We in Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement (BayVets) were privileged to work with Wazir, and learn from him. In the South in the 1960s, his Freedom Movement brothers and sisters usually referred to him as "Peacock," but here in NorCal in the late '90s and after we used his self-chosen name "Wazir."
"So many Willie's in the world," he told us. "For awhile, I came to Islam right after SNCC around 1966, and I was given the name. It means essentially one who shares with the people. One of the persons who translated the Koran into English -- he said that the best meaning was one who worked on behalf of the people for God, for Allah. A servant of the people in its truest sense."
Wazir was one of our founding members when we first came together in 1999. He became an important guide and contributor to our Civil Rights Movement Veterans website (http://www.crmvet.org). Most of us had been active in the Movement in Alabama and Mississippi from 1963 on, so he was our link to the early pioneering days when young students were first stepping up and, "daring to stand in a strong sun and cast a sharp shadow."
We originally formed BayVets around the idea of finding ways to help our Movement sisters and brothers who had fallen on hard times -- the "walking wounded" as we called them. It was Wazir who showed us that we whose boots had been on the ground in the hard and dangerous days of the freedom struggle were all of us walking wounded ourselves. All of us were carrying hidden scars and emotional wounds that only others who had shared similar experiences could help heal. That healing became a vital part of our BayVets work.
Wazir loved to speak about the Freedom Movement to community groups, churches, and most definitely school kids. He had a special affinity for reaching the younger children in elementary school with whom he could talk about what it was like growing up as a child in segregated, Jim Crow Mississippi. And he loved -- and they loved -- being able to share with them the freedom songs of the Freedom Movement.
Recently, Milton Reynolds of "Facing History" wrote to Wazir: "I appreciate the fact that we have had the opportunity to connect as colleagues in the struggle, but also that I've been able to share your work and your beloved community of freedom fighters with hundreds of students. I can only tell you that they are inspired, and moved to action by your life of dignity and purpose."
For six years, Wazir was a primary resource expert for the San Francisco summer Freedom School program that worked to bring the lessons of the Movement to today's teachers and students. And until he fell ill, he was a regular guest speaker in San Francisco State University history and political science classes.
Professor Kathy Emery of the S.F. Freedom School and S.F. State said, "I can't tell you how much my students miss your semester visits to San Francisco State University. Your guest speaker visits have become legend. Veteran students have told new students that you used to come to class and tell compelling stories of growing up in Mississippi; running away to protest your father's decision to move you all to the plantation; why you changed your name to Wazir from Willie B. (they are particularly outraged by the doctor naming you Willie B when you were born)... You gave your life to the movement and your stories have inspired hundreds of my students to participate in social justice action today..."
Two years ago Wazir recorded a video oral-history titled, "Stand For Freedom: The Life and Times of Willie B. Wazir Peacock" which is now available on You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/
Bruce Hartford and Chude Allen