[sixties-l] Fannie Lou Hamer

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Mon Apr 02 2001 - 18:27:46 EDT

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    Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2001
    From: indpol@igc.org
    Subject: [IPPN] Fannie Lou Hamer

    Future Hope column, April 1, 2001

    Fannie Lou Hamer

    by Ted Glick

    "There will come a time, I know, when people will take delight in one
    another, when each will be a star to the other, and when each will
    listen to his fellow as to music. The free people will walk upon the
    earth, people great in their freedom. They will walk with open hearts,
    and the heart of each will be pure of envy and greed, and therefore all
    humankind will be without malice, and there will be nothing to divorce
    the heart from reason. Then life will be one great service to humankind!
    His/her figure will be raised to lofty heights--for to free women and
    men all heights are attainable. Then we shall live in truth and in
    beauty, and those will be accounted the best who will the more widely
    embrace the world with their hearts, and whose love of it will be the
    profoundest; those will be the best who will be the freest; for in them
    is the greatest beauty. Then will life be great, and the people will be
    great who live that life."* Maxim Gorky, from Mother

    I was flying home from a meeting in Atlanta last weekend, reading "We
    Didn't Come All This Way for No Two Seats," an article about Mrs. Fannie
    Lou Hamer in the Spring issue of American Legacy magazine. It was an
    inspiring article, until I read these words:

    "Fannie Lou Hamer died on April 14, 1977, at the age of 59. She and her
    husband, Pap, were penniless, and friends had to raise money to pay for
    her funeral. At the end of her life, she sometimes felt as if no one
    remembered her or cared about what she had done. . ."

    For days I've been thinking about this. I wondered, how could a woman
    who meant so much to so many people have an ending so sad? How could she
    not know, not feel the importance of her life? How could she die

    I called Victoria Gray-Adams, one of the three women, with Ms. Hamer and
    Ms. Annie Devine, who were the national spokespeople for the Mississippi
    Freedom Democratic Party. In 1964-65, the MFDP, with Ms. Hamer as the
    main spokesperson, electrified the country by their open challenge to
    the racist white power structure that controlled politics and economics
    in the state of Mississippi and beyond.

    When I asked Ms. Gray-Adams if it was true that Ms. Hamer died without
    money, she said that it was. When I asked why, she explained that it was
    because, until the end of her days, Fannie Lou Hamer thought of others
    before she thought of herself, stayed active in one way or the other for
    as long as she could, and as a result she just didn't have any money
    when she died.

    How many of us have the depth of commitment of a Fannie Lou Hamer? How
    many of us are willing to give so much that we literally would not have
    the money to pay for our burial expenses?

    And make no mistake about it, Ms. Hamer had options. Following the
    national exposure she and the MFDP received in the mid-60s, she could
    have done quite well if she had wanted to. She could have continued to
    struggle for justice, in some way, while drawing a nice salary from an
    organization, or taken in money from public speaking. But she continued
    to work in Mississippi, involved with her people until the end, never
    losing that contact, never being seduced by fame or potential fortune.

    I think of Ella Baker. I had the privilege of getting to know this
    heroine of the Civil Rights Movement in the latter years of her life. I
    visited with her several times in her small apartment in Harlem. She,
    also, could have used her gifts and talents to live much better, much
    more comfortably, while still staying involved with the pro-justice
    movement. But her deep commitment to her people, to the cause of justice
    and freedom for all people, would not allow her to do other than what
    she did for decades, at the expense of personal comfort and security.

    Ms. Hamer, Ms. Baker and Annie Devine were exceptional people, but they
    were not exceptions. There were then, and there are today, people who,
    in their own ways, are living similar lives. They are doing all that
    they can, giving all that they can, risking job, income, security,
    personal health, for the greater good. They may or may not be drawing a
    decent salary; that is not the most important thing to them. What is
    important is that they follow their hearts, their consciences, do the
    right thing, put the needs of suffering humanity and a threatened
    ecosystem before personal need. Indeed, such people have come to
    understand that our lives are the fullest and the greatest when we give
    them for and with others.

    Ms. Hamer loved to sing. One of her favorites was, "This Little Light of
    Mine." She understood that it is only by shining our lights, the best
    within us, for as long and as strongly as we can, that the world will
    become a better place for all its people. There is no better way that we
    can honor this giant of our history than to draw strength from her
    example so that we can get to that time when "the hearts of each will be
    pure of envy and greed, and therefore all humankind will be without
    malice, and there will be nothing to divorce the heart from reason."

    The struggle is long, but victory is certain.

    Ted Glick is National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive
    Politics Network (www.ippn.org) and author of Future Hope: A Winning
    Strategy for a Just Society. He can be reached at futurehopeTG@aol.com
    or c/o P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J. 07003.

    *Pronouns changed from the original masculine to gender neutral.

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