Mamie Kirkland and Tarabu

Mamie Lang Kirkland: September 3, 1908 – December 28, 2019

Mamie Kirkland and TarabuIt is with heavy hearts that we share the passing of Mamie Lang Kirkland.

Mamie was born in Ellisville, Mississippi on September 3, 1908, the second child of Edward Lang, a Baptist minister and Rochelle Moore, a housewife and domestic. Her four siblings including Rosetta, Elizabeth, Edward and Lucille have all preceded her in death as has her father’s children from his second marriage, Sonny, Marion, Richard, James, Evelyn, Benny and Ossie.  Mamie would describe herself as an ordinary person, but she lived an extraordinary life, not only for its longevity but for her mastery of spiritual awareness and gratitude. She has attracted legions of friends and admirers from New York to California. In her later years she garnered national recognition for her courageous return to Mississippi made the front page of the New York Times.

When Mamie was born, slavery had only been abolished for forty-three years. It was the year the first Ford Model T was manufactured. In her lifetime she saw two world wars, the Great Depression, the Atomic Bomb and the first man on the moon. She lived through twenty presidents and the first black president, which she never imagined would happen in her lifetime.

Rochelle Lang

Mamie with her mother, Rochelle Lang, circa early 1920’s

She was a 4-foot, 9-inch spitfire, a living rock of ages who survived all manner of hardships with a forceful determination. When she was seven, her family fled Mississippi to escape her father’s lynching and that of a family friend. She lived through the 1917 East St. Louis race riots and survived the Red Summer of 1919, a period of the most violent anti-black terrorism in U.S. history. She and her family later survived a KKK cross burning on their front lawn in Alliance Ohio. She even marched with Marcus Garvey!

At the age of five she suffered a bout of “typhoid/malaria fever,” as she described it. The doctor was powerless to save her, and she testified that she died and went to heaven, experiencing its splendor. Her grandmother, Easter Moore, a midwife and herbalist, gathered herbs in her apron and administered a tea to her ailing grandchild. Mamie experienced a miraculous recovery. Her near death experience remained vivid in her memory and established her relationship with God at an early age. From that point her family called her “Gold Baby” because they said she was a miracle child.

Albert and Mamie Kirkland 1923

Albert and Mamie Kirkland, 1923

Mamie loved to read, did well in school and aspired to be an English teacher, until she fell in love with Albert Kirkland, a railroad worker and boarder in her father’s house in Ohio. She married at 15 then moved to Buffalo, New York. She was still a child when she bore the first of her nine children: Richard, Mildred, Donald, Juanita, Beatrice, Carole, Margaret, Jeanette, and Albert Jr. (AKA: Tarabu), six of whom survived. Her husband taught her to cook, and the Great Depression taught her to manage, feed and house an extended family escaping the Jim Crow South.

When she was 49, she lost her husband of 35 years, 3 months and 16 days. In 1963 Mamie began her career as an Avon Lady, walking door to door in Buffalo, selling beauty products to support herself and her last child and only son, Tarabu. She was a loving listener and ministered to her many customers. It was during this time she developed her dynamic personal style as a “fashionista,” using her sparkle to light up a room until her final days.

In 2015, Tarabu convinced Mamie to return to Mississippi to confront the story that had haunted her family for a century – the lynching of her father’s friend John Hartfield, who initially escaped with him, but decided to go back. Her journey was capturedon the front page of the New York Times. It also inspired her son to tell her story in his film: “100 YEARS FROM MISSISSIPPI.” Since then, she has been honored by the Equal Justice Initiative in 2016 with their Lynching Legacy Award in New York City, and in 2018 receiving the Champion of Justice award at their opening of the Legacy Museum and the Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Her story, photographs and oral history are on permanent display at the Legacy Museum.

Mamie Kirkland at 100

Mamie Kirkland at 100

Mamie was the living matriarch of six generations resulting in 158 grands and greats. At the time of her death, she was Buffalo’s oldest living citizen and the second oldest in New York State. At her beloved First Shiloh Baptist Church, Mamie was an active foundational member for over 85 years. She inspired everyone she met to be positive, and to use her favorite phrase: “don’t rush your life away, live it away with the Lord.”

We Will Always Love You!

“When she speaks, her words are wise and she gives instructions with kindness.”
– Proverbs 31:26

“Not, how did she die, but how did she live?
Not what did she gain, but what did she give?
These are the units that measure the worth
Of a woman, as a woman, regardless of her birth.”
– Anonymous

News Articles on Mamie’s Passing:

NYT Obituary: Mamie Kirkland, Witness to an Era of Racial Terror, Dies at 111

WKBW Buffalo: Oldest Buffalo Resident Dies at Age 111

NBC 2 WGRZ: Oldest WNY Woman Dies at Age 111 (video)

NBC 2 WGRZ: Buffalo’s Oldest Resident, Mamie Kirkland, Dies at 111

The Buffalo News: Mamie Lang Kirkland, Buffalo’s Oldest Citizen, Dies at 111

Jars commemorating lynching victims at the Legacy Museum

END OF YEAR GRATITUDE

Jars commemorating lynching victims at the Legacy Museum

Jars commemorating lynching victims at the Legacy Museum

We’re ending the year with a flourish! We celebrated Mamie’s 110th birthday in September and successfully matched our $10,000 gift.

We went back to Mississippi in October to film aerial shots and also to conduct a soil collection for John Hartfield, the lynching victim in Ellisville in 1919 who fled with her father and his collection is now enshrined in the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama (visit our photo gallery).

In November, we hired a new editor, Cassandra Chowdhury, who is awesome, and we finished a new fundraising promotional trailer which you can view here: https://vimeo.com/300405881.

We still have to raise our post production costs, but progress has been good and we’re anticipating completion of a rough cut of the film by the end of year. Many thanks to everyone that has contributed thus far. Have a blessed and peaceful holiday season.

Mamie Kirkland at 100

IT’S OFFICIAL! 110 AMAZING YEARS TODAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2018. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMIE KIRKLAND!

  

Mamie and Tarabu at Legacy Museum

At the historic opening of the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama

James Seligman

100 Years from Mississippi is dedicated in honor of James Seligman

james seligman

james seligman

It is with profound sadness that I share news of the passing of James Seligman, our cinematographer/ editor/ co-producer, and dear friend in the early morning hours of December 21, 2017. James was rushed to the hospital after he had a series of seizures at home in Three Rivers, CA in September and was diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma, or Stage 3 Glioma. There is not yet a cure for this type of cancer within the western medical system. James made it very clear that he cared more about quality of life than duration. His family took his wishes into account and James made his passage out of this life on the winter solstice just before Christmas. His transition was peaceful and gentle. It is impossible to mistake the deep hole that his presence occupied in the life of this project, so it is only fitting that we dedicate this project in honor of his memory.

In the wake of this transition we have been so fortunate to have two new team members join our project team as advisers. Karen Ishizuka and Robert Nakamura are two major figures in independent film and Asian American media and culture. Their experience as filmmakers, writers, and producers will be a significant addition to our team and we look forward to their sage wisdom. Check their bios out on the About the Filmmakers page of this site.

We are extremely excited to announce that our story, narrated by Tarabu and featured in the groundbreaking new website launched by Equal Justice Initiative in collaboration with Google in 2017 will be part of the permanent installation at the new Equal Justice Initiative Memorial Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The museum opening is set for April 26-29, 2018 in Montgomery and tickets are now available at their new website along with additional information about the planned events. Tickets are also available for dates after the opening weekend.

We still need your support! Your tax-deductible donation – large or small, will help us finish our important documentary that links this terrible past with the challenges of today.

Mrs. Mamie Kirkland

Your Support Has Inspired Us!

Mrs. Mamie Kirkland

Mrs. Mamie Lang Kirkland

100 Years From Mississippi is a 40-minute documentary about the amazing journey of Mamie Kirkland’s flight from Mississippi and her family’s perilous migration from the Jim Crow south to escape her father’s lynching, murders of African-Americans on the streets of East St. Louis and KKK cross burnings on their lawn in Ohio. At 108 she has become a celebrated elder whose story has captured the front page of the New York Times.

Your tax-deductible donation – large or small, will help us finish our important documentary that links this terrible past with the challenges of today.

Lynching in America

LYNCHING IN AMERICA website honors Mamie Kirkland’s story

Exciting news from the 100 Years from Mississippi film project! We are honored that our story, narrated by Tarabu, is featured in a groundbreaking new website launched by Equal Justice Initiative in collaboration with Google.

“Lynching in America” documents over 4000 lynchings and Mamie’s story is the first feature in the “LISTEN” section. Explore this powerful new website and share it with your friends and colleagues. Let history remind us what we need to do today!

Watch Lynching in America below.

Lynching in America
Mamie Kirkland in Mississippi

Interview of Mamie Kirkland with the New York Times.

Mamie Kirkland in Mississippi

Mamie Kirkland in Mississippi

ELLISVILLE, Miss. — The dark S.U.V. rented for the occasion stopped outside the one-story City Hall. A wheelchair was rolled up to receive a petite passenger wearing a baseball cap dappled with sparkles, her hair gray-white, her skin mocha brown, her socks hot pink.

Settling into the chair, Mamie Lang Kirkland took a quick look around. It had been a while. About a century.

When she was 7, her family fled Ellisville amid talk of lynchings. On to Illinois, where white mobs rioted. To Ohio, where the Klan raised torches. To western New York, where she and her steelworker husband had nine children, and the one miscarriage she always includes in her account…

View full interview here