As remembered by Viola Bradford
September 6, 2015
Southern Courier Friends,
I was planning to see Barbara this week (Sept. 3-4) and get her to help me with taking care of some business at a house I bought three months ago in Montgomery. In fact, on my five trips to Alabama within the past few months (including the 50th Selma March event, her NAACP event and the Tuskegee Univ Bioethics conference) we were together more times during these past months than we had been since I moved to D.C. in 1982.
She accompanied the realty agent and me from house to house, getting out of the car with emphatic commentary about the first one she saw: "No! This is not the one! This is a project house they just picked and and put here." The one she really liked, after a thorough examination of base boards, windows and all, was the one I bought.
Catherine Coleman Flowers (ACORN environmental justice, with Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative) called me before I left D.C. inquiring if I knew that Barbara was hospitalized. She had been told by Sophia Bracey Harris. That is when I immediately called Barbara's cell. Khandi answered — noting that she had been wanting to call me, but did not have my number.
Since Tuesday, Khandi was calling me, keeping me posted daily and throughout the day, providing medical updates. I flew into Birmingham and was planning to drive into Montgomery Thursday morn. I had gotten the visitation hours, planning to go midday on Thursday, September 4. When Khandi called around 8 a.m. Thursday, she said that Barbara was in stable condition.
Although I had start praying for a healing before I flew in, I breathed a sigh of relief. I told her that instead of coming during midday, I would see her during the 8 to 9 p.m. visiting hour. Although she could not have visitors, she said that her sisters agreed that I could come, but to come alone.
Our dear friend, Faya Ture (Rose Sanders from Selma) had visited her on Monday. Gwen Patton (Montgomery) called and wanted to go with me whenever I went.
But, within the next hour or so. Khandi called to tell me that Barbara had passed. She died around 9:15 a.m I was told, later. She said I could, still, come to the hospital, though. Nearing Montgomery, Khandi called to say that the undertakers had taken her body to the funeral home and they would let me see her there.
In a room on the back of the funeral home, I saw my dearest and long-time "Movement" friend, foot soldier and comrade at peace and at rest from all her labor here. She had made it clear with her daughters and the funeral director that she did not want a funeral nor a memorial service — just a direct cremation. And, the family agreed. Keeping with the tradition her daughters had with her, family celebrations consisted of dinner and a movie that evening.
I went to share in the dinner, but (even though I go to the movies EVERY Friday after dinner), I had no desire to go with the family, at that time.
My personal memorial for her that evening at the funeral home was when her sister, Wanda, and I, standing next to her body, began to sing a medley of freedom songs, the ones she used to sing so fervently before.
In March, when I was invited to open up the Hearing on Poverty with freedom songs in Selma at Brown's Chapel, I invited Barbara to join me; and, she did. It was a joy, reminding us of the times we sang at Monday night Mass Meetings and marches as teens in the 60's.
Now, with that same fervor, Wanda and I sang her songs of freedom: for Barbara is now Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, Barbara is free at last.
The Struggle Continues (even the more, in her name, honor and memory). We must continue to be just as committed to social justice issues with the same energy, fearlessness, integrity, courage, no-nonsense attitude, honesty, selflessness and love for all, as Barbara Ann Howard, our friend and freedom fighter.
As remembered by Geoffrey Cowan
September 7, 2015
What a lovely piece. I always felt that Barbara grew up with the Courier and that the Courier grew up with her. While those of us on this email will carry on with the memories of the past and hopes for a better future, no one will ever replace her.
Hugs to all,