- Associated Press - Sunday, March 1, 2020

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Annie Dancer stands just over five feet, but according to longtime friend Daril Clinton, she is “a giant” with a passion for service.

“When she feels like there’s a need for anything in the community, she’s there,” Clinton said.

Dancer will be 90 years old in July, but a month ago she was part of the crowd that marched through downtown Starkville in its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. She’s been marching since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, when she and other locals marched in Washington D.C. and Atlanta.

She remembers the Oktibbeha County NAACP chartering a bus to travel to D.C., and she remembers how big the city was and how far the group had to walk.

“We had to march almost a mile before we could pick up our signs and then come and line up to walk to the White House,” Dancer said.

Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Bishop, was the first female president of the Oktibbeha County NAACP, and Dancer said they marched and recruited new members together for years. Both women have been vocal advocates for voter registration.

Dancer is also passionate about education and was part of a group of local African-American women who brought the early childhood development program Head Start to the Golden Triangle. The women recruited enough families and teachers to establish Oktibbeha County’s first Head Start center in the basement of Griffin Chapel United Methodist Church. As the program grew, more centers popped up until Head Start consolidated into one office each in Oktibbeha, Clay, Lowndes and Noxubee counties, Dancer said.

She used to drive children to and from Head Start every day, first in a station wagon, then in a van and later a bus. Twenty of those students are in a photo on a wall in Dancer’s house near Longview, a house she has lived in most of her life, with every surface covered with mementos from her almost nine decades: photographs, books, ceramic figurines, posters and much more. One of several scrapbooks includes photos of her family, certificates from county elections where she was a poll worker, a cut-out Dispatch photo of herself at an MLK march in Starkville and a typed copy of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also referred to as the “Black National Anthem.”

Dancer is an unwavering supporter of not only the local NAACP and Democratic Party but also of anyone that needs help, be it money or clothing or other support, former Oktibbeha County NAACP President Chris Taylor said.

“If you need her, she’s there, and when she speaks, people listen, because she knows what she’s talking about,” he said.

Dancer used to run an annual Veterans Day program at New Zion United Methodist Church, and she coordinates dinners and prayer services for participants in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, an opportunity for high school and college students around the country to build houses during school breaks.

Dancer admits she gets choked up talking about the Habitat students and the Head Start students.

“It means a lot to me because I love to work with children,” Dancer said.

She ran and sometimes won the Mother of the Year contest, a fundraiser for the NAACP, and she raised five sons and a daughter. Clinton describes Dancer as “like a mother to many.”

“She has a passion and an urge to see things improve and be the light,” Clinton said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide