The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund will hold its 49th. Annual Meeting next week, from August 18 to 20, 2016. The Federation is the primary organization working with Black farmers and landowners in rural communities across the South. The Federation operates a Rural Training and Research Center near Epes, Alabama, in Sumter County.
The theme of the meeting is “ A Legacy of Hope, Vision and Collective Wealth Building”. According to Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director, “Our theme speaks to almost half a century of work and progress in developing cooperatives and credit unions in economically distressed communities, assisting Black farmers and landowners to retain and utilize their land, and advocating for progressive public policies to improve the lives of our membership in rural communities.”
The Annual Meeting begins on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at the Sheraton Civic Center Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama with a Board of Directors meeting, roundtables of supporters and the 15th annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award Banquet.
“This award is named for a founding member of the Federation, who was Manager of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Wilcox County, Alabama. This year we are honoring three veteran civil rights workers:
Robert “Bob” Moses, Hollis Watkins and David “Dave” J. Dennis, Sr. These three played an instrumental role in organizing, guiding and implementing the ‘1964 Freedom Summer Project’ in Mississippi. They also helped to develop local Black community leaders who formed some of the cooperatives that were part of organizing the Federation in 1967,” said Blanding.
Robert “Bob” Parris Moses was the leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who established SNCC Mississippi Project in 1961. He was a Co-Director of COFO, which developed the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project and helped to form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the all-white Mississippi Delegation to the 1964 Democratic Convention. More recently Bob Moses developed the nationwide Algebra Project to enhance teaching of mathematics to minority students based on broad based community organizing and collaboration with parents, teachers and students.
Hollis Watkins is also a SNCC activist in Mississippi. He was involved with the 1964 Freedom Summer and Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party activities. He was a founder of Southern Echo, which shared office space with the Mississippi Association of Co-ops in Jackson, MS. He is also the founder and President of Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.
David “Dave” J. Dennis, Sr. from Louisiana was the Director of the Mississippi Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Co-Director with Bob Moses of COFO and the Mississippi Summer Project.
After working in the civil rights movement in Mississippi and Louisiana, he received a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. He opened a law office in Lafayette, Louisiana. Father A. J. McKnight and the Southern Cooperative Development Fund were among his clients. At a SNCC reunion in 1989, he reunited with Bob Moses and set up the Southern Office of the Algebra Project.
On Friday and Saturday, August 19 and 20, the Annual Meeting shifts to the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center near Epes, Alabama.
On Friday there will be a series of workshops on agriculture, forestry and cooperative development, including participation by representatives of USDA agencies explaining their programs and services. The Friday sessions will end with a fish fry, auction and entertainment.
Saturday’s program begins with a Prayer Breakfast and continues with board reports, the Executive Directors report, state caucuses and a membership business meeting to chart the future directions for the organization.
Blanding said, “As we complete this meeting, we will begin planning for the Federation’s Fiftieth (50th) Annual Meeting in August 2017. This will be a great milestone for our organization and we welcome suggestions from the membership, supporters and the public on how to make it memorable and successful.”
For more information about the meeting and registration details or the events, go to the Federation’s website at www.federation.coop or contact our offices in Epes (205/652-9676) or Atlanta (404/765-0273).