Mukasa Dada, credited with coining the phrase “black power” during the March Against Fear in 1966 in Greenwood, was the guest speaker Wednesday evening in Jackson at the Council of Federated Organizations. Dada, previously known as Willie Ricks, discussed the perception of freedom and identity as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the march.
James Meredith, the first black to integrate the University of Mississippi, began a one-man walk from Memphis to Jackson on June 5, 1966, to encourage black voter registration. On the second day, Meredith was shot.
While Meredith was hospitalized in Memphis, civil rights leaders from across the nation traveled to Mississippi to continue the mission.
Many civil rights legends, including Dada, are making guest appearances in the same cities they marched through 50 years ago.
Students from Minneapolis Community and Technical College attended Wednesday’s address as part of the Race in America: Then and Now study course based at Jackson State University. They are exploring the history of civil rights in Mississippi and how it is linked to current struggles of race, class and inequality.
Dada’s fiery speech prompted fists held high followed by the chant of “black power” among the diverse crowd. Dada said the call to black power is the spark of understanding freedom and self-identity.
“Seeking your identity is freedom,” said Dada.”We will never be free if Africa ain’t free.”
“I tell my brothers and sisters we are a part of the African identity,” said Gemario Suttles, a Minneapolis student in the Race in America class. “We need to understand who we are as Africans. It’s genetics. Brother Makusa conveyed that message to a tee.”
Civil rights veterans such as Hollis Watkins and Dr. Hilliard Lackey joined a panel discussion as the Rev. Willie Blue and the Rev. Wendell Paris spoke from the audience.