Temple Shalom was filled to capacity yesterday to celebrate Howard Haywood – the man and his mission. Howard Haywood, the longtime pastor of Myrtle Baptist Church, has been a tireless and outspoken citizen advocate and leader on a range of social justice issues over his entire life.
When first approached about the event he said no. He wasn’t comfortable with being publicly lauded. He came around to the idea once the organizers agreed to shift the focus of the evening away from him and on to the issues that have been his life’s work – racial justice and fair housing.
In his own remarks he reminded the audience that it was in our own lifetime that citizens, realtors, the city government, and the law were clear and unambiguous – that black citizens were not welcome to own property in the City of Newton. He told the audience of his own family’s struggle to buy a home in Newton and how it catalyzed him for the decades of work on fair housing issues ever since.
The assembled panel traced the history and halting legal progress on fair housing that have been made over the intervening decades but both Rev Haywood and the panel reminded the audience that housing today in America and in Newton remains a linchpin issue in the wider fight for racial and economic justice. In a country with 1000’s of homeless people wandering the streets of each of our cities, in a region that still has extreme racial segregation in our housing, the struggles on fair housing issues continue today.
In seeing the capacity crowd, in hearing the stories from many of the guests, in seeing not only all our elected official sbut many of our former elected officials there, it’s clear that this “impatient beacon” has had an enormous impact for the better on this city and its citizens and he continues to remind us all – we can do better.
Thank you Reverend Haywood