Register Now for the SCLC/SCOPE 50thAnniversary Reunion in Atlanta

Join us! Come to Atlanta on
October 1-4, 2015,
as we gather to celebrate the 50th anniversary of SCLC’s SCOPE project and SCLC’s long fight for justice

50 years ago, young people answered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to spend the summer of 1965 in the South registering black people to vote, in cooperation with SCLC activists and supporters. 50 years later, those young people are now older. We need to celebrate what we accomplished that summer. The Reunion will give us an opportunity to reconnect with former colleagues and friends and share with each other the impact that SCOPE and SCLC has had in our lives. But we also want to share our stories with the young people of today.

 

For more information, go to www.sclcscope50th.org or contact John Reynolds, Reunion Committee Chair, at JohnR99773@aol.com.

SCOPE button

 Rev Hosea L Williams with 1965 SCOPE staff.L to R- Benjamin Van Clarke, Stoney Cook, Carl Farris, Andrew Marrisett , and Richard Boone © Barbara Williams Emerson


Rev Hosea L Williams with 1965 SCOPE staff.L to R- Benjamin Van Clarke, Stoney Cook, Carl Farris, Andrew Marrisett , and Richard Boone © Barbara Williams Emerson

Stories from Selma and the Voting Rights Fight in SF Saturday March 21st

Please join us for this engaging, interactive afternoon with Bay Area Civil Rights Veterans who worked in and around Selma, AL during the 1965 Voting Rights Movement. Saturday May 21st 2-4 PM at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. MOAD 8x10 poster image  white

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Voices of the 1965 Voting Rights Fight

As we observe the 50th anniversary year of the Selma voting rights struggle, the March to Montgomery, and passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Bay Area civil rights veterans share their experiences of the historic African American-led struggle. If you liked the film “Selma,” you will enjoy hearing more about the role of youth during this pivotal period of the Civil Rights Movement.

Program features:
• Personal stories from the front lines in Alabama in 1965
• Singing Civil Rights songs led by renowned Freedom Singer, Wazir Peacock
• Book signing by three authors: Maria Gitin, Charles Bonner and Bruce Hartford
• Wazir Peacock Video (optional still under discussion)
• Historic slide show
• Q & A and discussion
Moderator and Panelist: Bruce Hartford, civil rights activist and historian is author of “The Selma Voting Rights Struggle & the March to Montgomery” Hartford is webspinner for the Civil Rights Veterans at http://www.crmvet.org. He worked on voter-registration and direct-action campaigns with CORE and SCLC 1963-1967 in California, Alabama & Mississippi. In 1965 he worked in Selma during Bloody Sunday, and walked on the March to Montgomery with Dr. King.

Panelist and song leader: Willie B. Wazir Peacock, highly regarded singer of civil rights songs, is featured in the new video, Stand for Freedom: The Life & Times of Willie B. Wazir Peacock. Native of Mississippi, Peacock was an early member of Student Non-Violent Organizing Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was a SNCC field secretary organizing African Americans voting rights activities in Mississippi and Alabama from 1960-66. He was both participant and witness to many of the most dangerous and violent campaigns of the civil rights movement.

Panelist: Charles A. Bonner, civil rights attorney, is a Selma native and author of The Tip of the Arrow, the Selma Student Movement: a Study in Leadership. Bonner was a leader in Selma high school and college student movement, and was beaten and arrested numerous times for voting rights activities. He was on the bridge on Bloody Sunday and marched to Montgomery, and then helped train white kids working with both SCLC and SNCC during the summer of 1965.

Panelist: Maria Gitin, civil rights veteran and author of This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, left San Francisco State College to spend the summer of 1965 working with SCLC and SNCC in rural Wilcox County, Alabama, after the March to Montgomery. She canvassed for voters, was chased by the KKK, and arrested. Four decades later she gathered the memories of her co-workers, including Bonner, in a moving memoir of teenage civil rights action. Read about Maria Gitin and her civil rights work: www.thisbrightlightofours.com

James “Arkansas” Benston Returns to Camden

Civil Rights Veteran James Benston Returns to Camden where he marched with Dr. King, SCLC and SNCC. Shown buying Maria Gitin's book at Black Belt Treasures.

Civil Rights Veteran James Benston Returns to Camden where he marched with Dr. King, SCLC and SNCC. Shown buying Maria Gitin’s book at Black Belt Treasures.

Excerpted from his own account – “Strider”/”Arkansas”/Jim Benston, a white Southern youth activist, wrote to me on February 18, 2010: 

So, that morning, 10th? I was commissioned to drive the van to Camden (from Selma),take these fresh kids with me & look out for them. No leadership training, no specified authority. Only (told me the) location of Camden Academy, & “support them.” I don’t remember who told me to take the van & its occupants to Camden. Maybe (James) Orange had come back into town.

So there I was, in charge of 3 or 4 Yankee kids who just showed up [including Bob Block, Richard Stephenson and Bruce Hartford], no experience;  3 or 4 Selma kids [including Charles Bonner, Amos Snell], experienced but younger, & me, at 20;going into battle in a town I had never been to, & knew nobody.  “Just do it!”  OK!

I only remember 2 adults from Camden, {probably there were more} the minister, who may have also been a teacher [Rev Thomas Threadgill and/ or Daniel Harrell], and a woman, probably in her 40s. It seems that we were about 30 or 35 total, mostly kids. We marched into town & were met by Mayor Reg (Albritton) & his boys, and a few Deputies, perhaps under separate authority. I recall some very brief speechifying, & then the minister kneeled us down to pray. There came a defining moment in my life.

A little girl, about age 12 was on my right, holding my hand.  One deputy strode up and stuck his gun in her face. His words were severe, which I do remember, or think I remember, it was so firmly planted in my Being. The deputy stuck his shotgun, [tear gas gun?]  into her face & spewed his words. In response to his threat of imminent murder, she squeezed my hand, then just held it firmly, looked into his eyes, and spoke calmly. “Mister, you do what you gotta do,  but I ain’t movin’ for nobody.” Those heart words almost knocked him off his feet.  He staggered back as though he had been smashed in the face by a beer bottle.A minute or two later came the tear gas. Everybody bolted, this was army combat tear gas, & thicker than on the Bridge in Selma.  There was no wind, Crying, running, vomiting, stumbling.   My only guide was that unknown little girl.  I could NOT let her down. so, I started singing, “Ain’t gonna let no tear gas  turn me ’round,  turn me ’round, turn me ’round,Ain’t gonna let no tear gas turn me ’round.I’m gonna keep on a walkin’   keep on a talkin’ Marchin’ up to Freedom Land !”

Within 10 seconds everyone was back on the line, singin’, clappin’ dancin,’  Marchin’ up to Freedom Land.That is when, & why the cops regrouped  &  came after me.They broke our armlock first, & then went for my head. In his book, “White Kids.” Reavis describes my being singled out and beaten in Demopolis later that summer, which was so similar to Camden that I had totally forgotten about it until I read (& edited) his book.

My being beaten was on Huntley-Brinkley that night,  & was seen by my grandmother’s sister in Birmingham. My Grandmorther, Mrs. Sam Wallace, was the President of the UDC    – that’s  United Daughters of the Confederacy  –  in Birmingham. My Aunt Jean from Chattanooga was visiting when they saw me on national news. They decided my beating and arrest was appropriate, & sent a bible to the Camden white folks’s church to deliver to me. – © James Benston 2010.

Contact “Strider” Benston and read more of his stories at http://striderben.wordpress.com/

Selma Jubilees of the Past: Wilcox County Always Out Front

for more about the Wilcox County Voting Rights Movement, read “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight” by Maria Gitin www.thisbrightlightofours.com

Civil Rights Veterans Maria Gitin & Betty Anderson

Civil Rights Veterans Maria Gitin & Betty Anderson

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters Selma Jubilee 2010 Mary Alice Robinson (NCNW Banner), Phillip Young (Freedom Banner), Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin, Joy Crawford-Washington, Robert Powell (Freedom Banner), Alma King (NCNW Banner)

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters Selma Jubilee 2010
Mary Alice Robinson (NCNW Banner), Phillip Young (Freedom Banner), Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin, Joy Crawford-Washington, Robert Powell (Freedom Banner), Alma King (NCNW Banner)

Betty Robert Banner

Carolyn Smith Taylor represents the Smith Family 2010 Selma Jubilee

Carolyn Smith Taylor represents the Smith Family
2010 Selma Jubilee

john lewis wilcox banner copy colston w wilcox freedom fighters copy

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters set to March in Selma Sunday March 8th

Thanks to friends and freedom fighters Robert Powell and Alversal and Albert Lawson for bringing and carrying the Wilcox County Freedom banner to the Selma Jubilee next Sunday, the Wilcox Movement will be represented at the 50th Jubilee. Learn more about the Wilcox County Voting Rights Fight at http://www.thisbrightlightofours.com.

Betty Anderson and Robert Powell with Banner 2010

Betty Anderson and Robert Powell with Banner 2010

Crowd at bridge

Phillip Young and Robert Powell carry the banner in 2010. Center L-R: Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin and Joy Crawford-Washington.

Wilcox represents at the Bridge Re-enactment 2014

Wilcox represents at the Bridge Re-enactment 2014

All civil rights workers, family, descendants, friends and allies are welcome to join our group. Meet at on MLK Street directly across from the steps of Brown Chapel no later than 1:30 PM. If you come in on the bypass and then up Broad to any of the cut through streets, you can usually park on Lawrence by the elementary school, then cut through the Carver housing development and find the sign. They will keep it up on the long poles so everyone can find it. Every year so far we have gotten interviews, photos and news coverage. Plus had a great good time walking together. I won’t be there in person this time, but will be with you in spirit. Please send photos from your cell phones! Thank you!

Wilcox County “First” Electeds – Featuring Jesse Brooks of Coy, AL

It was twelve years after twelve years after the first group of candidates ran for office and thirteen years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the first African Americans were elected in Wilcox County Alabama. BAMA Kids presented a celebration of this historic event and of Wilcox County Black History February 21-22nd. For more information: Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jesse Brooksr and his daughter Ethel Brooks, Freedom Fighters. Bob Fitch photo 1966 @ Stanford University Archives.

Jesse Brooksr and his daughter Ethel Brooks, Freedom Fighters. Bob Fitch photo 1966 @ Stanford University Archives.

Farmer and military veteran Jesse Brooks was a man of action long before he was elected Tax Assessor in 1978. Beginning in 1965, with his wife Julia and daughter Ethel, he organized voter education and registration activities, worked on veteran’s and farmer’s affairs, and risked hosting outside civil rights workers. Both Jesse Brooks and Ethel were natural and SCLC trained leaders in the Wilcox County movement. When I met Mr. Brooks, he was optimistic and said that would run only if necessary to get honest people into office. He did not run on the People’s Choice” slate in 1966 but worked hard for those who did. Despite great organizing, African American candidates for county office continued to be defeated until November 1978 when Jesse Brooks was elected Tax Assessor, and Prince Arnold became Sheriff.

In January 1979, a formal inaugural ball and program was held in the Camden National Guard Armory on Whiskey Run Road to celebrate this great victory. When Jesse Brooks spoke he didn’t talk about his office or campaign promises. “I stand here before you as your tax collector,” he told his friends and neighbors. “But I also stand here tonight for someone else. I stand here as the grandson of a little Black slave boy who was brought down river from Charleston, South Carolina, to Lower Peachtree, Alabama, and sold for a thousand dollars. Thanks be to God there’s not going to be any more bidding off of human beings!”

It was a wildly emotional moment and Brooks stood in the center of it ramrod straight, letting the cheers and clamorous applause roll around him. It was a golden moment when the years of struggle, pain and despair were faced squarely and dismissed. The sufferings of that “little Black slave boy” had been vindicated.

Brooks did not fail to mention that what is ahead is more struggle, but “we plan to push forward until justice runs down like mighty waters,” using one of Dr. King’s favorite quotes from the prophet Amos. Mr. Brooks vowed to walk into the courthouse “just like John walked into Jerusalem” and begin working hard to build what he predicted will become “one of the best counties in God’s country.”

Compiled by Maria Gitin in Memory of Jesse Brooks, based on her personal friendship with the Brooks family, her book “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight” www.thisbrightlightofours.com copyright University of Alabama Press 2014 and an article by Harriet Swift, “A New Day in Wilcox” http://beck.library.emory.edu/southernchanges/article.php?id=sc01-6_002 copyright Emory University 1979.