By The Tennessee Tribune
Mrs. Rosetta Miller Perry, a long-time Civil Rights activist has been named the recipient of the 2019 Tennessee Human Rights Commission’s Jocelyn D. Wurzburg Civil Rights Legacy Award. The award was presented, Friday, July 19, 2019 at 11:30 a.m. at the Supreme Court Chamber of the Tennessee Capitol.
This award is named in honor of Jocelyn D. Wurzburg of Memphis who has a long history of volunteer civil rights accomplishments, advocating for equity, equality and non-discrimination. She served on the Tennessee Human Rights Board of Commissioners on two occasions— in 1971 and again in 2007. During that time, she began extensive work and research to write the model for the Tennessee Human Rights Act, which she continued to promote after her first term. In 1978 her actions were responsible for transforming the Tennessee Human Rights Commission from an advisory to an enforcement organization. The very first Wurzburg Award was presented to Jocelyn for her continued efforts in civil rights and women’s rights.
The Jocelyn D. Wurzburg Civil Rights Legacy Award is given to individuals who have demonstrated long term advocacy to human rights. Beverly Watts, Executive Director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission said, “Award recipients are selected because his or her life’s work embodies the ideals and principles of inclusion, equity, equality, access and diversity and Mrs. Rosetta Miller Perry exemplifies those characteristics. Mrs. Miller Perry stated that she had worked with Ms. Wurzburg when she was a member of the Tennessee State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights and she was a field investigator. She said Ms. Wurzburgh was always there in Memphis working to better relations within the community and state then and now and she is deeply humble to receive this award from a person she has always for more than 50 years. The Tennessee Human Rights Commission Board of Commissioners selected Mrs. Perry as a recipient of this award because of her dedication and leadership in cultivating more inclusive and equitable communities,” Watts added.
The Board of Commissioners will hold its Commission meeting to discuss the goals of the Commission for the 2020 fiscal year on that day, Friday, July 19, 2019, and to publicly recognize Mrs. Perry and her outstanding work.
Mrs. Perry, is the founder and publisher of the Tennessee Tribune newspaper, which has operated for more than 25 years. Additionally, she served a Field Coordinator of the Equal Opportunity Commission and worked in pivotal roles in Nashville and Memphis during the 1960’s Civil Rights era. Her work has been chronicled in various publications, including the book, A Spy in Canaan: How the FBI Used a Famous Photographer to Infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement by Marc Perrusquia.
For more information, contact Veronica McGraw at 615.253.1608 at the Tennessee Human Rights Commission.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.
By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Culture and Entertainment Editor
It is summertime and many people are “bingeing” or “catching up” on their favorite television shows they haven’t had time to watch when they actually premiered or aired. While there are the usual suspects on HBO, Showtime, Bravo, Netflix and Starz, viewers should consider binge watching Stories from the Stage, the WORLD Channel original series that features ordinary people telling extraordinary stories, which returned with a national 24-hour binge-a-thon of episodes in June. The public television series features masterful storytellers from every walk of life, highlighting our differences and shared sense of humanity.
The latest season of Stories from the Stage includes the premiere of Rocky Top Remembers, an episode featuring stories about Morris Irby, the first black baseball player at Tennessee Tech University who learns the cost of being a trailblazer. “Rocky Top” refers to a place in Tennessee that is rocky and tough to plant, yet is fertile ground for great storytelling. Storytellers Harrison Young and Sandy Lewis are also featured on this episode, weaving tells of pecking orders in family and following in Dad’s footsteps, which isn’t always about the workplace or football field.
Viewers can also check out the episode, Game On!, featuring former Olympian and current USA Adaptive Water Ski Team member Nick Fairall discussing the leap that forever altered his Olympic dreams and his life. Each show is hosted by award-winning humorists and storytellers Theresa Okokon and Wes Hazard.
With more than 40 episodes, the Stories from the Stage gives viewers a chance to catch up on the series dedicated to bringing real stories — whether humorous or poignant, commonplace or astonishing — to American homes. Each 30-minute episode spotlights a trio of raconteurs — some experienced, some novices — sharing short anecdotes related to the episode’s unifying theme. Love, loss, family, food, immigration and celebrations are among the topics explored in episodes including “Lost & Found,” “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” “It’s All Relative” and “Holidays: The Good, The Bad.” Although each story is unique, audiences everywhere are able to connect and relate with storytellers from a mosaic of backgrounds, ages, cultures and abilities.
Stories from the Stage is a collaboration of WORLD Channel, WGBH Events and Massmouth, showcasing the communal art form of storytelling. The series reflects WORLD Channel’s commitment to bringing fresh and compelling voices to public media audiences on all platforms, while reflecting the diversity of modern America and the global community.
“Personal stories rich in human experience and emotion can create understanding, empathy and appreciation for people very different from us,” said Liz Cheng, General Manager for WORLD Channel and co-executive producer of the series. “With Stories from the Stage we hope to prove how much we all have in common and inspire community dialogue about our differences.” Stories from the Stage is co-executive-produced by Cheng and Patricia Alvarado Núñez.
Stories from the Stage episodes, original digital content, and more can be experienced on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and on the WORLD Channel website. Follow the hashtag #StoriesfromtheStage to hear every word.
This post was written by Nsenga K Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. An expert in intersectionality and media industries, Dr. Burton is also a professor of film and television at Emory University and co-editor of the book, Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability. She is Entertainment and Culture Editor for NNPA. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.
By Erica Wright
Welcome to Third Thursdays! This series—published in the Birmingham Times on the third Thursday of every month—highlights area citizens who overcame odds to make a difference in their own lives or those who make a difference in the lives of others.
Taria Jackson is adamant about two things: Don’t treat her any differently than you would anyone else and equality for all.
“I tell people all of the time, ‘just because I cannot walk, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me mentally’ I have just as much knowledge as the next person,” said Jackson. “I don’t like when people give me that special treatment, give me the same treatment you would give someone else. I am very independent. I can do everything anyone else can do, I just cannot walk.
“From the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, it is all me and I do it with help from my higher power, my God and that’s all I want people to know is to just treat me as if the wheelchair was never there. Treat me as you would with any other person, with the same dignity, respect and compassion. That’s all people with disabilities want.”
The 28-year-old was recently crowned Miss Wheelchair Alabama and competed in the national competition, Miss Wheelchair America 2020 in Little Rock, Arkansas July 1st-6th. Jackson’s platform is “Equality for All. She was named 1st Runner Up in the Miss Wheelchair America competition.
“Being 1st runner up means that I really worked hard and that title is worth having,” Jackson said. “I gave it my all and I will forever be a winner . . . I got to meet women from different states and I was able to learn and grow. Things that I’ve learn I’m able to bring back to Alabama to continue to advocate and educate individuals with disabilities.”
Jackson said she wants to make sure that all people with disabilities are treated equally.
“Whether that is a physical disability or a mental disability because there are people who have disabilities that are not visible to the eye, so I want to make sure that all people are receiving equal opportunities from employment to education,” she said. “I want to make sure that we have a voice and that we are heard and that when we come into the room, we also have a say so in the matter . . . not put us in the background and think it won’t affect us because it will, whatever the situation may be . . . treat us as if we didn’t have a disability at all. That’s all we really want.”
Always An Advocate
Jackson grew up in Birmingham in the Pratt City and Ensley communities. She was born with a condition called spina bifida, which is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly
“For me, I’m paralyzed from the waist down, but it can affect people in different ways,” said Jackson.
She attended EPIC Elementary, A.G. Gaston Middle and A.H. Parker High schools in Birmingham.
“From elementary to middle school, I was on the praise dance team, I was a cheerleader and I also was a soccer player for the Lakeshore Foundation,” she said. “At EPIC, it was a really good time for me. I started out in special education classes and it was no real reason I was in there except for my physical appearance.
“One day, I was in class and I read something on the board and my teacher did not know that I could read and I don’t know how it happened, but I just remember my first grade teacher walking me to another teacher’s class and that’s how I transitioned from special education to mainstream classes.”
Jackson recalled that transition as a milestone.
“A lot of my friends that I started special education with [never left those classes] for whatever reason and that’s why it’s so important to have others advocate for you” said Jackson.
With the support of advocates she skipped eighth grade at A.G. Gaston and went straight to the ninth, Jackson said.
“Everybody was worried about me [skipping a grade] but it didn’t feel any different to me because I’m a people person and I got along with everyone and when I was a freshman, I was hanging with upperclassmen, so it wasn’t a big deal to me and I was fine,” she said.
Jackson graduated from Parker in 2009 and attended Lawson State Community College for two years and then the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2011. While at UA, she was in the pre-law club, the chess club and the psychology club.
“I graduated with my degree in psychology in 2014 and I took a year off and I was a substitute teacher for Birmingham City Schools during that time, which was not for me so I decided to go back to school to pursue my master’s degree in social work,” said Jackson.
After graduating with her master’s degree in 2017, Jackson began as a social worker which lasted until January of this year when she lost her job.
“I plan to go to UAB in the fall and I’m trying to pursue another master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant because my end goal is to work with cancer patients,” said Jackson.
Miss Wheelchair Competition
Jackson decided to compete in the Miss Wheelchair Alabama pageant after hearing from people who urged her to become a contestant.
“The first person who told me about it, sent me an email and I didn’t think anything of it. The second person who told me, I didn’t know her from a can of paint but she reached out to me on Facebook . . . I feel like when you hear something more than once, it’s a sign,” she said.
Jackson said she paid attention to what she was hearing and became obedient. “At that time, I was going through some trials and tribulations and it got to the point where I didn’t want to do it and I talked to the coordinator of the organization and she’s a very spiritual person and she pretty much told me, ‘I need you to do this.’”
The pageant coordinator, Joann Pearson, inspired her to complete the application, Jackson said.
After she completed the application, Jackson said she learned that someone had already sponsored her. The pageant was in Huntsville in March and consisted of workshops and interviews.
“I had my interviews and the tricky part was they didn’t let any of us know who the judges were, so I was talking to judges the whole weekend and didn’t even know it,” she said.
On the night of the pageant, Jackson and the other contestants had to answer another series of questions. Jackson took home the crown.
“When I heard I had won, I kind of blacked out . . . I was just so happy because I had never done any pageant competition in my life… so this was the first time I won something as an individual in my lifetime,” she said.
Equality For All
Since becoming Miss Wheelchair Alabama, Jackson makes appearances, educates and advocates.
“I have to do like two appearances a month whether it’s at a hospital or speaking to children at school but it’s really about keeping up my platform and what my vision is with my platform,” she said. “I have spoken to third graders through an after school program called Girls Talk, I have spoken at a graduation for Alabama Vocational Rehabilitation… I also got to speak in front of the mayor and the Birmingham City Council during one of the council meetings.”
Jackson speaks from the heart.
“I know what it feels like to be discriminated against and to not feel accepted and to be rejected based off a physical appearance alone,” she said. “We do not look like what society says we should look like and I just know what it feels like to be the odd one out and it’s not a good feeling. Having any type of disability can take a mental toll on someone as well especially since I know people who were walking one day and in a wheelchair the next.”
Jackson said she knows what it’s like to be in the wheelchair and someone who doesn’t know what it feels like “they’re not going to be as passionate and advocate as much as they need to because it’s not truly a problem for them . . . I just want to make sure that the next person or the next generation has it a little bit easier than I had,” she said.
Speaking of advocates, Jackson said her mother, Dorsann Jackson, has been her biggest supporter.
“She has been there with me through it all. She saw things in my life long before I saw things,” said Taria. “She had a vision for me and at the time I couldn’t see it but she would go to bed and wake up and she’ll say, ‘I had a dream of you speaking in front of thousands of people’ and I would say ‘good luck with that’ but just seeing how her dreams are starting to slowly manifest in my life is amazing.
“It’s so important to have someone in your life to see the fire in you because you’re not going to always be able to see it in yourself so I am very fortunate to have a mom who sees me the same way God sees me.”
Click here to read more Third Thursday stories: Angelia Strode ;Jon Osborne;Vernessa Barnes; Sanchez Tanniehill; Tyrone Tolbert; Rochelle Malone; Reginald Ruffin; Karneshia Patton; Magnolia Cook; Liz Huntley; Annie Avery; Clover Moore; Erica Robbins.
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.
By WI Web Staff
Political activist and educator Angela Davis is being honored this fall by the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Davis spent 15 years as a faculty member at UC Santa Cruz before retiring in 2008 as a Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies.
Known for her work as a longtime civil rights activist, Davis,75, a former member of the Black Panther Party and the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, has authored 10 books and done extensive research on issues related to race, gender and imprisonment in America.
Davis often draws upon her experience in the early 1970s, where she spent 18 months in jail and on trial after being placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
The Hall, which was established in 1969, will also honor the achievements of nine other women, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actress and activist Jane Fonda and activist/artist Rose O’Neill. Each of these women will be recognized for their work in September at an awards ceremony in New York.
This article originally appeared in The Washington Informer.
By Kathryn Palmer
There’s still three weeks before school starts in Memphis, but on a recent afternoon, the parking lot at Hickory Ridge Middle School was packed.
Veteran kindergarten teacher Sandra Jenkins pulled up at 3:17 p.m. and parked her sage green Toyota Corolla along a curb on the campus outskirts. At Shelby County Schools district’s biggest job fair of the year, other prospective teachers had already taken every spot before the massive hiring event officially started at 3 p.m.
Ninety-seven percent of district positions are already spoken for. But like every year, a few positions in every grade and almost every subject remain open. This is the fifth teacher job fair in the region Jenkins has attended in the past 12 months. So far, she’s only been able to land substitute positions, but she’s hoping to go home from this hiring event with something more permanent.
For schools with vacancies, this time of year is “crunch time,” said Desmond Hendricks as he set up an interview table in the school gymnasium. He is a social studies teacher at Raleigh Egypt Middle School and was waiting to field candidates for five open positions in math and English. “It’s all about finding the right fit,” he said.
That’s why he joined about 75 other district schools in the gymnasium and cafeteria, prepared to interview candidates and make tentative hiring offers for dozens of vacant positions in Tennessee’s largest district.
Jenkins, 60, is hopeful she’ll be a good fit for one of those schools. The Memphis native is just one of the 224 people who showed up at the two-hour event, hoping to nail down a full-time job before school starts in mid-August. But her silver-streaked ponytail set her apart from the mass of relatively young-looking, recently certified teachers — many of whom were probably born after Jenkins started her first long term substitute teaching job at Whitehaven Elementary in 1981.
“We didn’t have job fairs back then,”Jenkins recalled, as she carefully walked through the parking lot in her marshmallow-white tennis shoes and compression socks. “We just applied to the district and got hired. Now it’s all politics and paperwork.”
As she opened the heavy double doors to start her job hunt, Jenkins passed a young, well-dressed woman skipping back into the parking lot, gleefully proclaiming, “I got the job!” into her cell phone.
“It feels like they only want young ones now,” said Jenkins, who has more than 30 years of classroom experience in Memphis public schools.
Jenkins’ age and experience level make her an outlier in the Memphis teacher workforce, which is plagued by high turnover that creates a pool of inexperienced educators. In the 2015-16 school year, approximately one in five Tennessee teachers were in their first or second years of work, according to data that schools reported to the federal government. Those figures were even higher in Memphis.
Jenkins came armed with a manilla folder containing a stack of resumes and a pitch about herself. Helping young students reach their highest potential is her broad goal, but her specific goal is to get back to teaching kindergarten. She did that for 22 years until a car accident forced her into an unexpected, early retirement from her position at Holmes Road Elementary five years ago. She took some time off to be with family and care for a now-deceased neighbor.
“I’m trying to get back into teaching, but it’s been hard,” she said.
For Jenkins, who has no children of her own, kindergarten is the only grade she can see herself teaching. “They are like my kids,” she said, as she waited in line to check in with district staff and verify her certification. “Some children that I have taught were complete blank slates when they walked into my class. I like molding them, shaping them, building their confidence.”
A district employee hands Jenkins a printout of the job openings, directing Jenkins to the school cafeteria for K-8 openings.
She scans the list looking for kindergarten openings while she walks down a corridor toward the lunchroom. Instead of sandwiches and juice boxes, job ads and interview questionnaires are strewn across the circular tables. School personnel are seated on the built-in benches, ready to interview teachers, ready to make offers.
Jenkins snakes through the maze of teachers and administrators. “I knew I’d see a bunch of people I know,” she said, smiling after spotting an old colleague, Sarah Hamer, who now works as a personal learning coach for White Station Elementary. Hamer’s looking to hire for first grade — not quite what Jenkins is looking for. “I get it. When you’re a kindergarten teacher, you’re a kindergarten teacher for life,” Hamer said to Jenkins. “If you change your mind, we’d love to interview you.”
Jenkins drops off a few resumes at other tables, careful not to interrupt interviews. Then, finally, she gets invited to sit down at the Sheffield Elementary School table for five minutes. The school has an opening for kindergarten, but they’ve already interviewed a few other candidates. They said they’d keep her resume on file.
“If people don’t like me, I move on,” Jenkins said. “Rejection doesn’t hurt me. I was one of the first black students to integrate Whitehaven Elementary in 1967. I got spit on, called names. I don’t take it personally.”
The big round clock on the white cinder block walls ticks to 4:55. By that point Jenkins had handed out almost every copy of her resume, and the crowd is thinning.
On her way out, she bumped into another former coworker, now-assistant superintendent Rodney Rowan. Jenkins told him the day hadn’t gone as well as she’d hope.
Rowan seemed surprised. “I would hire a seasoned teacher in a heartbeat,” he said, “because they don’t require as much training.” He said Jenkins could list him as a reference and he’d tell the schools: “You love children. You work hard. You stayed until the job was done. You didn’t watch the clock.”
As of 5 p.m., when the job fair ended, district recruitment and staffing associate Sheilaine Moses said they’d received 40 hiring recommendations, pending district approval. Jenkins’ name wasn’t among them.
“There’s still a few weeks before school,” Jenkins said as she walked out to the far end of now-emptied school parking lot. “It will happen if it’s supposed to.”
This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender
By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Culture and Entertainment Editor
Alice Walker, one of the premiere writers of the 20th Century, was honored in July by her hometown of Eatonton, GA for her 75th Birthday (Alice Walker 75). Hundreds of people flocked from all over the country to Walker’s birthplace to celebrate the birthday of the Pulitzer Prize winning author.
The activist, who was born February 9, 1944 in Eatonton left in 1961 to attend Spelman College, eventually enrolling at Sarah Lawrence College due to controversy surrounding her political activism at Spelman.
Walker’s legacy of activism and storytelling was on full display at the event, which was held at the Georgia Writers Museum and included a day of activities and events to honor Walker’s life and achievements. The event was co-chaired by award-winning author Valerie Boyd, editor of Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, which will be released in 2020 and Lou Benjamin, founder of Eatonton’s Briar Patch Arts Council.
Walker, who lived just outside of town, acknowledged this was the first time she had been to Eatonton and was unaware the Plaza Arts Center existed, which is where many of the festivities were held.
The day kicked off with a screening and discussion of the American Masters Documentary, Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth followed by a discussion with the filmmaker Pratibha Parmar and scholar Salamisha Tillet at The Plaza Arts Center.
Celebrants were able to take bus tours of the area and see Walker’s birthplace while fellow authors and poets and friends paid tribute to the game changer, who was clearly touched by the praise, humbly thanking the audience throughout the day of events.
An American Marriage novelist Tayari Jones read from the novel Meridian, poet Daniel Black read Walker’s short story “Flowers,” and poet Kamilah Aisha Moon read Walker’s poem, “How Poems are Made.” Journalist and author Evelyn C. White offered remembrances of friendship and activism and classically trained Gospel violinist Melanie R. Hill performed a medley of songs honoring the legend.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the program was when Walker’s daughter Rebecca, read several pieces including “Now That Book Is Finished,” a poem Walker wrote about Rebecca when she was a child. Rebecca’s son Tenzin, 14, performed an original song he composed entitled, “Sun and Steam,” which he played beautifully on the piano. Rebecca Walker’s words, expressions of love and gratitude to her mother and Tenzin’s performance were symbolic of the reconciliation between Walker and her daughter who had been estranged during a difficult period. Walker’s former husband Melvyn R. Levanthal was also in attendance.
The special birthday celebration ended with Walker taking the stage of The Plaza Arts Center for a candid conversation with Boyd, author of the award-winning biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. Walker and Boyd’s tête-à-tête ended with an invitation for all attendees to take the stage and dance with the celebrated author to two of her favorite songs, “Rock Steady,” by Aretha Franklin and “As” by Stevie Wonder, concluding a lovely day of celebration of one of the 20th Century’s greatest writers.
This article was written by Nsenga K Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. An expert in intersectionality and media industries, Dr. Burton is also a professor of film and television at Emory University and co-editor of the book, Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.
By Rep. Edolphus Towns
In my three decades representing parts of New York City in the House of Representatives, expanding economic opportunities for underserved communities was a top priority. That’s why, after I retired from public service, I joined the Board of World Business Lenders, an alternative business lender that provides desperately needed financing for businesses who want to grow or expand, leading to so many ancillary benefits to their local communities.
Unfortunately, not all alternative business lenders are created equal. In an industry that is not regulated, many of them are engaged in predatory practices, preying on the very customers they are committed to serving. Unlike World Business Lenders, which has voluntarily self-regulated by implementing a “best practices” lending program committed to offering fair and transparent loan terms to its borrowers, other alternative business lenders engage in opaque and occasionally destructive behavior that can lead to bankruptcy or worse for their own customers.
A critical tool for these predatory lenders has been the use of our state’s court system to seize the assets of small businesses whether located in New York or in any other state by employing legal instruments called “confessions of judgement.” These lenders have been requiring their small business borrowers, as a condition of receiving any short-term loans from them, to sign confessions of judgement that waive borrowers’ legal rights in any dispute with the lenders. Small business borrowers in other states have no right of notice if their assets are seized in New York under confessions of judgement and may not even realize if a New York judgement has been entered against them until their banks have seized their assets.
Alternative business lenders should make every loan transparent for their borrowers by clearly disclosing repayment terms, including interest rates, prepayment charges and by outlining clear payment schedules. Borrowers must be made aware of all fees and costs associated with their loans. Brokers and employees of alternative business lenders should be subject to background checks and continuing education requirements. Importantly, alternative business lenders should be required to offer each borrower terms not worse than the most favorable loan product for which he or she qualifies.
Alternative business lenders have nothing to fear from additional regulation. World Business Lenders is a successful company that profits even as we voluntarily abide by these terms, which protect customers. Unfortunately, in the political environment in Washington, it is unlikely that Congress will act to prevent predatory lenders from driving small business owners into bankruptcy. In the absence of leadership in Washington, it is time for Albany to act.
Rep. Edolphus Towns is a board member of World Business Lenders. He represented the 10th and 11th congressional districts in New York from 1983-2013.