New president of Greensburg-Jeannette branch of NAACP seeks to keep King's dream alive
The Rev. Jack Sullivan Jr. vividly remembers watching the anger and sadness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination envelop his hometown of Cleveland in riots when he was 8 years old.
People were asking who would replace King as a champion for racial equality and an opponent to injustice.
“There I was at age 8 saying, ‘Well, I will,' ” Sullivan said.
So whether it is working with children in poverty in Washington, helping found the NAACP chapter at his alma mater, Ohio University, or through his work as a minister, Sullivan has worked at every turn to fight for what King stood for.
Now he will do that work in Westmoreland County as the new president of the Greensburg-Jeannette branch of the NAACP. He takes over for Ruth Tolbert, who decided to step down from the presidency after 12 years.
Sullivan, 53, moved to the area in October 2011 after his election as the regional minister and president of the Pennsylvania region for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.
His office is based at the First Christian Church in Hempfield, and he and his family live in South Greensburg.
Sullivan said he was a little surprised when he was asked to run for president after joining the branch so recently, but he was glad to take on his first leadership role in the NAACP.
“I want to help the branch grow in its membership, its diverse membership, and also in its involvement with the community with respect to being ... a presence for wholeness and justice and freedom,” Sullivan said.
In particular, he would like to see more young people join the NAACP. The branch has 70 members.
Sullivan said being new to the community, he hasn't yet had much experience in race relations. It's something he hopes to get a better handle on.
“I've experienced a great deal of goodwill in this community,” Sullivan said. “I do wonder about long-term residents of color and their experiences.”
If he discovers injustices in the community, he won't be afraid to speak his mind. He has marched on Washington more times than he can count.
“You do it without apologies because you believe in the worth and dignity of every human being,” he said. “When we work for freedom and justice, then I think we are models and examples of the best of what it is to be American. It should be everybody's responsibility to look out for each other.”
Tolbert, who remains with the NAACP as branch secretary, said she decided it was time for a change.
“I believe change is good, and with a great leader in place I think things will move on and we won't lose a beat,” she said. “He is very well-suited to the position, and I'm expecting great things from everybody.”
Such great things can be as simple as an act of kindness toward another human being, Sullivan said.
He recalled a recent business trip to Harrisburg where, after ordering a meal at a fast-food restaurant, he realized the establishment didn't take his corporate credit card. As he left to get a meal elsewhere, a white man stopped him in the parking lot and asked if he was hungry and needed to eat.
Moments like that make Sullivan realize that making a difference is sometimes as simple as showing human decency.
“We need more people to commit themselves to doing that kind of work across the racial spectrum,” he said.
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Norwin band director is finding lots of success in return to his alma mater
- Jeannette company’s miniature steam engines coveted for decades
- Westmoreland County furloughs weights and measurements director
- Project to tear down former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital on schedule, Excela says
- Youngwood fire department reaches out to homeless family
- Hempfield man accused of threats against troopers
- Plenty of ‘pain’ to share, as Westmoreland County budget OK’d with $8M in cuts
- Mt. Pleasant man charged with unlawful restraint
- Arbitration decides Westmoreland court workers’ pact
- Elizabeth Township man charged with baseball bat, knife attack on former roommate
- Father, son step in to keep Rostraver gun shop running