Hamer memorialized in bronze
by Chance Wright
Oct 07, 2012 | 2626 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A leader in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, Ruleville's own, the late Fannie Lou Hamer, was once again immortalized Friday when a life-sized, bronze statue of the icon was unveiled before a huge audience at the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden in Ruleville.

Hundreds of people from around the country made the journey to the small Delta town to witness the unveiling of the statue, created by New Jersey sculptor Brian Hanlon, which was dedicated one day before what would've been Hamer's 95th birthday.

Probably best known for penning the phrase, "All my life I've been sick and tired. Now I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," Hamer was among the most significant participants in the struggle to achieve freedom and social justice for African Americans.

Born on Oct. 6, 1917, Hamer spent the early part of her life working in the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta with her family, who were sharecroppers.

It wasn't until Aug. 1962, while attending a meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in her hometown of Ruleville, that her fight for equal rights began.

It was at this meeting, with Hamer's attempt to register to vote in the segregated south, that her life would be changed forever.

For her decision that fateful day, Hamer was kicked off the plantation where she worked. In June of the following year, while encouraging other African Americans to register to vote in Winona, she was brutally beaten and jailed.

In 1964, Hamer brought her testimony to the attention of the nation at the national convention of the Democratic Party in Atlantic City. There she sought to prevent the seating of the all-white Mississippi delegation and while her efforts failed that year, in 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed.

"We come here today to celebrate the life and legacy of a great, brave and courageous woman," said Bobbie Allen, mistress of ceremony. "A woman who believed that everyone had a right to vote.

"Miss Hamer feared no man in her quest," Allen continued. "She went about the business of doing what she felt was right. Today we come to celebrate and honor her."

After Allen's opening statements, the Ruleville Central High School Band performed the National Anthem followed by a gripping version of the black national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing, which was sung by the audience.

Prior to the unveiling of the statue, Dr. Molefi Asante, a professor at Temple University, took the podium for a libations ceremony to remember other civil rights activists that have died.

Patricia Thompson, national coordinator of the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee, then introduced the members of the committee before handing over the podium to William T. Merritt, president and CEO of the National Black United Fund, who spoke of ongoing philanthropy efforts and giving.

Project Manager Charles McLaurin then took over the ceremony and told the audience the story of the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden.

"I happened to have been a very personal friend of Fannie Lou Hamer," said McLaurin, a Sunflower County businessman, member of the national statue committee and one of its' most avid supporters.

"During her battle with illness, she had asked me not to bury her back on a plantation," McLaurin continued. "So when she passed, we legally created this Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden, and we buried her right over there.

"It is important that everybody here, and especially the young people, know that today, Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper, is being honored for her efforts of bringing equal rights to everyone," he added.

Mississippi Senator Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, who also sits on the statue committee, followed up McLaurin's address and spoke briefly of all the donations and hard work of so many that made the ceremony possible and of the importance of the moment.

"I kind of look at this as an Easter celebration," said Simmons. "I look at it as an Easter celebration because it was in March of 1977, or Good Friday that year, that we lost this giant. Today, after these numbers of years have passed and we come back, we come back for the resurrection. This statue symbolizes the resurrection because all of these young people who are here today, and around the country, can come to this very site and be introduced to Fannie Lou Hamer, and all the work she did for the American people.

"They are going to be inspired, motivated and stimulated to do things that would have perhaps not have been done and all because of a sharecropper," he said.

After Sen. Simmons' address, famed journalist and economist, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, presented a historical walk through Hamer's life that was then followed by a heart-wrenching solo from Vergie Hamer Faulkner, daughter of Fannie Lou, prior to the unveiling of the statue.

After the unveiling, Ruleville Mayor Shirley Edwards concluded the program and the audience joined in singing This Little Light of Mine.