A book recommendation via the Son of Baldwin community: Dr. Barbara Ransby‘s biography of Ella Baker, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision.
Ella Josephine Baker (1903-1986) was an under-recognized organizer and operative in the 20th Century U.S Black civil rights movement. In Virginia, North Carolina, New York, and across the Southern states over nearly 30 years, Baker supported and helped to grow some of the most visible labor, voting, and black equality groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Crusade for Citizenship, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Ultimately her distrust of hierarchical leadership and support for participatory democracy led her to work less with such well-promoted groups and more with egalitarian and grassroots collectives. She remained socially engaged until her death at 83 years old.
This weekend, three contemporary female civil rights activists were honored at the annual Living Legends for Service to Humanity program in Ashton, MD. The 2013 honorees were Ella Baker’s peer, U.S. civil rights activist Juanita Abernathy, Louisiana native Sister Helen Prejean, and India’s Dr. Sunitha Krishnan. Sr. Prejean has devoted her life to campaigning against the death penalty and the social order that supports it. Her acceptance speech described the “fire” that can motivate and sustain life-long commitment to people regardless of their social standing and to creating a more just world with them. Dr. Krishnan, founder of anti-trafficking and pro-education organization Prajwala, dedicated her award to “a legendary generation” who would act for the equality and worth of all people, regardless of gender, caste, or background.
Next year’s award program will highlight educators.