Love yourself, love others and end the violence, Gerald Rose, the founder and CEO of New Order, told students Friday.
Mr. Rose and other members of his human rights organization spoke at Lucy C. Laney High School as part of a Black History Month assembly.
"If we can come together as a race, we can do a lot," he said afterward.
Mr. Rose paused during the assembly to recognize Coretta Scott King, who died Tuesday, as a "soldier" in the civil rights movement. There will never be another Martin Luther King Jr., but the fight will continue through New Order, he said.
"Nobody's going to do anything for us except us," Mr. Rose said.
It's time to get back together and start showing love, he said, calling for the clocks to be "turned back" to a time when neighbors knew and watched out for one another.
Mr. Rose called for unity, saying "I've got your back as long as you've got mine."
His organization, which is based in Cobb County, opened an Augusta office last month, and he said he tried Friday to meet with Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength to share complaints about racial profiling and black-on-black crime while he was in town.
The sheriff said he welcomed Mr. Rose to meet with him last month but was in a meeting when the activist stopped by Friday.
In response to Mr. Rose's concerns, Sheriff Strength said there have been no complaints of racial profiling in Richmond County and he supports any group that aims to reduce black-on-black crime, which is a problem everywhere and not just in Augusta.
Speakers at the assembly also urged students to consider the consequences of their actions.
Rapper and Clayton County Sheriff's Office Corrections Officer Ahmed Karim Muhammad reminded students that jail can be an unpleasant place, especially when you have a dangerous cell mate.
"What are you goin' to do when he says, 'Ooh, you so cute?'" he asked students.
The youths of today share the responsibility to continue the civil rights fight, speakers said.
Jeff Benoit, the president of the Clayton County chapter of New Order, pointed to the "heroes and heroines" of the past and said they became who they were because of what they were taught.
"I know you have it in you, and you have to bring it out of you," Mr. Benoit said. "Change your mind in order to change your life."
His words of encouragement were repeated by other members of New Order.
"I encourage you to be black, to be strong, to be proud, but never hate any man," New Order national spokesman Patrick Glenn said.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.