It was truly an honor to have Ms. Bettie speak with our students, faculty and staff at our annual National Dialogue on Race. She delivered a message that was inspirational, authentic and educational. Her message comes from her inner spirit that is rooted in love for all people and her deep desire for us as a community, as people, to do better. She encourages us to unify and continue to pave the way for future generations to come, as those that came before us made a way for you and I to be able to experiences the simple joys of life together. The simple things that many of us don’t realize we’re not a part of everyday life 60 years ago. Her account of history is touching, as she intertwines her soulful melodic voice into storytelling. She shared her journey of yesterday and passes the baton to college communities to make it better for today and tomorrow.

I would highly recommend Ms. Bettie because her story and message should be heard by all: students, faculty and administrators. Attendees are still sharing their feedback from her talk with me and others. We will definitely have her return in the spring.

Christy BanksAssistant Director of Campus Activities and Multicultural Affairs Suffolk County Community College

“I cannot offer enough accolades and superlatives regarding the presentation from Ms. Bettie Mae Fikes. She provided our college community with a recounting of wrenching truths of her experience as a Civil Rights leader along with those of her fellow advocates, repeatedly emphasizing the peril, humiliation and death that so many have had to endure, and continue to endure, on this journey. Ms. Fikes delivered this education and call to action in a gracious and inspiring manner. The spontaneous infusion of song was incredibly moving. Ms. Fikes provided our community, namely students, with a noble challenge to take an active stance for equity and inclusion as a moral obligation. Clearly she continues to set a powerful example through her own life and work. As a Catholic and Franciscan college, Ms. Fikes reminded us of our duty to stay true to our values and actively stand against racism and foster solidarity with those who are marginalized…”

Br. George Camacho, O.F.M.Director - Damietta Cross-Cultural Center | Siena College


Bettie Mae Fikes, a.k.a ‘the voice of Selma’, is a celebrated icon of the 1960’s civil rights movement who has since sustained her public activity by frequently performing as a core member of the SNCC Freedom Singers and has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival and the Library of Congress. She is a recipient of the Long Walk to Freedom Award, and has recently been inducted into the Smithsonian Institute’s ‘Museum of Tolerance’ in an exhibition honoring women of the Civil Rights Movement.

Bettie Mae Fikes began singing gospel with her mother at age 4 then, as a founding member of the Freedom Singers, began traveling with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Freedom Rights struggle.  This is how she came to be known as the “Voice” of Selma.  She has performed with the likes of Joe Turner, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Albert King and Bob Dillon, just to name a few.

Bettie is also a dynamic lecturer, having delivered moving speeches about diversity and civil rights at universities throughout the United States and Canada. She remains one of only a few living divas who can legitimately lay claim to the title, ‘The Queen of the Blues’ and back it up with both a genuine gift for soul music and relevant historical significance.  Her message is universal, timely and timelessly trans-generational.

Bettie Mae Fikes is a powerful, beautiful woman.  She holds Blues audiences in the palm of her well-manicured hand when she takes to the stage and begins to tell each person in that rapt crowd a story.  Yes, she’s a storyteller.  A musical genius of a storyteller.  She’ll weave you into her story with her impromptu lyrics; caress you with that throaty, rich, velvety voice…until you believe you are the only one in the room.  Small in stature, she seems ten feet tall when she’s in the spotlight gazing down at you.  Her voice can vibrate a room until the walls beg for mercy.