Willie B. Wazir Peacock, a civil rights veteran with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), passed away April 17 at home in San Pablo.
The Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement held a Community Celebration to honor his life and work on June 18 at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland.
Included was a musical program by Bettie Mae Fikes from Los Angeles, who along with Mr. Peacock had been a member of the legendary SNCC Freedom Singers touring communities in the South and other parts of the country.
Since that time, she has become a gospel and blues singer and storyteller performing with many different musicians
Born in Charleston, Mississippi in 1937, Peacock witnessed “slavery first hand on [the] plantation” where his parents were sharecroppers.
While at Rusk College in 1960, he organized a boycott of a segregated movie theater in Holly Springs, taking inspiration from sit-ins that African American college students in Raleigh, N.C., had orchestrated.
That same year Peacock became a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Rusk College and started organizing voter-registration efforts in Holly Springs.
He became a field secretary for the organization in 1961, also assisting with voter registration in Greenwood and other towns in north Mississippi.
He started a SNCC project that led to widespread changes in Mississippi, and he was one of the first civil-rights workers working full time on voter registration in a dangerous area.
He worked in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, helping build alliances between African Americans and Latinos. He served with organizations, including the Black Political Liberation Organization and the Neighborhood Adult Participation Project.
He returned to Mississippi in 1970 and from 1970 to 1989, working with several organizations in Jackson, including The Liberty House, Mississippi Community Documentation Committee, Hanging Moss East Cooperative Community and the Clinic of Herbal Medicine.
He founded the Rainbow Food Coop, which has become a thriving retail cooperative.
In 1989, Peacock moved his family to the San Francisco Bay Area and began working with developmentally challenged children and adults as an independent living services instructor at the Stepping Stones Growth Center in San Leandro for over 20 years until he retired.
He was a member of the Vukani Mawethu Choir, which sang freedom songs from South Africa and performed concerts to raise funds to support the African National Congress.
The group also performed for the late Nelson Mandela.
Peacock was also a long-time member of the Self Realization Fellowship and a follower of its founder Paramahansa Yoganan.
At a celebration on June 18, family, friends and former Civil Rights colleagues offered their reflections on Peacock while singing many of the freedom songs that were so important to building the ‘beloved community” of the 1960’s period.