Monday, March 30, 2015

Lessons from an elder: keeping on and moving on

Hollis Watkins: Early Orientation from Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation on Vimeo.

Hollis Watkins was born into a poor farming family in Mississippi in 1941. He recalls a childhood at segregated schools where he and his classmates had only the leftover books from the white children who rode school buses to modern facilities.

I knew something was wrong ... My father said to me: "you always stand up for what is right, even if you are the only one standing." ... I felt like the things [civil rights organizer Bob Moses was doing] would lead me to get answers about things I had not been able to get. ... I made a commitment that I would do everything could, when I could, as long as I could until we get these situations straightened out. They still haven't been straightened out, so I am still trying to live up to my commitment. ... I didn't think it would take this long ...

Today, Hollis Watkins is still working with Southern Echo to fulfill the promise of full freedom that was at the heart of the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 60s.

Hollis Watkins: Founding of Southern Echo following 1964 Summer Project from Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation on Vimeo.

... for the most part we are still fighting the same battles ... [for] education, worker's rights, decent and affordable housing and voting rights. ...the major goal was to develop a cadre of young community organizers that would be willing and ready to go into different communities and hopefully their own communities ... we initially decided that we were going to start recruiting college students ... [but] they knew what they was going to do ... so we decided we needed to lower the age level... Ultimately we decided we had to start working with young people when they were 5th or 6th grade ... that was it ... and everybody that came understood, in the small group sessions, they had to give the young people a chance to speak and say whatever was on their minds.

H/t Facing South.

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