(302225)
Credit: Fannie Lou Hamer Institute

She was a leader, organizer and a trailblazer. That’s why the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute continues to lift up Fannie Lou Hamer’s legacy.

She was a civil rights activist and an advocate for social action, including the right to vote in Mississippi in the 1960s.

Although Hamer passed in 1977, her message that “nobody’s free until everybody’s free” draws direct parallels for many who are on the frontlines of the current social justice movement.

Hamer’s impact from the sharecropping fields of Mississippi to the nation’s capital in Washington D.C., was the centerpiece of the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute’s first Black History Month celebration on the organization’s Facebook Page.

Organizers credit Hamer for giving power to the black woman’s voice, by notably co-founding and representing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, running for Congress in 1964 and 1965 and ultimately becoming a delegate for Mississippi at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

From a historical perspective, 92-year-old Rev. James Lawson spoke first-hand about working with Hamer through the Black church. He also uplifted her name and explained how her legacy still applies today.

“Deepen and enlarge your work,” said Lawson, who spent decades working in the South as a civil rights activist and university professor. Lawson said Hamer was more than a member of the civil rights movement.

More specifically, she was an icon in the non-violent black freedom movement in Mississippi and across the United States.

Hamer’s life and legacy has also inspired honorees from Los Angeles, including Dr. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA, who received the institution’s Freedom Fighter Award.

“I am so honored to receive this award,” said Abdullah, who is a professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State LA. “I’m accepting this award on behalf of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.”

In 1969, organizers said Hamer created a co-op farm to empower sharecroppers and feed her neighbors.

That’s why Ron Finley, also known as the ‘gangsta gardener’ in South Los Angeles, was so honored to receive the Community Trailblazer Award.

“To attach me Fannie Lou Hamer, she was a real G,” Finley said. “I’m trying to show people the power in feeding yourself… this is about freedom.”

Throughout his speech, Finley praised Hamer’s self-sufficiency, which has inspired him.

“Let’s grow community,” he said. “She had a heart of steel and gold at the same time.”