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In a farewell address to the organization he founded with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Joseph Lowery, retiring president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Monday defended affirmative action and called for more help for inner cities.

Lowery is stepping down after 20 years as head of the civil rights organization. His successor will be elected Wednesday.

"Where do we go from here? Activism," he told an overflow crowd in historic Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue. "Where do we go from here? Unity."

"We must stand firmly by affirmative action," he said. "When the government by public policy kept you out, the government has a responsibility by public policy to bring you in. And it needs to be just as intentional about including you as it was about excluding you."

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