Willie King lives in Pickens County Alabama, just a few miles from Mississippi, several miles from Aliceville. He envisioned and created a non-profit organization called the Rural Members Association to teach the young people their heritage and what he calls “survival skills.”
How We Helped:
In 1998, Willie King connected with Music Maker Relief Foundation, where he has received grants for prescription medicine and help with sponsorship of his Freedom Creek Blues Festival for several years. Music Maker has arranged the donation of a tractor for the Freedom Creek Association and donated guitars, drums, bass and an electric keyboard to the association. Music Maker has also helped Willie arrange a tour in France to the Cognac Blues and Passion Festival, and featured him in the 2004 publication Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America.
“We see these kids now, they got all the problems we had coming up – dealing with the oppressor, figuring how to survive, feeling their self-worth under attack; success around them most always wearing a white face unless it’s the preacher’s and most time he just content to have his fine clothes, nice car, a church where they come, and there on the wall is a blond Jesus. So all that’s a problem. But these kids, they got nothing to do. They mess with gangs, with drugs; they got no family teaching them their traditions, the African-American traditions. No tie to the land, the crafts of survival we always practiced in the country; no time for the blues. Now, you can be poor, and ain’t nobody likes to be poor, but when you lose your culture you lose everything.
We take kids out to pick wild berries and wild plums and we teach them to make jellies and preserves. We preserve figs, peaches and pears. We teach them how to make quilts and do wood work. Then we come down to the music, the blues and the gospel music. This is set up to pass on the traditions, we teach them the basics of how to play the guitar, bass and sing and write songs. We give guitars and amplifiers to the ones that really show an interest.
The Freedom Creek Festival came out of this. We are trying to bring the community and all walks of life together. We want people to get a good relationship and learn to love one another.
We hold it on the creek, to bring people to the roots. My grandparents had to wash their clothes down at the creek. When I was coming up, that is where we fished, watered the livestock and I even took my first bath down in the muddy waters, down at the creek.
We have the festival on the third Saturday every May. Everyone is invited, the welcome mat is down. You can write the Rural Members Association at 791 Old Memphis Road, Aliceville, Alabama, 35442. We would appreciate your donations as we are presently raising funds to build us a community center. We got the concrete slab down, now we need us the rest of the building.”