Reflections of Ella Baker
The following blogpost was authored by Heal the Streets Campaign Director Crystallee Crain with contributions by various members of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights staff.
The Ella Baker Center has a long history of creating an environment for activists to come together and work for change on multiple platforms. We thought it would be appropriate to honor Ella Baker during National Women's History Month because her legacy is what keeps us thriving today in our work and love for our communities. These are brief testimonials from EBC staff and interns who feel a connection of their work and the legacy of Ella Baker.
How has the history of Ella Baker inspired you to work in the community and change the world?
The history that Ella Baker created has sustained movements for generations. I personally feel connected to her work with young people and how she inspired them to keep hoping for change and working for peace and justice, even when there was little hope to continue. The 1950s and 60s were difficult times for people of color and she remained a pillar of strength for so many people. Currently, with my work with Oakland youth I feel inspired by their commitment to their neighborhoods and communities. I see the passion they have for something, anything to change. I feel compelled to guide them through a process that will allow them to use their creative energy to make waves among their peers and decision makers. I also believe that this guidance will allow them to grow as strong and thoughtful individuals.
Aja: “You didn't see me on television, you didn't see news stories about me. The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory is, strong people don't need strong leaders.” ~ I found this quote on Wikipedia, and I love it! It is a reminder that none of this work is about us as individuals. It is something I try remind myself of everyday. People are constantly researching for recognition. Ella Baker proves you get that recognition when your goals, your focus and intention are to truly help others and make the world a better place. You can see that in her work with youth. Her selflessness is the reason she is a famous Civil Rights figure.
Jakada: Long before I would ever hear the name of Ella Jo Baker, I was living inside of the world her leadership help create. As a child of Oakland I grew up hearing about the role of young people as front line fighters for freedom in the Civil Rights Movement. I got my start in the movement in youth programs that were based on the work Ms. Baker had done with SNCC, leadership programs based in the idea that young folks had something special to contribute to the struggle for freedom. That's now part of my DNA and I take it everywhere I go.
Jessica: I am inspired by Ella Jo Baker's vision of growing the leadership of individuals in the community to bring about change -- rather than putting leadership on one person. Living in a culture where idolization of certain individuals is commonplace, it is easy to forget the individual power each one of us possesses.
Emily: "American activist Ella Baker (1903-1986) was the consummate organizer and unsung brains behind many of the most effective African American civil rights and political organizations in the twentieth century."
I appreciate our co-founder Van's thoughtfulness to name our organization after such an incredible woman who gave her life to benefiting the movement for justice, opportunity and peace and took so little in terms of credit.
In so many movements, including the 1960s civil rights struggle, women were/are often subjugated to lesser roles and face/d sexism even in the face of other values for justice and equality. Ella Jo Baker faced those challenges head on
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