Today is a day of national mourning. President Obama has ordered flags at federal buildings around the world to be lowered to half staff. Dignitaries from around the country will descend on the National Cathedral in Wahington DC to honor the life and legacy of Dorothy Height.
A friend of mine who knew Height only as the elderly lady in the big hat, asked me what she had done to deserve all the accolades that have been heaped on her. My response after only a moment's hesitation was simple. Nothing extraordinary really. She simply showed up.
Dr. Height showed up at meetings, rallys, court cases, and gave her two cents about the human expectation of justice. She showed up on a national level to champion the rights of people who were in need of fair treatment. Fredrick Douglas said "Power concedes nothing without demand." She showed up to demand fair treatment for blacks, women, and the poor.
When policy makers and politicians feel like nobody cares and nobody is paying attention they are subject to do anything. If the way they feel is correct then they are also subject to get away with anything. Dr. Height showed up to let them know that she was paying attention and she helped to orgainize blacks, and women and poor people to do the same thing. She showed up to intergrate the YWCA in the 1950's. She helped orgainized the marchers who showed up in 1963 on the National Mall. She orgainized college trained women who showed up to make Delta Sigma Theta one of the largest orgainizations of college educated community-conscious women in the world. She showed up to give wise counsel to presidents and potentates about issues that concerned the disenfranchised and disengaged. She showed up to improve the quality of life for black women through the National Council of Negro Women. For over 70 years Dr. Height never failed to show up. She orgainzed others to show up with her both locally and nationally, and helped to bring about a more perfect union.
To honor the legacy of Dr. Height and live by her example I encourage each of us to show up. Show up at PTA meetings, church conferences, club meetings, neighborhood meetings, political meetings, alumni associations, school board meetings, city council meetings, and advisory boards. Show up and speak truth to power.