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**This Post is part of a larger series of activist we should know**

“People have to be made to understand that they cannot look for salvation anywhere but to themselves” 

               -Ella Baker

As students, and certainly students in North Carolina, we have heard much about the Greensboro Sit-Ins and the Civil Rights Movement.  We heard about injustice—probably for only for a few days in our US History course—as if it happened, was discovered to be wrong, and then changed by a few super-humans who lead us to the promised land of equality before the law.  This reduced, linear reading of history leaves us with few lessons to carry forward—little to nourish ourselves as citizens in a world still yearning for people committed to make change and confront ever more entrenched oppressions.  These histories leave us merely with monuments to what was.  We look on them with reverence and wait for our next hero.

As seekers of justice we cannot be satisfied with the dominant narrative of history.  We must sharpen our eyes and dig through the past in hopes of finding the roots of our current struggles.  We must discover our ancestors, learn from their efforts, and carry forward their vision with ours.  We must look to groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and figures like Ella Jo Baker.

Ella Baker grew up near the North Carolina-Virginia border on what today we would call a cooperative farm.  Her parents believed in building community among African-Americans and thus she grew up surrounded by a large group of extended family that worked together and shared resources to sustain each other.  Out of this work Ms. Baker quickly gained a sense of collective struggle and a self-sufficient streak.  Her upbringing in this collectivist, deeply democratic setting informed her belief on the importance of radical democracy in organizing work.

Ella Baker went on to become a leading field organizer and director of the NAACP, founder of In Friendship, and the first organizer of Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  She brought to all of these organizations perhaps the largest network of committed people built by any civil rights leader.  She left all of these organizations with a want for something that none of the major civil rights groups could give her: an organization that took seriously building a struggle which would uplift the voices of Black-Americans on the ground in the most dangerous areas of the southern United States while building long term leadership and attacking the roots of a society she believed did not meet the needs of working people.  In many ways, the nomadic nature of her activist career made her a perfect candidate to facilitate the convergence of young activists that came to be the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

As the sit-in movement was sweeping the country, Ella Baker used her influence within SCLC to solicit funds and organize a conference of the young activists to take place in April 1960 in Raleigh, North Carolina at Shaw University.  While organizations from the NAACP to CORE lobbied for the students to join their ranks, Baker offered students a different perspective.  She told them to build their own organization.  They agreed with her and formed the group that would become SNCC.  While I certainly cannot do justice to the legacy of SNCC in this post, there are many sources I would encourage you to explore.  First among these is Charles Payne’s I’ve Got the Light of Freedom in which he describes eloquently the impact of this organization.

SNCC initiated the mass-based, disruptive political style we associate with the sixties, and it provided philosophical and organizational models and hands on training for people who would become leaders in the student power movement, the anti-war movement, and the feminist movement

This formation of this dynamic group was made possible by the mentorship of Ella Baker.

Knowing the legacy of Ms. Baker brings with it a responsibility to carry on and fulfill her mission.  She envisioned a movement which would be led not by ministers or the privileged, but by the people who most needed it.  She recognized the importance of nonviolent direct action and encouraged activist to take up the work of building collectives that would be capable of meeting injustice head on.  She believed in the importance of organizing the American South and uplifting the voices of the working class, young people, and people of color. In the end she hoped to build a society of cooperation and collective action which brought her back to the interdependent community of her youth. As Payne states in his book, the complex political legacy of SNCC “went back at least as far as Miss Baker’s grandfather’s farm.”  The question now is how much further we can carry it.

-MH

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Today at 10:30, UNC students, faculty, staff, North Carolina community members and representatives from the press began to assemble on the steps of Wilson Library to demonstrate the necessity that Governor Beverly Purdue pardon members of the Wilmington Ten in the final days of her administration.  Reverend Dr. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP aptly described the rhetoric that has surrounded the case for forty years: clutching at straws of evidence that members of the Wilmington Ten broke any law has taken precedence over the fact that the prosecution for their case behaved illegally on multiple occasions.
This is unacceptable in light of the illegal actions known to have been committed by the prosecution during the 1972 case.  Prosecutor Stroud, who has recently been disbarred, feigned serious illness in order to cause a mistrial when he learned that the jury selected for the first Wilmington Ten trial was comprised of ten African Americans and two white men.  According to documents presented by Dr. Tim Tyson, which are currently housed in the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library, Stroud wrote “B” next to the names of black jurors, and included comments like “KKK Good” and “sensible Uncle Tom Type” in the margins.
There is also evidence that Stroud bribed three of the key witnesses, for example, by purchasing a minibike for one and offering another $40,000 to appear in a grand jury hearing.
Justice for political prisoners, for activists whose very struggle for freedom and justice is criminalized, for those who suffer from the abuse of state power, are all topics of concern for feminists.  The Civil Rights struggle continues today; social and economic injustices persist today, and are perpetuated in public schools, at “our” borders, in prisons.  Women are always implicated in the system, both as participants in and victims of egregious injustice done in the name of free trade and national security, both of which constitute a twentieth-century revision of White Men’s Rights demonstrations that occurred in Wilmington’s historic Hugh MacRae Park at the time of the Wilmington Ten trials.

I used to play in that park, y’all.  -Sarah-Kathryn Bryan

Feminist Students United (FSU) is a progressive feminist organization which affirms that no form of oppression can be overcome until all aspects of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are dismantled. We acknowledge intersecting identities and strive to be mindful of these intersections in all our work. We endeavor to create an environment which is non-hierarchical and supportive in nature, and we work to bring about change in our community through education, outreach, direct action and community organizing.

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