Activist Myrlie Evers-Williams attends the premiere of DreamWorks Pictures’ “The Help” held at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Samuel Goldwyn Theater on August 9, 2011 in Beverly Hills
*The widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers will deliver the invocation at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced today that Myrlie Evers-Williams would deliver the prayer, reports the AP. It comes 50 years after her husband was gunned down in the driveway of his Mississippi home. The inauguration falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Evers-Williams is a distinguished scholar at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss. She was chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998.
Inaugural organizers said the Rev. Louie Giglio of Atlanta’s Passion City Church will deliver the benediction for Obama’s swearing-in.
In a statement, Obama says Evers-Williams and Giglio represent ideals of justice, equality and opportunity that he pursues.
Rev. Rick Warren delivered the invocation during President Obama’s first Inauguration in 2009.
The newly installed Los Angeles component of 'Freedom's Sisters'
*Freedom’s Sisters, an emotional exhibit that tells the story of African American women who changed the world, is currently on display at the Museum of Tolerance.
The interactive exhibition honors 20 African American women who have worked for freedom and equality in America.
The honorees include: Ella J. Baker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Shirley Chisholm, Septima Poinsette Clark, Kathleen Cleaver, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, Frances Watkins Harper, Dorothy Irene Height, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Barbara Jordan, Coretta Scott King, Constance Baker Motley, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, Sonia Sanchez, Betty Shabazz, Mary Church Terrell, Harriet Ross Greene Tubman, C. Delores Tucker and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
A star-studded tribute honoring the 20, as well as several women in Los Angeles who were recognized as local Freedom’s Sisters, took place Tuesday night (Sept. 13) at the Museum of Tolerance. The event was co-hosted by Kevin Frazier (The Insider) and Holly Robinson Peete (The Talk/For Your Love).
Of the 20, Myrlie Evers Williams and Dr. Sonia Sanchez were present.
“I call this exhibit the thunder of angels,” said Sanchez. “I’m honored to be part of this exhibit. It’s important to bring children to the exhibit. Bring humanity back into the classroom. When you see this exhibit, we will learn how to wear our days well.”
“There is the whole of me that says to the God I worship, ‘I thank you for all the blessings and allowing me to look deep inside this world…and say, it’s worth it,’” said Evers Williams, who revealed she is 78. “As women we need to stand up, stand tall and stand brave. We need to give credit to those who deserve it. But, understand, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”
Several local Freedom’s Sisters selected by the Museum of Tolerance and Ford were on hand including KCBS news anchor Pat Harvey, artists Phoebe Beasley and Samella Lewis, actress Denise Nicholas, Rosie Lee Hooks (actress and director of the Watts Towers Arts Center), sculptor Artis Lane, Avis Ridley Thomas (Los Angeles city attorney’s office), Captain d’Lisa Davies (Los Angeles Fire Dept.), Chairisse Bremond Weaver (Brotherhood Crusade), Glenda Gill (Rainbow Push), Holly J Mitchell – Assemblymember, 47 District; EUR contributor Daphne Bradford, Karen Collins, Kimberle’ Crenshaw, Bettie Fikes, Dr. Karen Hill Scott, Faye W. McClure, Constance L. Rice, Esq., Betye Saar, Chief Jacaueline Seabrooks, Dr. Jessie L. Sherrod, Helen Singleton, Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, Brenda Tavis, Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely, Kimberly West-Faulcon, Sandy Banks (who was not in attendance), Dr. Gail E. Wyatt and former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Rita Walters.
“I feel very honored to be in the same company as these women,” said Walters. “This exhibit means these women and the work they’ve done is being recognized. These women are inspiring. They were there the whole time. This has been women’s role throughout history.”
Liebe Geft, Dr. Sonia Sanchez and Myrlie Evers Williams
Liebe Geft, director of the Museum of Tolerance, called Freedom’s Sisters a “remarkable exhibition.”
“I’m humbled to be in the presence of two of the Freedom’s Sisters,” said Geft referring to Evers Williams and Sanchez. “You are our role models today. Special stories are best told in special places. This is a catalyst for change. I want everyone to be inspired by their stories.”
“Projects like this allow us to share an important part of our history,” said Lori Yarrish, deputy director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, one of the collaborators for Freedom’s Sisters.
Organized around the themes of “Dare to Dream,” “Inspire Lives,” “Serve the Public,” and “Look to the Future,” interactive stations and images bring the women’s stories to life. The multimedia retrospective is a collaborative effort between the Cincinnati Museum Center, Ford Motor Company and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).
The exhibit does not diminish the efforts and accomplishments made by the male leaders, but rather highlights the contributions of African American women.
“We haven’t done all that we can to honor the sisters,” said Pamela Alexander, director of Community Development and Fund Operations Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “Freedom’s Sisters tells the story of women that have previously been untold. I don’t mean to understate their actions by saying that. But, the reality is that the contributions of these 20 women and so many other Freedom’s Sisters who maybe aren’t listed in the exhibit, were literally the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. And, in so many ways, they didn’t receive the recognition that they deserve.”
Freedom’s Sisters, conceived by the Ford Motor Company Fund (the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company), opened on March 15, 2008 at the Cincinnati Museum Center and has toured nine locations across the U.S. over a three-year period. The exhibit will conclude in Harlem, New York.
In addition to the exhibit, Freedom’s Sisters, which has educational and community outreach initiatives, includes an essay contest in which Ford will award $10,000 in scholarships to local 4th-8th grade students.
Also recognized that evening for their contributions to the project were actors Blair Underwood (The Event), James Pickens Jr. (Grey’s Anatomy) and Kevin Frazier (whose great aunt is Septima Poinsette Clark).
Other celebrities in attendance included Natalie Cole, Marla Gibbs, CCH Pounder and Bernie Casey.
At the celebration, singer Deniece Williams brought the house down singing her hit song, “Black Butterfly,” as a tribute to all the Freedom’s Sisters.
“To be in the company of these women is encouraging,” said Williams. “They are remarkable. I can sit and listen to them for hours.”
Said Kevin Frazier, who has traveled with the exhibit from the beginning, ‘traveling with these women is like an education. These women’s stories need to be told.”
Freedom’s Sisters, Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; Sept 14, 2011-Jan. 8, 2012; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; closed Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.; $11-$15; (310) 553-8403 or www.museumoftolerance.com.
*The Association of Black Women Historians are speaking out against both the best-selling novel and the new movie “The Help,” urging fans to reconsider the popular tale of African American maids in 1960s Jackson, Miss., who risk sharing their experiences with a young white journalist.
“Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, ‘The Help’ distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers,” the statement read, according to Entertainment Weekly.
The group of scholars took issue with novelist Kathryn Stockett’s use of “black” dialect, her nearly uniform portrayal of black men as cruel or absent, and the lack of attention paid to the sexual harassment that many black women endured in their white employers’ homes.
“The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment.”
They further made clear that while they may disapprove of ‘The Help’ as storytelling, they very much admire and respect the “stellar performances” of the movie’s black actresses like Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.
In EW’s cover story on the film, Davis (who plays Aibileen, the first maid to talk frankly with the white journalist, played by Emma Stone) acknowledged the charged conversations that were sure to accompany the film’s release. She says she too approached the novel with enormous suspicion, “because a white woman was writing what I felt was our story, and once again she’s going to get it wrong and she’s only going to skim the surface,” she said.
Yet the story, and what she calls the deep humanity of the characters, won her over. “That’s what people bristle at: the maids,” she says. “I’ve played lawyers and doctors who are less explored and more of an archetype than these maids.”
The ABWH statement takes the film to task for seeming to suggest that after the assassination of Civil Rights pioneer Medgar Evers, the sole response of the black community was to quake in fear and anxiety. But it should be noted that at a recent special screening hosted by the NAACP, his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, bestowed upon The Help her most passionate blessing.
*(JACKSON, MS) – The Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement at Jackson State University will host a three-day conference featuring Minister Louis Farrakhan, Shirley Sherrod and Myrlie Evers-Williams on its 1400 John R. Lynch St. campus March 23-26.
The sixth annual conference, themed “Too Much Reform and Not Enough Change. NEEDED: A New Grassroots Movement for Change in EDUCATION,” is designed to inspire and empower youth through social activism education. Topics include: “The Threat to Free Speech,” “Cradle to Prison Pipeline,” and “Islamophobia and Religious Intolerance.”
Now one of the largest annual gatherings of civil rights veterans in the country, this event brings together civil rights activists, historians, students, community organizers, educators, filmmakers and producers, second generation activists, grassroots organizations and hundreds of others from across the United States and abroad with today’s youth to discuss ways to continue positive change in society.
Among the special guests confirmed this year are Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam; Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Myrlie Evers Williams, former NAACP chairman and widow of Medgar Evers; Marion Barry, Washington D.C. councilman; Kathleen Cleaver, Yale professor and former Black Panther; Haki Madhubuti, author and poet; and Karima Al-Amin, community activist.
Farrakhan will be the keynote speaker for the Veterans Freedom Gathering at 7 p.m., Friday, March 25, at the JSU Rose Embly McCoy Auditorium. Sherrod will be the keynote luncheon speaker for the Veterans Activist Luncheon at noon, Saturday, March 26, at the JSU Student Center. Evers-Williams will speak at the Intergenerational Cultural Expression Night at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26, also at the Student Center.
Having begun in 2004 with small gatherings, the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement became an official arm of Jackson State in 2008. In addition to collecting and archiving oral histories of civil rights veterans across the country, the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement supports persons actively using those stories to continue the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.
“We are trying to be true to our reason for being,” said Owen Brooks, executive director for the organization. “This conference, like others, will allow an exchange of ideas and to engage participants in discussions regarding issues that are important to them.”
Admission to the conference, which begins on Thursday, March 24, is $100 for adults and includes admission to all events. College student registration is $25. High school student registration is $10. Prices include all events except the Veterans Freedom Gathering featuring Minister Farrakhan, which will cost $10 with a student ID. The registration fee includes a one-year membership to the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.
Events schedule and ticket prices:
Veterans Luncheon featuring Karima Al-Amin, Thursday, March 24: $20 adults; $10 students
JSU Presidential Banquet, Thursday, March 24: $25 adults; $10 students
Veterans Luncheon featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Friday, March 25: $20 adults; $10 students
Veterans Freedom Gathering with Minister Louis Farrakhan, Friday, March 25: $20 adults; $10 students
Veterans Luncheon featuring Shirley Sherrod, Saturday, March 26: $20 adults; $10 students
Cultural Expression Night featuring Myrlie Evers Williams, Saturday, March 26: $20 adults; $10 students
Space for all events is limited. Tickets will not be sold at the door, so interested persons should purchase tickets in advance. The registration deadline is March 15.
For complete conference details, schedules, online registration, souvenir book form and to volunteer, visit www.MSCivilRightsVeterans.org or call 601-979-1515.
About Jackson State University: Bridge to a Brighter Tomorrow
Jackson State University, founded in 1877, is a historically black, high research activity university located in Jackson, the capital city of the state of Mississippi. Jackson State’s nurturing academic environment challenges individuals to change lives through teaching, research and service. Officially designated as Mississippi’s Urban University, Jackson State continues to enhance the state, nation and world through comprehensive economic development, health-care, technological and educational initiatives. The only public university in the Jackson metropolitan area, Jackson State is located near downtown, with three satellite campuses throughout the city. For more information, visit www.jsums.edu.
Jackson State University Office of Public Relations
601-979-2272 (office) — www.jsums.edu
*Actress Taraji P. Henson has been tapped to host the Ford Freedom’s Sisters luncheon honoring 20 exceptional African American women who have made a difference in Southern California.
The event will be held on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 12 to 2 p.m. at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Myrlie Evers Williams
The local honoree luncheon and award ceremony is a continuation of the Freedom’s Sisters traveling multimedia exhibit, which was launched in 2008 at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
“Ford Motor Company is thrilled to have Ms. Henson hosting our Los Angeles Freedom’s Sisters luncheon”, said Pamela Alexander, director, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “A trailblazer in her own right, Taraji is a role model to women of all ages who strive to realize their dream.”
Civil rights icon and one of the 20 women honored in the national exhibit, Freedom Sister, Myrlie Evers Williams, will deliver the keynote address at the invitation only luncheon.
“I am honored to join the Ford Motor Company Fund in recognizing the struggles and continuing success of the many remarkable African American women of achievement here in Los Angeles and across the nation, both past and present,” says Henson.