity for all has been growing for over 400 years.


Martin Luther King Jr. was able to bring the plight of Black people to the forefront with the concept of love which is in his quote, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” MLK articulated the type of culture that Black people wanted for their lives.


A Culture of Inclusivity


At Third Sector Company we encourage board leaders, staff, and interim professionals to consider what type of culture they want in their community impact organizations. Hopefully, a culture that mirrors their respective values and cause (mission) for the existence of their organization, as well as on with a culture of inclusivity.


I know that cultural inclusivity is complex and requires people to think about their individual and collective roles in creating inclusive cultures that allow all to contribute with dignity and honor.


That’s why we are hosting two special roundtables (Board Chairs Roundtable on January 28 and Interim Executives Roundtable on February 25) to create a safe space to talk with peers to increase understanding, participate in group problem-solving and discuss advancing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in board and interim executive leadership roles.


I invite you to join my colleague Tricia Lazzar and myself at these roundtables, but we do not embark on these conversations lightly. With the words of an MLK. Jr. in mind, “Rarely do we find men and women who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”


The roundtables will host open, honest, and potentially uncomfortable conversations but we strive for all voices to be included. Inclusivity and the struggle for civil rights are honored this month and in our own efforts to advance equity another  MLK, Jr. quote comes to me mind, “Even though we face the difficulties to today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”


Heyward Watson
Senior Strategist – Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Third Sector Company, Inc.


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Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

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