Wednesday, 13 April 2016 16:28

Baker's civil rights legacy comes to forefront Friday

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On Friday, the culmination of some 13 years of research will manifest itself with the celebration of the first Ella Baker Day in Halifax County.

“Ella Baker Day has a duel purpose,” said Florine Bell, who has been studying the work of the civil rights leader since 2003 when she was working on a graduate course at North Carolina State University. “First it honors Baker's legacy of more than 55 years of working towards social justice and equality. Secondly, the day will foster a greater understanding of cultural diversity and will generate ideas that can hopefully lead to improving social justice and the overall quality of life for Northeastern North Carolina citizens. It's a day of understanding.”

One of the ways Bell and the planners behind Ella Baker Day plan to foster these ideas is through a symposium at the Littleton Community Center from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

(The events celebrating Ella Baker Day begin at 10 a.m. at Lakeland Cultural Arts Center in Littleton for a reading of the annual Ella Baker Day proclamation. A full schedule of the day's events may be found as a PDF attachment at the end of this story. The photo embedded within this story shares information on the We Shall Overcome play associated with Ella Baker Day. Tickets are still available)

The panelists for the symposium are the Reverend John Mendez, head of the divinity school at Shaw University; Robert “Bob” Zellner, the first white Jewish freedom rider who was mentored by Baker; Lenora Taitt-Maguvane, a New York freedom rider; Carolyn Brockington, Baker's great-niece and a practicing neurologist; Bell; Sylvia Alston, a Littleton town commissioners who has been in on the planning since the beginning; Alan “Al” McSurely, an attorney, who was a student of Baker's and colleague of North Carolina NAACP President William Barber; state Senator Angela Bryant; and a representative of the Ella Baker School in New York, which is establishing an Ella Baker School in Rumbowee in East Africa.


Bell's research on Baker has taken her from her birth in Norfolk in 1903, her time in Littleton to her civil rights work. “I was blown away to learn she grew up 10 miles from where I grew up. I've interviewed her cousins. This is to help people know there was a civil rights person who grew up among us and went on to do just as great civil rights work as the ones we have come to know. She started most of the NAACP organizations. I want people to come know about this great civil rights worker who fought for social justice and worked behind the scenes. My mission is to bring her from behind the scenes into the public realm.”

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