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Planning Continues for C.T. Vivian Center in Macomb

Rich Egger
WIU Interim President Martin Abraham, Macomb Mayor Mike Inman, and Byron Oden-Shabazz, President of the McDonough County Branch of the NAACP (left to right) placed a wreath at the site of C.T. Vivian's boyhood home.

Local leaders held a brief wreath laying ceremony over the weekend at the property where the Reverend C.T. Vivian grew up in Macomb. The lot in the 700 block of East Adams Street is currently empty but there are still plans to use that space to honor the late civil rights leader.

The idea of building a center of civic and social engagement was announced nearly two years ago, and Byron Oden-Shabazz, President of the McDonough County Branch of the NAACP, said that’s still the plan.  

“I want to build something that’s a monument to him that actually helps to bring what he tried to do, which is to bring about positive change,” he said. “I want this to have my undivided attention.”

Oden-Shabazz said he will pursue grants and other funding sources to pay for the project. He might also seek in-kind assistance to build the center, which he said could include a lecture hall and artifacts related to Dr. Vivian.

He is also considering whether to buy the vacant lot next to the site and develop it into a neighborhood park, something he said is lacking in that part of town.

Vivian devoted his life to bringing about change through non-violent means. Oden-Shabazz acknowledged he initially struggled to grasp the concept.

“I came from Detroit. How does someone allow someone to hit them and not hit them back? It’s a matter of respect,” Oden-Shabazz said.

But he said he came to appreciate the patience required to bring about change and realized the American Civil Rights movement was about humility, peace, and demonstrating who was the bigger person.

“We don’t want to show that we are peers with brutality. And that’s what he was trying to get at – using peace as a weapon, so to speak. And clearly it worked,” Oden-Shabazz said.

He cited the Montgomery bus boycott as an example.

“That showed peacefully that if we affect someone economically we can get change.”

Cordy Tindell Vivian was born in Missouri. His family moved to Macomb when he was young, hoping to provide him a better education. Vivian attended Western Illinois University before heading to Peoria to help integrate a diner. In the 1950s he joined forces with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and served as one of King’s top advisors.

Vivian died Friday in Atlanta, Georgia. He was 95.

Oden-Shabazz called Vivian “a giant.”

“This man is known all over the world for his work. And to say we have a park and a center dedicated C.T. Vivian would do a lot for Macomb.”

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.