Sherie Labedis was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1946. When she was ten her family moved to rural Shingle Springs, California, where she discovered a passion for civil rights when high school English teacher, Bruce Harvey, asked his students what they were willing to die for.
Charged by an address by Martin Luther King, Jr., Sherie help register black voters in South Carolina. “I was galvanized by an address by Martin Luther King, Jr.,” she says today. “Meeting him was the most influential event of my life.” She was only eighteen when she participated in 1965’s Summer Community Organization and Political Education project registering black voters in Pineville, South Carolina for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
At the end of the summer of 1965, with the financial support of the NAACP, she enrolled for a semester at Allen University, an African Methodist Episcopal college in Columbia, South Carolina. Labedis was the only white student on campus. She returned to the University of California, Berkeley where she earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential.
She taught history and English for thirty-five years, most of it with at-risk youth, before retiring to write You Came Here to Die, Didn’t You.
Labedis’ story “A Line in the Sand” is the opening essay in Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul (Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Lisa Nichols). In 2018 her story was part of a series produced by Ann Curry for public television called “We’ll Meet Again.” Episode 5 was called “Freedom Summer.” One of her photos from 1965 appeared in a Smithsonian documentary on sundown towns. She co-authored the story “Parable of the Old Wood Stove” with Coretta Simmons in OASIS (Oldways Africana Soup in Stories)
Perhaps the most important reward for her life as a civil rights worker is that she “adopted” a Pineville family in 1965 and they “adopted” her. Her parents traveled to Pineville to meet Sarah Butler, an old black woman who acted as a grandmother to Labedis. Her first and then her second husband knew her family and she is now Aunt Sherie to four generations of the Butler-Smalls family returning to Pineville every year (until COVID).
Sherie Labedis lives in Roseville, California with her dog Moe (for Mo’Better). You Came Here to Die, Didn’t You is her first book. She is available for readings of her book, book signings, seminars, and presentations. Contact Sherie online at sherielabedis.com/contact/