Newsroom / Racial Reconciliation

Angela Project honors Little Rock pastor to commemorate 60th anniversary of Central High School desegregation

September 19, 2017

By Aaron Weaver

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship pastor was honored September 11 at a summit focused on racial justice to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and to honor the Little Rock 9, the nine black students who bravely attempted to start classes at the all-white school on September 4, 1957.

Dr. Kevin Cosby (left) present Rev. Wendell Griffen (right) with Little Rock 9 honor at The Angela Project Conference. Photo Credit: Rico Ransom.

The entry of the Little Rock 9 was blocked by hundreds of Arkansas National Guardsmen who had been directly ordered by the Arkansas Governor, Orville Faubus. President Eisenhower would dispatch the 101st Airborne Division and place the Arkansas National Guard under Federal Command as more than 1,000 federal troops provided protection and escorted the students into the school. The Little Rock 9 were met with abuse, harassment, taunts, venomous protests and violence. The desegregation of Little Rock Central High School has been described as a “seminal turning point in America’s Civil Rights Movement.”

Rev. Griffen, who is also an Arkansas Circuit Judge, faces disciplinary action, including possible impeachment, after participating in a Good Friday prayer vigil with members of his congregation in front of the Arkansas Governor’s mansion, where Griffen laid on a cot silently and in solidarity with Jesus Christ, after deciding on a case related to property rights over execution drugs.

CBF leaders joined other faith leaders from across the country on June 9 at a religious freedom rally in Little Rock to show their support for Griffen’s right to express his religious beliefs as an elected officials.

The recognition of Griffen came at The Angela Project Conference, a gathering of Baptists from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc., and the Progressive National Baptist Convention focused on racial justice. The Angela Project hosted by Simmons College of Kentucky and Simmons President and St. Stephen Church pastor Dr. Kevin Cosby, aims to assist African-American institutions and promote African-American prosperity and will commemorate the 400th anniversary of black enslavement in the United States at the third conference in 2019. This September 11 gathering was the first of three conferences focused on racial justice.

In accepting the honor, Griffen thanked Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky and host of The Angela Project Conference, for his “profound leadership and his poetic vision.”

“I say this sincerely,” Griffen said. “It is not easy to be a follower of Jesus. That is by design. If it were easy, we would not hear the Holy Spirit. Kevin Cosby recognizes it is not easy and does not apologize for the difficulties of following the Holy Spirit — the unchartered waters that the Holy Spirit leads us into. I’d like to thank him for summoning us to this gathering.”

Griffen reflected on the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School, urging the attendees to pray for public education.

“Pray for public education in this country, but as you pray cuss some. Cuss some, because public education is being hijacked by those who call themselves reformers, but who are in fact desegregaters in the name of charter schools, which are just lukewarm segregation capitals. I will ask that we, who are following Jesus, not allow this to happen.”

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