Reverend James Edward Orange:
The Dream for Justice Lives On in Us!
February 23, 2008
On February 16, 2008, Reverend, James Orange, a great
civil rights leader and a top aide to Martin Luther
King, Jr., died in Atlanta, Georgia. Rev. James Orange,
chair of the Africa/African American Renaissance Festival.
Hired by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as one
of the first field staffers, Orange was instrumental
in mobilizing youth throughout the civil rights movement,
making a significant impact on the Civil Rights Act
In his death, Ethiopians are among the countless others
who will mourn the loss of a great friend and advocate
of justice, love and respect for all people! He stood
up for the Ethiopian people in their time of great need,
even organizing a candlelight prayer vigil in Atlanta
for the release of the Ethiopian opposition leaders
and political prisoners in 2007.
As is true of great man of faith, passion and calling,
his impact on the world around him carries on and will
not die at his passing. He has touched and inspired
many and I am one of them!
I first met Reverend Orange in January of 2007 when
he and other African-American and civil rights leaders
reached out to the Ethiopian Diaspora by organizing
International Human Rights Symposium in Atlanta surrounding
the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
I was privileged to have been given the opportunity
to participate in the symposium at Ebenezer Church,
to help lay a wreath on the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr and his wife, Coretta King, to march with Reverend
Orange, civil rights leaders and thousands of other
people and finally to stand before them to speak to
them about the injustice going on to their brothers
and sisters of Africa.
During that time, I had the opportunity to have numerous
meaningful conversations with Reverend Orange about
human rights and injustice around the world. It was
then that I learned what a great man he was. That time
together impacted me and my work with the Anuak Justice
Council, an Ethiopian human rights organization that
began after the Ethiopian government massacre of Anuak
in 2003. Through this, we built a friendship and he
became a mentor, a role model and encourager to me to
carry on the human rights work, assuring me that things
can be changed despite the obstacles in the way.
Reverend Orange was a genuine believer in God—a
real man of faith and a strong man of prayer. Before
doing anything, he prayed. He told me, “Even if
it looks impossible, God can make it possible. He said,
“The problem of Africa, with all its misery and
suffering, looks like it cannot be changed—that
it is beyond ourselves—but, God can change Africa!”
He told me that the problems of Africa would never
be conquered through ethnic hatred and division. Instead,
he said that Africa needed people to teach love, respect
and care for each other if Africa was going to escape
He said I was already on the journey and that I was
now ‘on duty’ or ‘called’ to
speak up for the suffering of everyone wherever I saw
it. However, he cautioned me to never go forward without
praying first for God’s help, but then to not
be afraid of the challenges or the difficulties ahead.
We Ethiopians know we have never needed these words
more than just now when we are so divided and overcome
with discouragement. Even though this great human rights
champion is gone now, he has left us with this vision
of being your neighbor’s keeper—a protector
of all human kind. We now have a job to do and it is
up to the living to carry on until our time on earth
comes to an end as well.
Rev. Orange knew how to pass on to others the “dream”
of justice and equality of all people. He grounded it
on his firm belief that God created all men and women
in His image, making them all precious children of God.
His message of wisdom, his great reliance on God and
his enormous capacity to love and forgive will live
on in those many others, like myself, African-Americans,
Americans, Ethiopians, Africans and all human beings
to whom he reached out to encourage, guide and support
all over the world. Reverend Orange has shown the world
how to be a real neighbor to those close and far.
Reverend Orange probably never anticipated that what
he helped start along with Martin Luther King, Jr and
other civil rights leaders would lead him to reach not
only across America, but across the ocean to deal with
the apartheid system in South Africa, the human rights
abuses in the Horn of Africa, the injustice throughout
the entire continent of Africa as well as to other places
of injustice in this world. May we honor his memory
by following his example.
Let your light so shine before men, that
they may see your good deeds and praise your Father
in heaven. (Matthew 5: 17)
Let our sympathy be with his wife, children, grandchildren
and friends as they lay his body to rest today Saturday,
February 23, 2008, in Atlanta, GA.
You can get in touch with Obang Metho
by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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