Our Women Who Make Us Proud

Since the month of March has been designated Women’s History Month, allow me to take this opportunity to brag on some of the very outstanding women of color that we have right here in San Antonio, Texas. Now I don’t mean to offend my fellow brothers of color, but we have to admit that over the centuries we’ve had some awfully dynamic sisters. As far back as Phyllis Wheatley the great 18th Century poet through the 20th Century, our women have always been out front in our struggle to overcome prejudice, racism and bigotry. I’ll refrain from trying to name them all, for fear I might leave out too many.

ObamasWith the advent of the 21st Century that trend of strong, charismatic women continued. First Lady Michelle Obama has given this country a real lesson in class, dignity, brains and a compassion for all people. And I am proud to proclaim that we do have a number of women who emulate First Lady Obama right here in San Antonio. Allow me to share with you, the reader, a few of those outstanding women.

PierceThe two matriarchs of the Black culture in San Antonio are Aaronetta Pierce and Ruth Jones McClendon. These two pillars of the community have been leaders in the arts and in politics respectively for over thirty years in this city. Ms. Pierce has been a strong advocate for arts and has served on numerous boards over the years. She was a very close friend to the late great Maya Angelou, who loved to come to San Antonio to write. Ms. Pierce was the first Chair of the Martin Luther King Commission that organizes the march every year on the great man’s birthday. Because of her outstanding leadership on that committee, San Antonio has the largest and most effective King Day March in the country.

Former State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon has been the premiere Black office holder in the city. She served on the local city council for two terms and has been State Representative for District 120 of the Texas House of Representatives since 1994. In those years she established an impeccable record as an effective legislator for the Eastside of San Antonio, which encompasses a high percentage of the Black population. She recently retired because of failing health.

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Following in the footsteps of these legendary women are two new and refreshing Black women ready to take over the helm of leadership, both acknowledging that they follow on the shoulders of giants. Mayor Ivy Taylor accomplished the unthinkable when she won the office of Mayor in a hotly contested race in a city with only a 7% Black population. I have written about her accomplishments in a previous post on this blog in which I pointed out how proud she made us with her victory.  Mayor Taylor has an excellent career in front of her that could possibly lead to the governor’s seat in Austin.

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Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, sister to the legendary great NBA Basketball star, George Iceman Gervin, is the other woman of color who is a rising star in the political world. She is now in a two-person runoff for the vacated Legislative seat previously held by Ms. McClendon. Her opponent is an ex city councilman who has been removed from the political scene in the city for many years. You might call it his “last hurrah” for notoriety. Ms. Gervin-Hawkins has a proven track record as an effective organizer of a number of successful operations that have been of great help to the residents of the district. She is the Executive Director of the George Gervin Academy, a school that has welcomed young people who have been removed from the public school system, and need a helping hand to get their life in order. The Academy has graduated over one thousand students with high school diplomas and now these young people have gone on to build productive lives.

Mayor Taylor and Ms. Gervin-Hawkins are only two of a larger number of women of color in San Antonio who are making a difference in the lives of the young people in the African American community. Hopefully, as these two new dynamic leaders move forward in their careers, they will never forget that they are the recipients of the dedicated work by such women as Fanny Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Shirley Chisholm and of course Barbara Jordan. If they prove to be as competent leaders as these stellar women of color, then we all can be assured that our communities are in good hands.

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The Precocious and Creative Mind of Kayla Wilson

This past June a very close friend of Dr. Maya Angelou organized a tribute to the great lady here in San Antonio, Texas. As part of the program, Ms. Aaronetta Pierce asked me to organize a writing project involving young men and women. The goal was to have each of them write an essay or poem expressing what Dr. Angelou meant to them. As a result I was able to organize their writings and publish them as a collection in book form. If possible, I would share every one of these young people’s works with you the readers. They did an outstanding job, and I know Dr. Angelou would have experienced a few tears and some chills of joy, for the expressions of love that emanated from the pages of the publication. Although I could have easily chosen any one of the works to feature on this post, without a doubt, one stood out and that was Kayla Wilson’s poem “Ebony.”

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Before I share this amazing young lady’s poem, let me articulate one of the many reasons why she is so special.  Kayla has just begun her senior year at the Northeast School of Arts, located within Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio. She plans to attend Howard University and will major in creative writing and/or journalism. But recently, this young lady has shown the kind of courage that generations of young Blacks displayed in the 1960’s south, when they refused to be victims of a segregated society. Kayla has challenged the Board of Education for the Northeast Independent School District, insisting that they change the name of her high school.

Kayla’s request is based on her firm belief that no school should be named after a man who was a traitor to his country, and most important is not respected by a certain segment of the students. Graduates take pride in calling out the name of the school from which they graduated. There is no way Kayla can do that, if she has to call out the name of a man who she has all the reason not to respect. She took on this battle alone, with very little support. But now has the backing from a majority of Blacks, to include this writer, in San Antonio.

Kayla finds her strength to fight this battle in her love for who she is as a young Black creative artist. She, at the age of 17, has jettisoned the traditional definition of black, and formulated her own, for her comfort and satisfaction. In a school paper explaining the reason for her poem, she wrote, “I consider this poem to be some of my best work because it wasn’t just another poem… ‘Ebony’ represents me and how I view myself in contrast to society’s perception.”

I am pleased and honored to share Kayla’s beautiful expression of the color black in this space.

 

Black is not scary

or any form of fright.

Black is what holds the

glistening stars at night

Black is fierce and strong

yet gentle and kind.

Black is the juiciest berries

we make into our wine

Black is the passionate will

to win his fight

Black is the powerful back

that sustained every strike.

Black is the great stallion

running free in the wind.

Black is the gorgeous

array of mélange within.

Black is coal from which

diamonds are formed.

Black is the dark gold

that kept us warm.

Black is the thick, full,

and bodacious body parts.

Black is the beating drums

we have in our hearts.

Black is the strong stature

that can withstand burdens of time.

Black is not ugly.

Black is divine.

 

Kayla is our future. She has the courage of an Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the creative talent of a Toni Morrison, and the determination of a Fannie Lou Hamer. And she has parents who will nurture her natural gifts.  It is incumbent on all lovers of creative art to assure a path of success for this young lady, and by doing so we will know our culture’s sustainability is in excellent hands.

Black History Literary Weekend in San Antonio, Texas

I am extremely proud of what we do in San Antonio to promote literacy and culture among our youth. We take a great deal of pride in the quality of writers living right here in the Alamo City. The weekend of February 26 to 28, we plan to acknowledge our writers at a Black History Literary Weekend Dinner. However, prior to the dinner, eight of our outstanding authors will participate in a number of events to include trips to S. J. Davis Middle School and the George Gervin Academy, where they will meet and talk with young students in grades eight through twelve. These eight authors, who have works of fiction, non fiction and poetry, voluntarily give of their time because they strongly believe that they must encourage our young to dig deep in the far regions of their mind, and nurture the gift of creative writing. They readily acknowledge, that someone in their life served as a role model to encourage them to pursue a dream of becoming a writer. Many times, young children do not get such encouragement in the home, and far too often their talent remains dormant and they never reach the pinnacle of success as writers.

This year’s theme for Black Literary Weekend is, “Literature: The Foundation of all Cultures.” Without the written word, the history is lost and the people become insignificant to the world and subject to elimination. A people’s history is recorded in many different genres to include, novels, autobiographies, biographies, essays, dissertations, poetry and the list goes on. The key is that it all begins when young adults have the courage to pick up a pen and write that first sentence. That often is the most difficult task because our young may have been discouraged by family members, peer groups or many other people who pass through their lives. This weekend our authors will dispel those doubts and hopefully, from out of the young people they meet and greet, will come the next Pulitzer Prize writer.

This year’s speaker at the dinner is an outstanding leader within the artistic and literary circles who has, over the years, served as a magnificent beam of creative light illuminating on our community. Aaronetta Pierce is not only a collector of art but also a writer who has recently produced two outstanding works, one on Maya Angelou who was Ms. Pierce’s very close friend, and the other an essay written to her grandchildren about their heritage. Both pieces will appear in an anthology to be released in March 2015, titled, Black is the Color of Strength. It will be one of many outstanding books featured at the San Antonio Book Festival in April 2015.

One of our primary goals for the dinner this year is to raise enough money to help support our effort to establish the Dr. David Floyd Writing Project as a 501c3 foundation. David is a brother whose life story I wrote a few years ago. It is a fascinating story. He graduated from high school reading at the second grade level, and last June received his Doctorate Degree in Accounting. Unfortunately, we lost David in October of 2014 to cancer. David and I had just begun to talk about a sequel to his story, encouraging young black boys not to fear life or run away from its challenges. We now plan to make him a symbol of struggle, dedication and success. If you are in the San Antonio area and would like to attend this dinner, you can contact Ms. Antoinette Franklin at (210) 264-1518 or Mr. D. L. Grant at (210) 207-9180, or just email me at fredwilliams@satx.rr.com.

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