HARTFORD, CT, March 18, 2014 – Mark Silk, director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life and a columnist for the Religion News Service (RNS), is the recipient of a 2013 Wilbur Award for his role in a project marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington D.C. The RNS team won in the category of digital communications-multimedia.
Earlier this month, 25 Wilbur Awards were announced by the Religion Communicators Council. The awards honor excellence by individuals in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – in communicating religious issues, positive values and themes. The 2013 awards will be presented April 5 in Nashville during the Council’s 85th annual national convention.
RNS earned three stained glass Wilbur Awards. Other winners included the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., The History Channel, The Christian Science Monitor Weekly and The Huffington Post.
The project that Silk and his colleagues worked on involved interviews with 10 people who participated in the 1963 march; a story covering events on the anniversary date; an advance story analyzing the “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; three columns; two photo slideshows; and two videos.
“It’s been a lot of fun to be able to comment on current events as part of the RNS team,” said Silk, “and I hope it also advances the Greenberg Center’s mission of enhancing the public understanding of religion.”
According to RNS, “The 1963 March on Washington galvanized the country around the issue of civil rights and made the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., into a national icon. Fifty years later, it stands as an unprecedented display of ecumenical cooperation by bringing together Catholic, Jewish and Protestant leaders. We asked participants to reflect on their lasting memories of the march and how it shaped their faith.”
In Silk’s August 23, 2013 column, “The Prophetic March on Washington,” he wrote: The March on Washington, whose 50th anniversary we’re celebrating this week, was not only the climactic public event of the civil rights movement. It instilled in American religious leaders a prophetic preoccupation from which they have still not recovered.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted the prophets Amos and Isaiah at the Lincoln Memorial — “we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream”…”and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” – it was a clarion call such as few had heard.”
Silk concluded his column with these words: “As Ecclesiastes teaches, there is a time for everything, and we may finally have reached a time for the prophetic voice to quiet down. If the young papacy of Francis has shown anything, it is that this does not mean that religion has to abandon a public role. It does mean that what we now may need from religious leaders is teaching by humble example as well as by word, gentle persuasion and understanding of human weakness, and a dialing back of millenialist dreams.
Fifty years after the March on Washington, it’s time.”
The Religion Communicators Council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. Juries of media professionals, coordinated by council members across the country, evaluate submissions on content, creativity, impact and excellence in communicating religious values. The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations, a longtime council leader and a former Presbyterian Church executive.
Founded in 1929, the Religion Communicators Council is the oldest public relations professional association in the United States. The council has more than 400 members and five regional chapters. Members represent Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish organizations and work in advertising, print and electronic communication, and public relations.