A Good Time To Remember Ella Baker

4 Dec

ella-bakerIn the wake of the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of white police officers with no indictment, I am looking for hope  somewhere.  After learning of the verdict in New York yesterday morning, there is a very sad heaviness for the United States. We have yet another death of a black mother’s son. For me, I am trying to remember Ella Baker and reflect on how much work we still have do around issues of racial equity and equality.

Baker was one of the most influential players in the civil rights movement. Baker’s grandparents were slaves and she would hear stories from her grandmother about slave revolts. After finishing college and graduating valedictorian, she moved to New York and started her life’s path of social justice. Baker fought for civil rights alongside others such as, W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Dr. Martin Luther King. She was also a mentor to our Rosa Parks. Baker’s influence touched the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Baker and another hero of my mine, Howard Zinn, were two of the SNCC’s highly revered adult advisors. Baker remained an activist until her death in 1986.

I leave you with the lyrics to Ella’s Song, written by one of my personal heros, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon and performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons

That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale

The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be one in the number as we stand against tyranny

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize
That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survives

I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Thank you, Ella. Thank you Sweet Honey in the Rock!


8 Responses to “A Good Time To Remember Ella Baker”

  1. Central Oregon Coast NOW December 4, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  2. stephenpaulyoder December 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    Too, too much sadness and tragedy in this country recently, Michael. Thank you for balancing that by the reminder of what heroes can accomplish! Especially ones who don’t quite fit the “hero” mold of muscles, capes, etc. — heroes who live and love in a world-changing way! I want to turn “we cannot rest” back to my own life and service — “I cannot rest!” Thank you for doing your own beautiful part for justice; thank you for your powerful voice/words…

  3. civilrightsactivist December 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

    Reblogged this on Civil Rights Advocacy.

  4. carolahand December 10, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    At times like this, work that reminds us that positive change is possible becomes so important. Thank you for sharing these stories and powerful music and reminding us that we cannot rest until everyone is free…

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 10, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

      Thank you, Carol! We need your voice and all the voices that stand for social justice. Peace, Michael.

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