Betty Reid Soskin

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Join 97- year old Betty Soskin in her living room as she shares three stories about her family rising out of slavery to be honored by a president and contribute to the civil rights movement as an activist and songwriter.

Part 1: The American Narrative — A convergence of three generations of African Americans and the hope of a racially balanced United States of America. Betty is awarded the presidential coin by Barak Obama as she carries a photograph of her great grandmother who was born into slavery in 1846 and whose great granddaughter, Betty is honored by the first African American president.

Part 2: White Towels and Imaginary Gateposts — All the children in Betty Soskin’s family were raised by her great grandmother Leontine who was born into slavery and lived to be 102. Betty tells of her grandmother’s influence inspiring her to support others during of the civil rights movement and throughout her life’s work including her current role as a ranger with the National Park Service.

Part 3: Your Hand in Mine — Betty wrote the song "Your Hand in Mine" in 1964 after being inspired by Fannie Lou Hamer's fight for the Mississippi Freedom Party to be seated at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in the face of Lyndon Baines Johnson's attempts to keep her out. And when Betty saw LBJ expropriate the phrase "We Shall Overcome" in a subsequent speech, she was moved to come up with a new song that would embody the feelings of love and togetherness which she knew were essential to bringing people together. That song sat in a shoebox for 50 years until December 2018, when the Oakland Symphony and Chorus brought Betty on stage to finally sing this beautiful song that she wrote so many decades ago.

To get the most from these experiences, view using an Oculus, GearVR or Google Daydream/Cardboard headset and use the SamsungVR app. For other headsets, watch on YoutubeVR using the links for “Your Hand in Mind” here, “The American Narrative” here and “White Towels and Imaginary Gateposts” here and then add the videos to your custom Wisdom Teachers playlist to access in VR. Need help? Click here.