By William H. Kelley III
The Margaret Walker Center presents the 28th Annual “For My People” Awards Luncheon on Friday, Jan. 13. at noon in the Jackson State University Student Center Ballroom. The ticketed event will honor Euvester Simpson, Tiyi Morris, and Angela Stewart for their contributions to African American history and culture. The ceremony will also recognize journalist-activist Charlie Cobb, who is to keynote the 55th MLK Convocation that morning in the M.W. Stringer Grand Lodge Auditorium.
The “For My People” awards are named after Margaret Walker’s classic poem that was published in 1942. Past recipients include James Meredith, Unita Blackwell, Robert Clark, Lerone Bennett, Andrew Young, Reena Evers-Everette, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
Simpson served as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also known as SNCC, during the Civil Rights Movement, conducting voter registration and voter education workshops throughout Mississippi. On June 9, 1963, she was arrested in Winona, Mississippi, along with Annelle Ponder, Fannie Lou Hamer, June Johnson, and several others, for being in a “white only” area of the bus terminal. Simpson shared a jail cell with Hamer. Members of the group were beaten by their jailers only to be released a few days later and learn that Medgar Evers had been assassinated. During Freedom Summer in 1964, Simpson worked in the COFO office in Jackson, coordinating volunteer orientation.
Cobb is also a former field secretary of SNCC and helped to organize Freedom Summer with COFO in 1964. In the same year, Cobb contributed to the Mississippi Summer Project by proposing the creation of Freedom Schools, which was geared towards teaching reading, writing, and mathematics along with Black history and culture to anyone who was interested. He is also the author of several books, including ‘This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible’ and ‘On the Road to Freedom, a Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail’.
Morris and Stewart will receive the For My People – Doris Derby Legacy Award. A 2021 “For My People” award recipient, Derby made a lifelong commitment to defend human rights and train new generations under her tutelage as an activist, scholar, artist, and educator. The award honors those people who continue the traditions of the social justice movements of the 1950s and 1960s.
Morris, daughter of Euvester Simpson, is associate professor of African American and African Studies at the Ohio State University at Newark, and director of the Ohio Prison Education Exchange Project. Morris is a civil rights historian who studies Black women’s social and political activism and is the author of ‘Womanpower Unlimited’ and the ‘Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi’.
Stewart serves as the archivist for the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University and is the daughter of Dorothy Stewart, a 2012 “For My People” award honoree. She is the founder and facilitator for SANKOFA Reading Group and hosts a monthly podcast, ‘History Matters’, for the Women for Progress Radio Network.