POP honors social justice heroines in Newark celebration; Plainfield’s Willa Cofield amongst honorees

Around two hundred people gathered into Abyssinian Baptist Church tonight for an empowering evening of heroines, an inspirational recognition of moral giants. Tonight, the People’s Organization for Progress (POP) used Women’s History Month as an occasion to recognize five extraordinary women and their roles in the fight for justice during the civil rights movement and beyond.

It’s difficult to do such an inspiring program justice while getting the piece out quickly, but please take the time to read the impressive biographies of these honorees as they appeared in the program.

Sarah Collins Rudolph

Willa Cofield

Mildred C. Crump

Claudette Colvin – unfortunately couldn’t make tonight’s event

Theodora Smiley-Lacey

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Dr. Cofield with her award

One of these giants is Plainfield’s Dr. Willa Cofield, the self proclaimed oldest member of POP, who first fought valiantly against segregation and terror in her native Enfield, North Carolina and over the decades since has continued that fight for racial and gender equality and empowerment. Plainfield View has video of her acceptance speech as well as her introduction by Plainfield POP’s chairman Steven Hatcher, preceded by powerful remarks on Dr. Cofield’s behalf by POP Chairman Larry Hamm. Always a fighter, Chairman Hamm didn’t miss a beat only nineteen days after his very serious car accident.

My Camera batteries were uncharacteristically low and my tripod was at home, so I could not provide video of the rest of the event, but full video will soon be available from POP. I will be sure to share it.


Featured guest Sarah Collins Rudolph, whose story will be featured in a book by Wright State University professor Tracy Snipe aptly titled “Fifth Girl: Soul Survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing”

In the mean time, I invite you to listen to the introduction of the featured guest, Sarah Collins Rudolph, followed by her story as only she can tell it. Mrs. Collins Rudolph is the lone surviving victim of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham Alabama, just over fifty years ago. Her entire tale is a as tragic as it is a depiction of the strength of the human spirit, and the importance of the fight for equality.


A host of organizations were on hand tonight to honor Sarah Collins Rudolph. We ought to all stand up for her. Throughout all she’s dealt with, she still works, to this day, despite continued physical disabilities suffered due to the bombing, which left her blind in one eye and her sight impaired in the other. Despite the state of Alabama’s complicity in the bombing and of white terror in the Deep South, she has yet to receive any compensation and has always struggled with her own bombing-related medical bills. A petition for her compensation can be found here.

One speaker remarked that young people today “don’t know what struggle is.” Let’s hope that future generations show even half of the courage of these women in defense of the common good. It’s the only way we have a chance.

April Mumia events in Philadelphia

A sixth tireless person of great courage was unexpectedly on hand at tonight’s meeting. If you’ve ever heard one of Pam Africa’s electric speeches, you know it’s a real treat to run into the Philadelphia native and activist best known for her work in the Free Mumia movement. Pam Africa announced a series of events to take place in the City of Brotherly Love next month in celebration of Mumia’s 60th birthday, and of course, to continue to demand his release from prison. The Last Poets, Dead Prez, Cornel West, Immortal Technique, and plenty of others will be on hand from Thursday April 24th until Saturday April 26th. See the flyer below.


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