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. God's kingdom includes everyone. Thank you Ms. Fikes.

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

Bio:

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.

Program:

A Conversation with Black Women of the Freedom Movement and Black Men Education Activists: The Fight for Racial Justice Continues

The unsung heroes of the civil rights movement are black women you’ve never heard of. History remembers the male leaders who fought for human rights, but not Herstory and the women who made so many victories possible. The Fight Against Racism in a so-called Post Racial Society Continues!

On that historic August day in 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us his dream. We didn’t get to hear what the women of the civil rights movement dreamed of, because none spoke at length during the official program of the March on Washington. The Civil Rights Movement aka the Black Freedom Movement could not have happened without women. They were grassroots organizers, educators, strategists and writers. They built organizational infrastructure, developed legal arguments and mentored young activists. They fought ardently against the forces of racism, but they also battled another form of oppression: sexism. Many many women of the past and present have worked hard to “create new structures and political movements free from racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia to nourish their visions of liberation

Join us for this engaging dialogue of Black Women and the Black Men whose shoulders they stand on to educate a generation of many that have been denied and robbed of an education for their knowledge of self, identity and Herstory for collectivism of Black People today.

Interactive Panel Discussion

Moderator: Mrs. Maria R. McLemore-Hines

Potential Female Panelists: Ms. Bettie Mae Fikes, Rev. Ruby Sales, Ms. Joanne Bland, Mrs. Kathleen Cleaver, Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams, Ms. Dianne Nash, Ms. Claire O’Connor, Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Cynthia Griggs-Fleming

Male Panelists: Dr. Marcellus Davis, Mr. Alexander Hines & Dr. Kenneth Turner