Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org


We have a long fight and this fight is not mine alone. But you are not free whether you white or whether you black, until I am free.  Because no man is an island to himself…And I’m not just fighting for myself and for the black race, but I’m fighting for the white; I’m fighting for the Indians; I’m fighting for the Mexicans; I’m fighting for the Chinese; I’m fighting for anybody because as long as they are human beings, they need freedom.[1]

Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer was born into poverty to share croppers. Her father was a Baptist preacher. The youngest of 20 children, she knew firsthand the cruelty of poverty. She left school in the sixth grade in order to pick cotton on a Mississippi plantation. For over 18 years, she worked as a sharecropper and timekeeper on the Marlow plantation. In 1962, After attending a meeting in Ruleville, Mississippi, Hamer decided to register to vote. It took her months to pass the literacy test and become a registered voter. Although her education was shorted due to sharecropping; although she was shot at and beaten half to death for registering to vote, and although she was unable to have children due to an unauthorized hysterectomy—Hamer’s resilience was formidable. In 1962, she became a SNCC organizer in Sunflower County, Mississippi. In 1964, she became the vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) as they attempted to gain seats at the 1964 Democratic National Convention (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4NhURBrtI8). Hamer’s social activist legacy continued as she later established a cooperative, collaborated on the building of a low-income daycare center, and the construction of two hundred units of low-income housing for her Mississippi community. Hamer is the essence of what we celebrate during Black History Month.

On July 13, 2003, The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy voted to adopt and implement Strategic Directions, one of which is “Dismantling Racism and White Privilege.”  As staff to our current Dismantling Racism and Privilege Action Team (DRAP), I can say that the work of addressing systemic racism continues. DRAP continues to grow and the team members are full of enthusiasm. This year, they are continuing to broaden the work of dismantling racism. This year, they are providing a scholarship to Gary Naylor to attend the White Privilege Conference in Cedar Falls, Iowa (https://www.whiteprivilegeconference.com). DRAP continues to learn ways to articulate the positive value of a racially inclusive space and community. Just yesterday, they participated in a webinar with Kikanza Nuri-Robins to explore how to be more culturally proficient in our efforts to shift the culture of the presbytery and within our congregations   (http://www.kikanzanurirobins.com).

Join us if you are interested in developing a deeper understanding of racism and in helping us to uproot this systemic problem embedded in our culture and within individuals. DRAP meets the fourth Monday of each month at Ladue Chapel at 1:00 p.m. Remember: “Racism is fundamentally a spiritual problem because it denies our true identity as children of God. In Jesus Christ, God frees us to love and teaches us how to live as a family.[2] If you want to learn more about what’s DRAP is doing, please contact the moderator, John Harrison, at afftonpastor@gmail.com.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

 

[1] “The Only Thing We Can Do is Work Together,” in The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer. This speech was delivered by Mrs. Hamer at a Chapter Meeting of the National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in 1967.  See https://www.amazon.com/Speeches-Fannie-Lou-Hamer-Alexander-ebook/dp/B004YZJINC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1551204768&sr=1-1&keywords=9781604738230.

 

[2] Facing Racism:  A Vision of the Beloved Community.  Approved by the 211th General Assembly (1999) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

One Response to “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free”

  1. James Willock on

    Thank you, Vanessa, for sharing Fannie Lou Hamer’s story.

    It shouldn’t have to be so hard.

    Diversity is God’s good and loving gift to humanity. It’s the way God made the world. All the gifts of all the people are needed to build the beloved community – the shalom – that God intends for all creation. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love for all the world. May God’s Holy Spirit break open our hearts to this truth.

    Blessings

    Reply

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