Hollis Watkins: Music as an Organizing Tool

Susanna Hegner

A veteran of the civil rights movement, Hollis Watkins founded Southern Echo, a leadership development, education and training organization working to develop effective, accountable grassroots leadership in rural Mississippi and the surrounding region.

Watkins and Southern Echo have been instrumental in challenging redistricting in Mississippi, protecting communities from landfills and hog factories, and doubling the size of the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus. 

Watkins worked on the Mississippi Voting Rights Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He spent 34 days in jail for participating in a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter. A walk-out at his high school landed him in jail again, this time for 39 days. 

Watkins serves on the boards of the Highlander Research and Education Center, the Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network and the Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group. Watkins is a founder and member of the Civil Rights Veterans of Mississippi. He has received numerous awards and honors.

In this video, Watkins explains how music can be a powerful tool for bringing people together.