We Shall Overcome Fund Final Report

We Shall Overcome Fund Final Report on the Ella Baker Tour and Retreat

Summary of Project
The purpose of the Ella Baker Tour and Retreat was to commemorate and reinvigorate the influence of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) by enlisting students and young activists to organize events for a multicultural, intergenerational dialogue.

At the Highlander Center 75th Anniversary celebration, students from East Tennessee State University agreed to host the first Ella Baker Tour stop. Ash-Lee Henderson and Jared Story used their network to help promote the tour through Facebook leading to requests to host the tour at other schools and a successful retreat at Kure Beach near Wilmington, NC in May 2008.

By popular demand, the tour continued from February 2008 to March 2010 culminating in the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference, April 15-18 2010. Thanks to the success of the Ella Baker Tour and Retreat, the Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN) is expanding from North Carolina into SC, GA and AL in fall of 2010. Theresa El-Amin will take on the role of regional organizer and relocate to GA in December 2010.

Contributions received for the Ella Baker Tour from February 2008-March 2010 totaled $13,218 including the $1,000 contribution from the We Shall Overcome Fund.

The Independent Progressive Politics Network (IPPN) and SARN will collaborate on a campaign: Anti-Racism Work in the Age of Obama. The first phase of the campaign will be a national tour of college campuses using the Ella Baker Tour model and drawing in experienced organizers from the labor, green, anti-war, reparations, political prisoners, education equity, end mass incarceration and anti-imperialism movements for intergenerational dialogue on how white supremacy intersects with other oppressions and to explore a vision of a world without racism and white supremacy.

Ella Baker Tour and Retreat: A Chronology
February 18, 2008- The first tour stop at East Tennessee State University was organized by Ash-Lee Henderson and Jared Story. Ruby Nell Sales was promoted as one of the speakers. Due to the illness of Ruby’s mother, Ruby could not attend as planned. Theresa El-Amin arrived on Sunday, February 17 and called Guy and Candie Carawan who graciously agreed to participate. Ash and Jared raised $2,300 from ETSU. Hotel accommodations for speakers were also covered by ETSU.

February 25, 2008- Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, NC hosted the second stop. Harry Phillips, a history professor and friend of Theresa El-Amin, organized the stop that was simulcast to 3 other campuses and videotaped reaching over 400 students and faculty. A local TV personality moderated the panel. Isaac Coleman, Theresa El-Amin, Ira Grupper, and Efia Nwangaza told their stories. Donation from CPCC was $800. CPCC covered air travel for Ira Grupper and hotel accommodations for Ira, Isaac and Theresa.

February 27, 2008- NC State University (NCSU) hosted the third stop of the Ella Baker Tour in Raleigh, NC. Students in the class of Katherine Merron Charron agreed to organize the tour stop after Michael Simmons and Theresa El-Amin spoke to her class in November 2007. Professor Charron gave Wende Nichols, Tom Leventhall and Nikki Jones class credit in lieu of the 10-page paper required by other students in her class. Wende, Nikki and Tom reached out to students at Shaw University and St. Augustine College for a diverse attendance of over 300 student, faculty and community members. A copy of Ella’s Song was provided to all and Nana Nantambu led the gathering in a creative arrangement of Ella’s Song. Theresa El-Amin and Ira Grupper told their stories. Student organizers raised $500 from NCSU and airfare for Ira Grupper.

April 2, 2008- Nnenna Okeke organized the fourth tour stop at Rutgers at New Brunswick, NJ. Nnenna reached out to People Organizing for Progress (POP) for co-sponsorship and raised $118 from POP and $500 from Rutgers. Sandra Adickes, Bob Zellner, Sam Anderson and Muriel Tillinghast told their stories.

April 3, 2008- Nate Franco at Hunter College in NYC organized a panel that was intergenerational with students and SNCC vets presenting. Sam Anderson, Nellie Hester, Constancia Dinky Romilly, Matt Jones and Muriel Tillinghast presented. Nate raised $500 from Hunter College.

April 2-3, 2008- The annual MLK bus tour organized out of Raleigh and Durham NC agreed to join the Ella Baker Tour at the request of Theresa El-Amin, a bus rider. At the Tuskegee stop, Barbara Howard did a walking and speaking tour of the Tuskegee University campus pointing out places where students gathered and organized. At the Selma stop Joanne Bland and Gwen Patton spoke at the lunch gathering to all of the 150 bus riders from the 3 buses. At the Montgomery dinner stop, Annie Pearl Avery spoke. (The bus tour final stop was Memphis to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 2008.)

April 15, 2008 – Juanita Scott at the University of Louisville organized the stop that included Theresa El-Amin, Ira Grupper and Chuck Neblett. Juanita had organized students into a “SNCC” on campus. The stop was sponsored by the Vice Provost for Minority Affairs, Dean of Students, Dean of Arts and Science, The Anne Braden Institute and the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice. Juanita raised $500 for the tour.

April 22, 2008- Sara Mersha, colleague of Theresa El-Amin, agreed to work with student Emily Taylor to organize the Brown University stop. Charlie Cobb hosted Ivanhoe Donaldson the same evening at Brown in a different venue. Sandra Adickes and Theresa El-Amin spoke to a lively crowd of 70 students for an interesting intergenerational dialogue that included questions about race, class and gender. Theresa and Sandra were housed in the community with activists. Brown University donation was $500.

May 20-27 Retreat at Kure Beach: The culmination of the first phase of the tour was the highly anticipated beach retreat. Two 5-bedroom houses were rented for the week to provide a space for women and a space for men. SNCC vets participating included Ira Grupper, Efia Nwangaza and Theresa El-Amin. Youth participants (under 32) were Anne Wolfley (31), Jared Story (30), Ash-Lee Henderson (22), Christá Whaley (23), Juanita Scott (21), Khalfani Herman (24), Heidi Lopez (25), Isaac Silver (25), Ismail Silver (25), and Alexandria Barabin (22). Over 50 group- Steve Bloom, Andy Silver, Theresa El-Amin, Ira Grupper, Wayne Turner, Luci Murphy, Efia Nwangaza, and Ed Whitfield. Cathy Howell of the National Organizers Alliance (and a Wilmington resident at the time) dropped by to share a report of the Ella Baker Tour printed in the ARK magazine.

The retreat was a time for relaxation and political discussion. We prepared meals and ate together. The beach houses were well-kept and the beach was a short walk away. Ed played his flute and Luci led us in songs. We watched films and discussed the state of things including the Palestine Question, imperialism, white supremacy and patriarchy. We assessed the tour and pondered who would organize the SNCC 50th event.

The retreat was not without controversy. Several of the young activists skipped a scheduled discussion session to go into Wilmington and demand entry into a private club. After the incident escalated to police involvement, the group returned and a debate began about people from out of town determining what struggles people should be waging in their own communities. The question was not settled. However, we all felt good about the open and candid discussion.

Continuing the Ella Baker Tour- requests to host the tour came in from North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Winthrop University, Duke University and Hillside High School. An October 2008 tour was scheduled around Gwen Patton’s birthday.

Winthrop University stop organized by Ashley Dozier raised $500. NCCU stop hosted by the NCCU Law School and Women’s Center raised $500. Duke University stop organized by Mike Munger, chair of Political Science and Libertarian candidate for NC Governor, raised $1,000. Durham community events included The Know Bookstore, Hillside High School and Union Baptist Church. SNCC vets participating in the October 2008 stops of the Ella Baker Tour included Annie Pearl Avery, Gwen Patton, Ira Grupper, Theresa El-Amin, Al Pertilla and Efia Nwangaza. A donation of $250 was received from the People’s Alliance Fund based in Durham in support of Durham community events. Also, a donation of $250 was given by Gwen Patton from one of her Montgomery based organizations.

Two stops in 2009-
February at Virginia Tech with Ira Grupper, Joan Browning and Theresa El-Amin organized by Ray Plaza and supported by black fraternities and sororities at VA Tech. VA Tech donated $1,000 to SARN for the Ella Baker Tour.

A second Hunter College stop organized by Nate Franco and the anti-racism group in the School of Social Work took place in April 2009. The stop included Bob Zellner, Sam Anderson, Bob Fullilove, Nellie Hester, Sandra Adickes and Theresa El-Amin. Nate raised $1,500 from Hunter College for this second stop.

Final stop of the Ella Baker Tour was hosted at the flagship of the 16 campuses of the University of North Carolina. UNC-Chapel Hill brought Connie Curry, Efia Nwangaza and Theresa El-Amin for a “Women of SNCC” event on March 16. Connie did a special presentation of Intolerable Burden during lunch on March 16. Students from Sunflower County, MS were in attendance as part of a UNC-CH student mentoring project. Also, Hodding Carter from the Jimmy Carter administration who teaches at UNC-CH was in the audience.

Kia Caldwell, young professor in African and Afro-American Studies and B’Anca Glenn, President of the Black Student Movement at UNC-CH, organized the events. Connie and Theresa submitted an op-ed piece that printed on Monday, March 15 in the Durham Herald Sun. Questions about organizing and concerns about the resegregation of Wake County Schools made for a lively discussion in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at UNC-CH. A dinner with student organizers, faculty and SNCC vets followed. Kia and B’Anca raised $1,500 for the final stop of the Ella Baker Tour.

The culmination of the Ella Baker Tour was always seen as the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference. The host committee invited local SNCC vets to participate in town hall meetings, radio shows and to speak in classrooms at NCCU. The student turnout at the SNCC 50th is in large part due to the efforts of members of the local host committee.

Theresa El-Amin, after speaking to a classroom on April 7, recruited several students and a history professor from NCCU to participate in an anti-racism study group using the book- The Cost of Privilege: Taking On the System of White Supremacy and Racism. All of the students and the professor attended some portion of the SNCC 50th conference. Next meeting of the study group is April 28. Discussions are underway about a continuations committee coming out of the SNCC 50th conference. It seems prudent for North Carolina activists to explore the possibilities of intergenerational collaborations.