Activists to Celebrate Civil Rights Leaders

by on April 20, 2005

Local Bay Area veterans of the civil rights movement will sponsor a celebration of three recently deceased civil rights giants, James Forman, Joanne Grant and Ossie Davis in Oakland on Saturday, April 30. The event will also commemorate the 45th Anniversary of the founding of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April 1960. The event is also sponsored by the Center for Political Education, a progressive community school in the Mission District, San Francisco.

There will be presentations and personal testimonials about the three leaders by local activists, as well as audio-visuals from the civil rights movement, entertainment and refreshments. Invited speakers include noted author and activist Angela Davis, Phil Hutchings*the last director of SNCC, and Betita Martinez*director of The Institute for Multiracial Justice and former SNCC staff member.

The celebration will be held at SEIU Local 250 West-United Health Care Workers, 560 Thomas L. Berkley Way–formerly 20th St. (between San Pablo and Telegraph Aves.) Oakland. 6-9pm. $5-$10 donation (no one turned away for lack of funds).

SNCC was born out of the lunch counter sit-ins in the South in 1960. It was the major youth component and one of the most militant sectors of the civil rights movement. It conducted voter registration in the South at a time when civil rights activists were killed for trying to register Blacks in the South.

James Forman was the Executive Secretary and International Affairs Director of SNCC, one of the principal organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the author of The Black Manifesto, and active in the “Free D.C.” movement. He was the author of seven books, including The Making of Black Revolutionaries which The New York Times called “a searing, jolting document that will leave the reader full of that savage indignation that tears the heart.”

Joanne Grant was a SNCC activist and a groundbreaking journalist. “She exposed and explained the civil rights movement in ways that the daily press either couldn’t or wouldn’t,” said Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP. She wrote Black Protest which has become a standard text for teaching African-American history and a biography, Ella Baker: Freedom Bound. She also made an award-winning documentary film on Ella Baker’s life, Fundi.

Ossie Davis was a renowned actor, writer and activist. He appeared in some 50 films, including Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, She Hate Me and Malcolm X. He was one of the first African-American film directors and appeared on Broadway and in many TV shows. He was also an activist, a supporter and fundraiser for the civil rights movement. Davis and his wife Ruby Dee helped organize and served as MCs for the 1963 civil rights March on Washington. He delivered the eulogies for Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

The event is sponsored by Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, activists who worked with SNCC or the Congress of Racial Equality in Alabama and Mississippi, and the Center for Political Education. Co-sponsors include the Black Radical Congress, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, EastSide Arts Alliance, Institute for MultiRacial Justice, Movement Strategy Center, S.O.U.L., and Vanguard Public Foundation.

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