Monday, 07 March 2016 14:41

Commissioners mark April 15 as Ella Baker Day

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Projection of a portrait of Baker from a video played to commissioners today. Projection of a portrait of Baker from a video played to commissioners today.

Halifax County commissioners today agreed to set aside April 15 as the Annual Ella Baker Day to honor a figure whose work in the field of civil rights will be commemorated in Littleton next month.

“I'm totally excited and have no intentions of hiding it,” Florine Bell, one of the organizers of the day to honor the former Littleton resident, told the board as she requested the proclamation to laud Baker, referred to as the godmother of the civil rights movement. “She was one of the nation's great unsung heroes.”

Baker was born in Norfolk in 1903 and in 1908 lived in Littleton. “(Baker) served this great nation, state and county as a leader, educator and activist on behalf of underprivileged communities and citizens until she passed away in the state of New York on December 13, 1986,” the document approved by the board says. “Baker dedicated her life to serving those less fortunate as an advocate to the American Federation of Labor, Works Progress Administration under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932-1938, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, cofounder and organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Voter Education Project and served more than 20 years as a National Field Secretary, National Director of Branches, African National Congress, Puerto Rican Solidarity Committee in 1972-1986 and numerous other organizations.”

The proclamation notes the U.S. Postal Service honored her with a stamp as part of a special issue honoring civil rights pioneers.

“It is fitting to recognize Ella Josephine Baker as one of our nation's greatest unsung heroes as she was loved and appreciated by all who had the opportunity to work alongside her including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter White, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Congressman John Lewis, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hammer and other early civil rights workers.”

A Duke University video Bell played for the board noted Baker was instrumental in organizing local chapters of the NAACP and was known for pushing other civil rights leaders, including King, to do more.

As approved, the commissioners intend for each April 15 to be an annual commemoration of Baker's work.

With the proclamation approved, Bell said afterward several activities have already been planned to mark the day.

At 10 a.m. on April 15, the proclamation reading will be held at Lakeland Cultural Arts Center at 411 Mosby Avenue in Littleton.

From 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Ella Baker Exhibit will be on display at Littleton Community Center on 238 Oak Street and will feature collections of audio and visual displays produced by area students.

From 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. the Ella Baker Symposium will be held at the community center with Bell, Sylvia Alston, Friends of SNCC and others participating.

Rounding out the day will be Garrett Davis Productions presenting the stage play We Shall Overcome at The Centre on the campus of Halifax Community College from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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