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Remembering Civil Rights Veteran Willie B. Wazir Peacock, 78

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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.

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Activism

IN MEMORIAM: Celebrating Wenefrett P. Watson

Her greatest contribution was as a parent to James, a father and successful actor, Cynthia, a mother and contributor of many social and political events, Janet, a dedicated daughter who assisted her in the travel agency, Geoffrey, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a father and a dedicated and revered physician and Gary, an entertainment lawyer in Hollywood. As a world traveler, Wene invited and hosted international exchange students in her home to educate them and her children about the world.

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Wenefrett P. Watson will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery on Friday, November 26, 2021, with services held at the Church By the Side Of the Road, 2108 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA at 1:00 P.M. (COVID-19 Protocols Observed). For more details and in-person/Zoom registration go to www.CBSOR.org/announcements.
Wenefrett P. Watson will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery on Friday, November 26, 2021, with services held at the Church By the Side Of the Road, 2108 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA at 1:00 P.M. (COVID-19 Protocols Observed). For more details and in-person/Zoom registration go to www.CBSOR.org/announcements.

October 29, 1921- November 9, 2021

Wenefrett P. Watson, Wene, born in Marshall Texas, October 29, 1921, graduated from Bishop College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She went on to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles securing a degree in Library Sciences (the same university where her daughter, Cynthia went on to become the first African American “Helen of Troy” at the Rose Bowl Parade). Ambitious and wanting to expand her horizons, Wene applied for and received, sight-unseen, a position with the Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. Exposed to a bright life in Harlem, New York, she met powerful Black artists. They inspired her. In Los Angeles, on a dare, she sang for Duke Ellington and was shocked when “The Duke” offered her the gig of going on the road with his band.

In Washington D. C., she met Dr. James A. Watson at Howard University. While he expanded his medical practice, they married and started a family. In those early days, with a new husband and three young children, Wene, like most young mothers, was somewhat overwhelmed. Suddenly, her life was much different, compared to the slower and much more sheltered life she had known in Marshall Texas.

Spontaneous and zestful, she enjoyed entertaining friends at home. She liked to play cards, dance and go to the movies. When the good doctor wasn’t available, she would get a babysitter and sneak out to take her six-year-old son, James Jr.), to the movies! She visited with her friend, Jackie and Mrs. Robison, while Jackie was training at Howard University. As a kindness, Jackie taught James Jr. to swim! Jackie, Mrs. Robinson, and Wene had been friends during their shared college years, Wene at USC, while they were at UCLA.

After eight years in Washington D.C., the Watsons traveled to California, where Dr. Watson was a Captain and chief of staff at Edwards Airforce Base hospital. Meeting surgeon Doctor Robert Taylor and Mrs. Estella Taylor, the Watsons moved to Oakland where Dr. Watson helped to build a large medical practice at the Arlington Medical Center with Dr. Taylor and Dr. Benjamin Majors. Dr. Watson’s son, Dr. Henry Geoffrey Watson, now runs the center, serving the Oakland and Berkeley communities.

Most people know Wenefrett for her many notable, social and civic contributions in Oakland. With five children, James, Cynthia, Janet, Geoffrey and Gary, Wenefrett Watson was actively involved with five PTA organizations! Next was her involvement with the Links, Incorporated, an upper-middle class organization that networks their resources to look out for Black families who need support within the commonwealth, highlighting the education and social grace of young girls growing into young women. Eventually she became president of the Oakland Bay Area Chapter of the Links, Incorporated.

During her membership, Wene chaired the Links’ annual grand event which is the debutant ball. This event announces the “coming-out” of these young girls becoming young adults, ready to give back to the community. Simultaneous to these activities, Wene worked with the Oakland Bay Area Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. organization to make sure her five kids, their friends, and all Black preteen children enjoy socially appropriate activities like dances, hayrides, summer camp, going to the ballet and other fun activities. She was also the founder and president of the San Francisco Chapter of The Smart Set.

In time, she worked with city officials to help Oakland partner with Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana in 1975 as a sister city. Supporting the direction of the city, she and her husband mentored Mayors Redding and Wilson, helping them to get elected. She was appointed to the Oakland Museum Commission and made serious contributions to its development. Wene supported the arts and organized “The Black Filmmaker’s Hall of Fame Awards” at the Paramount Theater in February 1977.

As a working actor in Hollywood, James Watson, her eldest son, was a co-host with Diahann Carroll. This event propelled the NAACP to begin the Image Awards. In 1984, Wene began and ran WenTravel Agency for eleven years. She worked with many large corporations creating jobs and generating wonderful experiences as well as providing a service. She and her husband traveled the world many times and brought back much enlightenment from their exciting travel. Continuing her many works, Wene served with the NAACP and the YMCA. She continued to support political candidates for the city and state. She met Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, twice!

Her greatest contribution was as a parent to James, a father and successful actor, Cynthia, a mother and contributor of many social and political events, Janet, a dedicated daughter who assisted her in the travel agency, Geoffrey, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a father and a dedicated and revered physician and Gary, an entertainment lawyer in Hollywood. As a world traveler, Wene invited and hosted international exchange students in her home to educate them and her children about the world.

People who knew Wene enjoyed her sparkling humor and joy for life. Friends and strangers alike, also could find themselves on the short end of her very candid rebuke or opinion. She was an honest and direct person when she spoke to you. Wene Watson was a bright and gregarious woman. Everyone who knew here felt better about themselves because of her. She was a devoted wife and mother. In the film “It’s A wonderful Life”, Jimmy Stewart’s character wonders if being born made any difference or gave anyone value. To everyone who knew Wenefrett Watson, imagine that she had not been in your life. Her value is in the love and appreciation you feel when you think of her. Thank God she was here.

Wene is survived by three sons and a daughter, James Watson, Cynthia Arnold (Larkin), Henry Geoffrey Watson (Carolyn), and Gary Watson. She is also survived by five grandchildren, Catherine (Max), Sara, Bryan, Angela, and Richard, and two great grandchildren and a niece and nephew, Jackie Jackson (Warren) and Wendell Phillips, along with a myriad of other family members, loved ones, and many friends. Wene was preceded in her heavenly journey by her husband James A. Watson, M.D., daughter Janet Watson David, her granddaughter Tiffany Washington (Cynthia) and her grandson Henry Geoffrey Watson, II (Geoffrey & Carolyn).

Wenefrett P. Watson will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery on Friday, November 26, 2021, with services held at the Church By the Side Of the Road, 2108 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA at 1:00 P.M. (COVID-19 Protocols Observed). For more details and in-person/Zoom registration go to www.CBSOR.org/announcements.

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Activism

IN MEMORIAM: James E. Peterson, 75 

Born in Birmingham, Ala., on June 5, 1946, James Peterson’s life was dedicated to public service. His civil rights work began in the 1960s when he was the associate director of the Poor People’s Campaign in Wash., DC. He proudly served under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his close friend, Dr. Ralph D. Abernathy.

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Memorial services for James Peterson will be held on Nov. 20, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. at Chapel of The Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, CA 94611
Memorial services for James Peterson will be held on Nov. 20, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. at Chapel of The Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, CA 94611

On Oct. 28, 2021, the world lost a powerful champion for civil rights when James Peterson passed away in Berkeley, California.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., on June 5, 1946, Patterson’s life was dedicated to public service.

His civil rights work began in the 1960s when he was the associate director of the Poor People’s Campaign in Wash., DC. He proudly served under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his close friend, Dr. Ralph D. Abernathy.

In 1969, he moved to Berkeley and graduated from Cal with a bachelor’s in Philosophy. He also got his master’s degree in Urban Studies and Planning from Antioch University.

He served on the Alameda County Human Relations Commission, Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, and the Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board. He ran for Berkeley City Council, as well as for the Peralta School District Board.

In 1971, he served on the original staff of Congressman Ronald V. Dellums. James also was an advisor to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Small Business and two former U.S. presidents.

From 1980 to 1990 he worked closely with Dr. Abernathy, forming the Foundation for Economic Enterprise Development (FEED), which focused on job development and transportation issues for youth in the Atlanta area.

Throughout his life, Peterson’s consultancy work was highly sought-after. Most recently, Patterson worked in healthcare serving as a lead consultant to the James A Watson Wellness Center, refinancing the building and procuring COVID 19 grants and community outreach programs.

He is survived by his brother; Walter Knox of Birmingham, Ala.; sister, Gwendolyn Peterson Galloway (David) of Charlotte, N.C.; brother Ronald L. Peterson (Kemi) of Van Buren Township, Mich.; brother Isaac Peterson and sister Alveritta Peterson, both of Birmingham, as well as a host of nieces and nephews, and many beloved friends.

Memorial services for James Peterson will be held on Nov. 20, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. at Chapel of The Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, CA 94611.

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Community

Rosa Mae Tyner, 67

The Tyner Family is saddened to announce the passing of Rosa Mae Tyner. She passed away on Saturday, Oct.  9, 2021 in her birthplace of Troy, Alabama.

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Rosa Mae Tyner/ Photo Courtesy of her family.

The Tyner Family is saddened to announce the passing of Rosa Mae Tyner. She passed away on Saturday, Oct.  9, 2021 in her birthplace of Troy, Alabama. She was 67.

Ms. Tyner was a beloved boss and co-worker in ILWU Local 91. She served as the first dispatcher for ILWU Local 10.

She was born on Feb. 16, 1954.

After her retirement in 2012, she returned to her roots in Troy, Alabama. 

She was known as a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. She showed boundless love for everyone she came in contact.

The baby sister of the late Congressman John Lewis, she gave a moving tribute to her brother during nationally publicized services.

Her family, friends and community mourn her loss.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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