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.

RuthJonesMcClendon

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.

ivy-taylor

 

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.

Barbara

A Great Brother and Great Writer Moves On

clackLast Thursday, I was surprised to read a Facebook posting by one of the most respected men in the San Antonio literary community. Cary Clack, who had served for the past year as Communication Director for Mayor Ivy Taylor, agreed to resign from his position. Cary is a native of San Antonio, who as a young intern at the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, wrote a number of commentaries for the late and great Coretta Scott King for her appearances on CNN. He was a columnist for the San Antonio Express News for over seventeen years and served as District Director for the office of Congressman Joaquin Castro until he gave up that position to serve with Mayor Taylor. Cary is a brother who cares very much about his community and has always been one of the most principled human beings that it has been my privilege to know; and also a very polished and professional writer and communicator. Why he decided to leave the mayor’s office right at the beginning of her term is a discussion and subject he does not want to engage in publicly, because he does not want to become fuel for the fire of the Taylor haters and there are a lot of them in the community.

I believe Cary left he mayor’s office because he was not comfortable with his role. He is a writer and must feel free to express himself as he sees fit. That is what a good writer must do. Working for any politician, you must be willing to relinquish that kind of freedom and be nothing more than the mouthpiece for whomever you may work. One fact, however, is indisputable; Mayor Taylor lost a very good man when she lost our friend Cary. His character is reflected in the fact that just before Mayor Taylor decided to run for a full term in office, Cary was approached by executives from the University of Texas System in Austin about a job as speechwriter for the new Chancellor, General William McRaven, the man who led President Barack Obama’s successful operation to get Osama Bin Laden. He went to the mayor and asked what she planned to do and she then told him that she would run. He felt that his loyalty to her, in what would be a very hotly contested race, was more important than taking the job, and decided to stay put in her office.

Now that he has decided to move on, many in the community are wondering what is next for this man of many accomplishments. No doubt he’ll have a myriad of offers from various newspapers, possibly some national magazines and he already has one from Prosperity Publications. As a fledgling publishing company with limited resources, we are not in the position to offer Cary the kind of salary that his talent demands. But I do know he is the kind of person that we want to have as an associate, partner or maybe just a writer in our company. We want good, honorable people, who will not compromise their principles for financial gain. Writers who want to tell the story about our heritage and culture and in doing so make a positive impact on our race. Cary is that kind of person and the mayor should have done everything in her power to keep him in her office. But since she didn’t, some other literary entity is going to be blessed with a talented Black writer who will do great things for their company.

A Diaspora Connection

On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, San Antonio, Texas scored another first in its history when the city entered into a Friendship City Agreement with Windhoek, the capital of the Republic of Namibia. I not only felt honored but thrilled to be invited to witness this event in the plush Plaza Club on the top floor of the Frost Bank Building here in San Antonio.

San Antonio Mayor and Namibia Mayor Muesee Kazapua toasting

I looked on in admiration as Ambassador Martin Andjaba strolled into the room fresh off a plane from the embassy in Washington, D.C. A wide smile crossed my face when Windhoek Mayor Muesee Kazapua reached out and shook my hand. And I couldn’t have felt more proud as I watched my Mayor, Ivy Taylor, sit at a table and sign the friendship agreement. Watching this historic event triggered thoughts of the great Pan African advocate, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, when he wrote about the Diaspora. He described it as the movement of African people over the centuries by force to all parts of the world. He made it quite clear that our homeland would always be Africa even though we have adjusted to a second homeland out of necessity.

Namibia achieved independence from a South African administration in 1990 and has done quite well in building a strong and vibrant Republic. It borders Angola in the north, South Africa in the south, Botswana in the east and the South Atlantic Ocean in the west. It is obviously in this vicinity that many of our ancestors were forced to leave their homeland. My creative mind then took liberties to imagine that, centuries past, the two mayors’ families may have known each other, and just possibly my ancestors and those of the ambassador crossed paths. For that matter, all the African Americans at the event could feel some connection with the many Africans in the room also experiencing this momentous occasion.

Fred Williams and Ambassador Martin Andjaba of the Republic of NamibiaDr. Du Bois would have been pleased if he could have witnessed the dynamics; it was the Diaspora at work, just like the great thinker would have imagined it. There, at the table was an African mayor from the major city in the Republic of Namibia, sitting next to an African American mayor of the seventh largest city in the United States and the second largest in the State of Texas; both signing an agreement that their respective cities will promote trade and economic cooperation in areas that include renewable energy, health services, biotech, culture and tourism.

I was able to grab the two city leaders’ attention long enough to take a picture with them. I was also able to corral the Ambassador and get one with him. I have to admit I am not a big fan of taking pictures with cell phones, but at that particular time, I sure was glad to know that my wife was an expert at using the cell phone to record history.

Fred Williams with San Antonio Mayor Taylor andNamibia Mayor  Muesee Kazapua

I am immensely grateful to my Mayor for inviting me to this event and to the African delegation for coming all the way from Namibia. I am also grateful to the Ambassador for flying from Washington, D.C., to help make this happen and to my wife for providing me with proof whenever I look at the pictures that this indeed really did happen, and I was not just dreaming of a better world.