LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Leaders from some of the largest Christian organizations in the country are in Louisville this week to help launch an initiative honoring a civil rights pioneer.

"This is indeed an historic day," said Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Decatur, Georgia. "Honoring a statesman, a leader and a consummate scholar."

On Monday, leaders from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Progressive National Baptist Convention and National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc. made a major announcement at Simmons College of Kentucky.

Paynter announced a "special initiative" on behalf of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that honors Dr. Emmanuel McCall, a Simmons graduate who spent his life working for racial justice. The initiative is aimed at finding the next McCall.

"We're committed to making history on behalf of the future of the students of Simmons College," Paynter said.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a predominantly white network of 1,800 churches.

"It does seem strange -- doesn't it?" Paynter said. "And I am so sorry that it seems strange in our country."

Strange or not, Paynter said supporting Simmons and producing more leaders like McCall is crucial.

"Many of our churches will say, 'We're a white church, but we care deeply about racial justice, and we care deeply about the future of this nation,'" she said.

Dr. Kevin Cosby, President Simmons College of Kentucky, said if more people, organizations and churches in Louisville get involved, we'll see more leaders and perhaps less crime.

"They come to Simmons woefully behind, and we are trying to help them catch up," Cosby said. "If all you have been exposed to is a very restricted culture or restricted environment, and you don't have any paths up, then that's the result."

It's all all part of the partnership between the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc., and Simmons College of Kentucky. The partnership has produced economic development, new degrees and conventions bringing hundreds of visitors to the city.

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