Today is the 100th Birthday of Mississippi native and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports she battled discrimination and cancer during her lifetime.
Sixty-four year old Vergie Hamer Faulkner doesn't like to discuss her mother's death. Fannie Lou Hamer was 59-years old when she passed away from breast cancer in 1977. Faulkner talks about how her mother fought for civil rights and spent her life helping others. She says the Sunflower County native created a coop where they grew food for impoverished families in the Delta. Faulkner says her mother told her to treat people with respect.
"Treat people right be nice, help people because that's what she tried to do," said Faulkner.
Hamer died without access to breast cancer treatment, according to the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation. Dr. Alfio Rausa chairs the grassroots organization.
"In the Delta black women had breast cancer only one fourth as much as white women. But they were dying four times as fast. How can that be? Well, we found out they were being diagnosed late and then getting care late," said Rausa.
Foundation volunteers go door to door educating and providing cancer screenings in the Delta. They also offer transportation, day care and financial aid to cancer patients. The University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Registry reports in 2014, there were more than 2,500 cases of the disease statewide. Flonzie Brown Wright is a civil rights activist who knew Fannie Lou Hamer. But they didn't talk about her illness.
"Within the last maybe 15 or 20 years have we openly talked about 'I have breast cancer.' You know there was this thing, it was kinda taboo. You just didn't talk about it," said Brown.
Wright is grateful people are now talking and learning about how to prevent and treat the disease. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
More information about the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation can be found at: http://www.flhcf.com/home.aspx