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City dedicated park to civil and labor rights leader, Rev. James Orange | Community Spirit

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City dedicated park to civil and labor rights leader, Rev. James Orange
City dedicated park to civil and labor rights leader, Rev. James Orange

“Hey Leader!,” was his common greeting to all he met; a call to action of sorts; but to a countless mass, the Rev. James Orange, with unwavering dedication to civil and labor rights was the leader himself; a "towering" example of nonviolent activism.

A close aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he was hired by as the first full-time SCLC field organizer, Orange was honored Sat. Oct. 29 in Atlanta, during a dedication ceremony, where Oakland City Park was renamed, “Rev. James Orange Park.” Apparently a street or station renaming could not serve adequate honor for the individual held responsible for much of the modern civil and labor rights movement, countless marches, and more than 30 years fighting for worker justice as an AFL-CIO organizer- “The James Orange Commission with strong backing from Councilman C.T. Martin and through feedback received from community forums, determined that dedicating the park to Rev. Orange was the most appropriate thing to do," said Vanessa Manley with the Orange Foundation.

Orange lived in this community for 40 years. He lived here, but he was a global citizen.” Advertisement Attended by local political figures, activists, members of the "Blue Crew," friends and family; along with the staple three: Young, Lowery and Lewis; the dedication was celebratory as Orange was remembered for his contributions. “Rev. Orange was the living embodiment of the connection between the union movement and the civil rights movement,” said SCLC President Isaac Newton Farris, Jr; who stated that hanging a portrait of the leader was his first action upon assuming the office of SCLC national president. “When we needed to organize the Selma to Montgomery march, James Orange was there,” Cong. John Lewis said. “When we needed to organize marches in Atlanta for the King celebration, James Orange was there. When organized labor needed someone, James Orange was there. When we needed someone to go to South Africa, James Orange was there…” Elder Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and voluntarily exited SCLC president lauded Orange for his organizing abilities, while utilizing the occasion to relate to the national Occupy Movement. “The timing of this couldn’t be better with thousands occupying all over the world. I’m convinced that it would be better organized, more focused on an agenda and with a result by now, if James was here; because James was a master organizer," she said.

With tennis courts, ball fields, a playground, an event pavilion, and numerous upgrades, the Rev. James Orange Park is now a revitalized recreational facility situated on 15 acres. Located within a low-income portion of Atlanta's southwest corridor however, a hotzone for illicit activity; questions concerning the longevity of the parks upkeep and ability to remain a safe haven for children and seniors living in Oakland City linger. A handfull of area residents have committed to maintaining the park as a community jewel worthy of Orange's legacy; while leaders affirmed that the sanctity of the recreational grounds would remain intact. “The park reminds us that nonviolence is still the way; and know that we are walking on holy ground,” said civil rights leader, the Rev. Tim McDonald of First Iconium Baptist Church. “This has got to be a sacred park,” Lowery also declared. “We don’t need anyone smoking that funny rabbit tobacco in here.”

The Rev. James Orange Park Campaign hopes to raise $70,000 over the next year to further enhance the park and community options by expanding programs, improvements, and with the installation of a public monument in tribute to the life, work, and legacy of the late Rev. James Orange.

Information/Contributions: Rev. James Orange Foundation: Attention Cleo Orange 1436 Westmont Road, S.W. Atlanta, GA 30311 404.755.3002