Hollis Watkins | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Hollis Watkins


Hollis Watkins has dedicated his life to serving the people of his community.

In 1961, when Watkins was 19, the Summit native became the first Mississippian to join the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee as a voting-rights activist. He had joined the NAACP youth group at age 17.

The work Watkins did during the civil rights era--educating and registering African Americans to vote--made him subject to threats from those who didn't want to see blacks take their rightful place in southern society, and rejection from those who were afraid of white reprisals. Watkins stood strong despite threats, even as he spent several stints in jail because of activities including attempting to integrate lunch counters.

In 1964, Watkins helped organize the Freedom Summer in Mississippi, and later that year, he traveled to the Democratic National Convention in New Jersey as part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. The MFDP attempted to unseat delegates of the state's segregationist Democratic Party.

Hollis' work did not end in the 1960s. It continues to this day as he trains a new generation of activists, maintaining a rigorous schedule of speaking engagements and trainings.

"The battle is not over," he told a Portland, Ore., reporter in February. "I grew up knowing something was wrong. We're all children of God."

In 1990, Watkins founded Southern Echo. The group seeks out citizens to organize grass-roots action groups across the South, and it trains leaders and legislative advocates, and provides technical assistance. Southern Echo aims to make a difference in all areas of public policy--from education to health to juvenile justice to tax reform and more--ensuring accountability for the needs of the black community. Watkins is also a founder and member of the Civil Rights Veterans of Mississippi. In 2011, he received a Fannie Lou Hamer Humanitarian Award from Jackson State University.

For his dedication to civil rights, on Friday, Dec. 14, Muhammad Mosque No. 78 and friends will honor Watkins at the inaugural Living Legend Honor Dinner at the M.W. Stringer Grand Lodge Masonic Temple (1072 J.R. Lynch St.) at 6:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for students; a table for eight is $225.

The event is open to the public, but RSVPs are required. To reserve seats, contact one of the following: Cynthia Goodloe Palmer, 601-918-7809; Brenda Hyde, 601-278-2141; or Bro. Charles Muhammad, 601-331-7992.

Visit the Southern Echo website [http://southernecho.org/s/] for additional information on Watkins' work.

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