A North Carolina reverend who is related to Confederate General Robert E. Lee was on the campus of Spartanburg Methodist College Wednesday to speak about repairing race relations.
The lecture and discussion was open to the public.
7News also got a chance to speak with Reverend Rob Lee ahead of that session, about how sharing his views has cost him his job, but reinforced his purpose:
Rev. Lee led a chapel sermon for the students where he first talked about his name.
“With a name like Robert Lee you have a history, you have a past.”
The young minister, a distant descendant of the Confederate General, opened a conversation, most often kept behind closed doors.
“I spoke up for something that I believed in. You see I’m convinced that Black Lives Matter,” he told the congregation.
Two months ago, Lee gained national recognition when he spoke at the MTV Video Music Awards.
“We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy racism and hate. As a pastor it is my moral duty to speak out against racism,” he said on national television.
His words were inspiring to SMC students like Joshua Guillebeaux, who has not talked openly about the sting of racism he sometimes felt as a child.
“I had a friend, I played at his house, but his grandfather came and said we don’t like your kind here.”
After hearing Lee’s talk, Guillebeaux said, “he said it well, that Black Lives Matter is not violent, or some group bent on destroying society, it’s just we’re trying to get awareness out.”
The Spartanburg Methodist president Scott Cochran hopes tonight’s public lecture will encourage honest dialogue.
“I think we get stronger and better by listening, and by having great conversation and discussion and understanding each others point of view and that’s how you solve problems,” said Cochran.
Lee’s statement on national T.V. ultimately cost him his job as pastor at his church in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Some members of the congregation did not approve of his support of groups like Black Lives Matter, and also did not want him to bring national attention to the church.
Lee says he and his family have been threatened with violence, but the 24-year-old insists that won’t stop him from speaking about a message he says he was called to share.
“Growing up I always thought we needed to have this conversation, I didn’t know how, but I’m glad I’m a part of it now,” Lee to 7News.
Reverend Lee, who lives in Boone NC, said despite the disappointments, many good things have come from him speaking out. He has been traveling giving talks throughout the country and has some new job prospects.