On Dr. Vincent Harding
Presented at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Journey to Justice
February 2014 Clergy and Lay Leadership Conference
Today, we honor the extraordinary work of Dr. Vincent Harding and the Veterans of Hope Project (VOHP) based on the campus of the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.
The project was founded in 1997 by longtime human rights activists and educators Dr. Harding and the late Rosemarie Freeney Harding to encourage a healing-centered approach to community building, creativity and education in the context of religion, culture, democracy, reconciliation and nonviolence.
Taking its roots from Dr. and Mrs. Harding’s deep involvement in the Southern Freedom Movement of the 1960s, the Veterans of Hope Project took shape as a spirit-centered social justice campaign. With the help of their daughter Rachel and son Jonathan, the Hardings honed the project as an education resource for spiritual, intergenerational community building and compassionate leadership development.
One powerful example of their multifaceted work is a series of professionally filmed interviews with over 70 pioneering activists from around the world, including Grace Lee Boggs, Charles Long, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Tom Feelings, Katherine Dunham, Cleo Parker Robinson, Julian Bond, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Judy Richardson, Marian Wright Edelman, Dolores Huerta, Vine Deloria, Anne Braden, Corky Gonzales, Ruby Sales, Victoria Gray Adams, Andrew Young, Angela Davis, Dorothy Cotton, Danny Glover, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons and others.
With the help of staff, volunteers and Dr. Harding’s guidance and inspirational vision, the Veterans of Hope Project is preparing a compassionate leadership force for the 21st century. VOHP’s programming includes the ”Ambassadors of Hope” program that creatively engages elders and youth in compassionate leadership development through workshops and other training including a public symposium series.
The project recently created a ”Network of Hope” that engages youth and elders to demonstrate and develop compassionate leadership skills. The network includes organizations such as The Black Star Project in Chicago; Tewa Women United in Santa Fe, NM; Boggs Center in Detroit, MI; Emerging Ministries in Philadelphia, PA; Padres and Jovenes Unidos in Denver; Community Centers in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; The Algebra Project in Jackson, MS; Barrios Unidos in Santa Cruz, CA and the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, NC. The young people from these organizations send love and blessings to their “Uncle Vincent.”
We would like to personally thank Dr. Harding for his continued work to build community bridges across national, racial, ethnic, religious, class and gender lines. And salute Dr. Harding and the Veterans of Hope Project as they continue to tell the stories of faith, hope and peace that communities around the world should recognize, promote and impart.
As important as Dr. Harding’s contribution has been to interpreting American history and to shaping the American trajectory over the past 60 years, his spirit and energy over the past 6 decades has been even more important as the guiding force and anchor to the Freeney/Harding/Harris family. He has always been the man of the family who everyone looks up to and respects. No decisions in the family are final before he gives his blessing.
His dynamic example as a speaker, scholar and historian has motivated dozens of family members to start and finish college and to contribute significantly to our family, our communities and our race. Our family considers Dr. Harding as something of a “rock star” and when other people tell us that they are related to “Kanye” or “Diddy”, we proudly boast that we are related to “The Vincent Harding!”
We love Dr. Harding because he is “real people!” Dr. Harding is known around the world as one of the greatest American historians ever; yet back in the hood, we all know him, love him and simply call him “Uncle Vincent”, just like he never left the block. Thanks for all that you do to educate and encourage a new generation of compassionate leaders!
From The Hundreds of Relatives in the Family of Vincent Gordon Harding and the Tens of Thousands of Friends Across the World including:
Rachel Harding, Daughter
Jonathan Harding, Son
Aljosie Harding, Wife
Rosemarie Freeney Harding, Wife (deceased)
Gloria Smith (Niece), Executive Director
The Veterans of Hope Project
Phillip Jackson (Nephew), Executive Director
The Black Star Project