DAYTON, Ohio – Less than two years removed from infighting that nearly crippled it, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is determined to teach the world how to resolve its differences.
The SCLC has opened conflict resolution centers in Dayton and Israel and has plans for more around the world. The centers are designed to train citizens, police, teachers and community leaders how to solve disputes without violence.
"We have a plan for the Middle East we're going to be talking about," president Charles Steele said in advance of the civil rights group's annual convention, which runs through Wednesday.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Jesse Jackson were expected to attend a round-table discussion Monday.
The Atlanta-based organization — which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and two associates found in 1957 — helped organize some of the defining moments of the civil rights era, including the march on Washington in 1963 and the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march two years later.
Steele took over the presidency in November 2004 at the board's request after squabbling and questionable management left the SCLC near bankruptcy. The power struggle led to the resignations of Claud Young as board chairman and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Cincinnati as president.
"We had serious problems," Steele recalled. "The lights were off. The phone was off. We couldn't meet payroll."
The SCLC is now on solid financial footing and has raised $2 million for a new headquarters in Atlanta it plans to begin building Aug. 31, he said.