Thursday, December 31, 2009

President Obama: Meet Fannie Lou Hamer


Tonight, I will complete my seventh decade living in America, and I have seen and been a part of its history. The inauguration of President Obama in January of this year was a most remarkable thing when you consider our history and the story of full civil rights for black Americans. That the Republican Party does not want a Democrat in the White house to score any points is nothing new. America's history is filled with examples of political fighting between the parties. But, this time it is different. At least for this historian it is different. Let me explain.

In the summer of 1964, after graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor's degree in American History, I decided to hitch hike to New Orleans. There I got a job on a Norwegian freighter and took a cruise to Venezuela, Columbia and the Dominican Republic. After my cruise, I tried to get a job on an American freighter, but the economy was slow in the summer of 1964, so I hitch hiked to Atlantic City. In Atlantic City I found a job developing black & white film for United Press International (UPI) in the basement of the Democratic National Convention.

Up stairs on the convention floor was a woman by the name of Fannie Lou Hamer. She was from Sunflower County, Mississippi and she was black. In 1964, the Democratic delegation to the convention was all white and anti-civil rights. But, this was about to change. Fannie Lou Hamer was a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, also know as "Freedom Democrats". As Vice-Chair of this delegation Fannie Lou Hamer pressed her case to be seated as part of the Democratic delegation from Mississippi. They won two seats to the consternation of President Johnson. This cost the Democrats the South for many years as Nixon's Southern Strategy opportunistically took advantage of the racial hatred that manifested itself during the Civil Rights movement.

While I was developing black & white film in the basement, Fannie Lou Hamer was making black & white history on the convention floor. She died on March 14, 1977 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi many years before she could see our country elect its first black president. But, she is not forgotten by those of us who where there in the summer 1964 and remember her words, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."

So, knowing the American History that I lived through and the battles that were fought for racial equality in America, I am not surprised by the attacks on President Obama. President Obama, Fannie Lou Hamer had it a lot worse.

Stay tuned.

6 comments:

Naomi said...

Tipping my hat to Fannie Lou for standing her ground, and a happy natal anniversary to you, Fred. A thoughtful post - and the message was not lost.

LceeL said...

They are different people, these are different times, and there are different expectations. She did what she needed to do. He's doing what he needs to do. Both have had their crosses to bear. She's laid her burden down. And not because she chose to. She fought to the end. He still carries his burden. Because he chooses to. I expect he will keep on fighting - to the end. Whenever and whatever that is.

Happy Birthday, my friend. And a Happy New year to you and yours.

Julie Schuler said...

My mother, though she would deny it, is racist, but my children are definitely not. Sometimes when my son sees children playing together, children that look very obviously different in skin tone, he will ask me if they are brothers or sisters. That makes me feel good, because I had to "walk off" my parent's racism, but my children won't have to do that.

Robin said...

What a tremendous time to have witnessed first hand, and a fitting day to remember how far we've come and how far there still is to go.

Happy birthday. My life is richer for having you in it.

moneythoughts said...

It is not my birthday. My birthday is October 2nd. What I meant, and did not make very clear, was that this was the end of my 7th decade. However, there have been days when I have thought I have been around for 70 years.

Studio 116 @ Dublin Davis MS(OH) said...

Thank you for sharing your shared history with Fannie Lou Hammer and the democratic process.

Fred your rise from a basement to the boardroom, and now to the net has always been informed by your love of freedom, truth and art. Your life's work has been our gift--Thank you!

Fannie Lou Hammer was a woman of few, but pointed words and in that time and place a few well stated words were enough to push the last dominos into position for the voting rights and expansion of equality for African American citizens of the U.S.

Many times in the course of this underdeveloped nation those that are passionate and steadfast move us from a stagnant position towards what is right and true.

It is often after our hazy recovery that we see how foolish we had been in resisting what was good for us, and in this case the nation.

Mary Lou Hamer pulled a few by their wits ends to the turning point, as a result a few gaps remained open in 2009 allowing Barack Obama to navigate through.

Will the Obama presidency be as stellar a turning point for this country as that of Hamer’s work or will he be a bookend for the status quo?

Many of us know that being brown is not enough, being eloquent and educated is not enough, and being impassioned is not enough.

President Obama will have to push things forward for the mass of citizens that believed in him and his vision for this nation.

He will have to pull that gnarly thread and totally unravel the BS that has been presented as the truth. His rhetoric must be actualized or it will be a stained lie, not soon forgotten.

His success is a global gain, his failure a fantastic fallacy of why he was not the “right one”. If President Obama falters or fails, unfortunately another will slip in and the next one will not ask permission to do more of the unspeakable things that have been done to the US and global citizens since and before Reagan.

As reflect on that that day in 1964Hamer is a lighthouse for the righteous and the free, our collaboration with President Obama will help maintain that precarious filament of hope that we have no matter the storm.

Thanks again for sharing the story.