Colia Liddell Lafayette., a committed Pan Africanist, has spent a life time in activist work in the areas of civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights and rights for the homeless and youth. On March 3rd of this year Colia will travel to Selma, Alabama to receive the Freedom Flame Award. While in Selma, she will be inducted into the National Voter Rights Hall of Fame for her work in the civil rights era 1959-1965.
Today Colia wears many hats. She is a member of Dignity and just returned from Conference on the African Diaspora in Libya, North Africa. She joined with a number of other distinguished USA representatives to this historic African Union conference. She is Second Vice President of the Free Charitable Public Law Library of Harlem and television producer for the Manhattan Neighborhood Cable Network television in New York City.
Colia is USA Coordinator for the International Commission of Inquiry on Haiti. And she is Coordinator for the Guadeloupe-Haiti Tour USA.
She served as National Coordinator for the Richard Wright Centennial with sessions in Paris, France, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Jackson, Mississippi for Wrights 100th birthday. The final program on this distinguished writer was held in Jackson, Mississippi the week of Wright’s birthday September, 8 2008.
Moving from community organizing to electoral politics, Colia was the Green Party of New York candidate for the US Senate in 2010 coming in third in this race against one of America’s most powerful men.
Through her agency HUERA- Humanism, Unity Economy Rights and the Arts, Colia conducts workshops in conflict resolution and mediation for elementary, secondary schools, colleges and universities and communities. As lecturer and folklorist, Colia talks on a range of issues and performs one-woman shows on African American biography.
During the historic era of civil rights 1955-1970, Colia founded the North Jackson Mississippi NAACP Youth Council. This Council provided the backbones of thousands of youth for the 1963 marches on downtown Jackson under the leadership of Medgar Evers. The North Jackson NAACP Youth Council was also the spearhead of one of the most successful boycotts in the south, the boycott of down town Jackson.
Colia served as Special Assistant to the late Medgar Wylie Evers, Field Secretary NAACP for the State of Mississippi.
In June of 1962, Colia joined Mississippi SNCC under the leadership of SNCC director, Robert Moses working in Hattiesburg, Jackson, Cleveland, Indianola, Ruleville and Greenville, Mississippi building a Mississippi leadership for the voter rights movement. .
Colia married Bernard Lafayette of Tampa, Florida, in November, 1962. In February of the following year, 1963, the couple Colia travelled to Selma, Alabama to set-up the Black Belt Alabama Voter Education Project for the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee. The project, headquartered in Dallas County, covered the seven Black Belt Counties of Alabama. This project would be the final battle ground for the right to vote culminating with the incident on the Edmond G. Pettus Bridge with Dr. King in March, 1965.
While in Alabama, Colia was given a special assignment to work on the Birmingham Movement. This would be her first project with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and her first major beating by the segregation forces.
The Lafayette’s civil rights work took them to Chicago in 1964. While in Chicago she founded Mothers On the Move in 1965. She also worked on projects in the West Side First Ward under the leadership of Dr. Martin L King coordinating the Near West Side Union to End Slums Movement.
In 1967, Colia Coordinated Poor Women Against the Vietnam War with a major into Washington of hundreds of Poor women with sons in the Vietnam conflict..
Other projects on which Colia worked include becoming the first editor for the Jackson, Mississippi Advocate Newspaper under its new management in 1978.
Colia is multi-talented and has served as actress in a number of productions filmed on location in Mississippi appearing with such stars as Morgan Freeman, Claudia McNeil, Ossie Davis, Lou Gosset, and Eddie She was a college teacher for the State University of New York at Albany, Union College and the College of St Rose. Colia has been a teaching fellow for the New York City Public School System working with grades K-8 as a guided reading specialist.
A native of rural Hinds County Mississippi, she spent most of her growing up years in the capital at Jackson Mississippi. She was educated in the Jackson Mississippi Public Schools, graduating with honors from Lanier Junior- Senior High. She attended Tougaloo College, Fisk University and received a BA from Jackson State University, MA from State University of New York at Albany where she also begun a Doctors of Arts program in humanistic Studies.
Colia’s motto: “It takes a whole people to build a village in which wholesome children are raised.”
Colia is mother of four biological children and eight others through marriages. She is grandmother of 32 and great grandmother of 8. She will tell you without a blink, “My children are all my own there are no steps in my life only giant strides.”