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JoAnn Gibson-Robinson

JoAnn Gibson-Robinson (1912-1992)

Educator/Freedom Walker/Motivator

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor JoAnn Gibson-Robinson.

JoAnn Gibson-RobinsonJoAnn Robinson was born in Culledon, Georgia and was educated in the segregated public schools of Macon, Ga. Education was her life and she worked with colleagues, students, and community leaders to African-Americans set free. After graduating from Fort Valley State College, she taught school in Macon and eventually went on to earn an M.A. in English from Atlanta University.  In 1949 after accepting a faculty position at Alabama State College in Montgomery, Mrs. Robinson joined the Women's Political Council (WPC: a civic organization which sought to increase the political leverage of the black community by promoting involvement) eventually becoming president in 1950. Her defining moment as President came after enduring an insulting encounter with a Montgomery bus driver. Mrs. Robinson vowed to end racialized seating on the city's buses. Using her position as president of the Council, she wrote a letter to the Mayor of Montgomery with the gentle threat to boycott if such behavior did end.

Following Mrs. Rosa Park’s arrest in December 1955, Mrs. Robinson played a central role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott by producing the leaflets that spread word of the Boycott among Montgomery’s Black citizens. She wrote in her memoir “The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It” (1987) how she, Mrs. T.M. Glass, Mrs. Z.J. Pierce, and Mrs. Irene West approached ministers from area churches to urge their support to support the boycott of the Montgomery bus system.  

Mrs. Robinson became one of the most active board members of the Montgomery Improvement Association (an organization comprised of Black ministers and community leaders most notable for guiding the Montgomery Bus Boycott) but she remained out of the limelight in order to protect her teaching position at Alabama State as well as those of her colleagues. In 1960, Mrs. Robinson left Alabama State (and Montgomery), as did other activist faculty members. After teaching one year at Grambling College, Mrs. Robinson moved to Los Angeles, where she taught English in the public schools until her retirement in 1976. She remained active in a number of women's community groups until her death in 1992 at the age of 80.

Photo:  Rivers of Change http://tinyurl.com/k76yhaf
http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/jo-ann-gibson-robinson-was-unsung-activist  (Accessed 12/26/1)
National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox, The Making of African-American Identity: Vol III, 1917-1968 PDF http://tinyurl.com/me2osf3 (Accessed 12/26/13)
http://awodarchive.blogspot.com/2012/04/jo-ann-gibson-robinson.html (Accessed 1/15/14)
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_montgomery_improvement_association/ (Accessed 1/15/14)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

Mildred Elizabeth "Auntie" Freeney Dozier

Mildred Elizabeth "Auntie" Freeney Dozier(December 16, 1919-December 8, 2013)

The People’s Auntie/Educational Adovcate

Chicago Region’s First Black Parent Teacher Association President

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Mildred Elizabeth "Auntie" Freeney Dozier.

Mildred DozierMildred Elizabeth “Auntie” Freeney Dozier (on the left) was a staunch advocate for youth and their parents, and served many years as President of the Chicago Region Parent Teacher Association (PTA), an organization that facilitates involvement and interaction between families, educators and school administration.   A World War II veteran, Dozier served as one of the few African-American women in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC).  She was also a den-mother for 25 or so Cub Scouts in Pack 3663 that met once a week in her basement.

For a decade, she patrolled the halls of Harlan High School in Chicago like the soldier she had been during World War II.  Almost every day, even when her children no longer attended Harlan, she was still there–”Quiet! Slow down! Get to class! I WILL talk to your parents! Don’t do that EVER, again!”–were the loving commands she often communicated and the students all knew and responded to “Mrs. Dozier.”  She was the discipline and motivation that helped to make Harlan one of the best high schools in Illinois in that era.

A Chicago resident for more than 50 years, Mrs. Dozier served as a founding board member of the Veterans of Hope Project, a member of the Psalms Ministry Women’s Praying Circle, a long-time member and adviser of The Black Star Project a Chicago which is a community organization committed to serving families and ensuring a quality education for Chicago’s Black youth. Mrs. Dozier passed away at the age of 93.

Photo: Black Star Journal
http://blackstarjournal.org/?p=3740 (Accessed 12/25/13)
http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/chicagotribune/obituary.aspx?n=mildred-dozier-freeney&pid=168484480&fhid=3055  Accessed 12/25/13
http://www.pta.org/ (Accessed 1/15/14)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

Loune Viaud

Loune Viaud (1966-)

Social Strategist/Humanitarian/Health Care Advocate

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Loune Viaud.

Loune ViaudLoune Viaud [b. 1966] in Port Salut , southern Haiti is a health care worker and Director of Operations and Strategic Planning for Zanmi Lasante a sister organization to Partners in Health – Haiti. Her life’s work has been to address the flow of international donor and loan funds into Haiti, because the lacks of coordination with local entities undermine the Haitian government’s ability to fulfill its human rights obligations.

Her career took a turn in 1988 when an armed attack on Father John Bertrand Aristide’s [Catholic priest and politician] congregation killed 13 and injured 80 civilians. After the attack Ms. Viaud left the country of Haiti and relocated to Boston where she became active with Partners in Health. A staunch advocate for women, she pioneered Haiti’s first women’s health center, Proje Santé Fanm - in December 1990.  Ms. Viaud has since helped train scores of women’s health agents and traditional birth attendants. Moreover, she has implemented several women’s literacy projects, a scholarship program for girls and a gender-awareness curriculum for training health care personnel. In 2002 she received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for her advocacy and service.

Ms. Viaud’s ongoing work in Haiti took on an even greater urgency when that country was hit by a devastating earthquake in January 2010. She has since been working to provide health care to the most vulnerable populations and to strengthen the health care sector. Ms. Viaud also worked in partnership with the Haitian government and other organizations to help establish a children’s shelter for orphaned and abandoned children, many of whom are disabled. She said regarding her work: "Children in Haiti, particularly homeless, disabled, and orphaned children, still desperately need shelter, care, and protection. We must make sure that their fundamental rights are protected and that the government of Haiti is empowered to fulfill these rights."

Photo: Partners in Health http://blogs.nysut.org/sttp/defenders/loune-viaud/ (Accessed 12/25/13)
http://rfkcenter.org/loune-viaud-haiti (Accessed 12/25/13)
http://www.haitisupportgroup.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=275:loune-viaud&catid=85:famous-haitians&Itemid=30  (Accessed 12/25/13)
http://blogs.nysut.org/sttp/defenders/loune-viaud/  (Accessed 12/25/13)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

Rev. Willie T. Barrow

Rev. Willie T. Barrow (December 7, 1924-)
Minister of the Gospel/Social Justice Connector/ “Little Warrior”
Chair Emeritus, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition

“We are not so much divided, as we are disconnected.

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor
Rev. Willie T. Barrow.

Willie T. BarrowRev. Willie T. Barrow, affectionately known as “Little Warrior”, began her quest for justice as a student in Burton, TX during the 1940s. As a teenager Rev. Barrow led a demonstration with rural African-American students against Burton’s segregated public school system which refused them bus service because of their race. Her father, who was a minister, taught her to take on the burden of others. Rev. Barrow attended Warner-Pacific Theological Seminary in Portland Oregon, and became an ordained minister of the gospel after graduation.  The legacy of Rev. Barrow’s ministry has been to connect people through activism to bring healing to our world.

Rev. Barrow's involvement in the African-American Civil Rights movement began in the 1950's when she became a field organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She helped organize demonstrators who participated in the movement's marches and sit-ins, including the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 March on Selma. Rev. Barrow participated in the Poor People's Campaign and helped organize voter registration drives and economic boycotts.

In 1962, Rev. Barrow worked with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. to create Operation Breadbasket, which sought to meet the needs of underserved black communities. Jackson, Sr. who would later found Operation P.U.S.H (People United to Serve Humanity) and the Rainbow Coalition would tap Rev. Barrow over the past 20 years for leadership.

As an activist for universal human rights, Rev. Barrow has led delegations to North Vietnam, South Africa, the Middle East, Canada, and Bermuda, among other locations.  She has also advocated for solutions to pressing social issues of our time including:  AIDS in the black community, children's welfare, and domestic violence.

Photo: http://www.timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/museums/55441/super-unknown
http://www.visionaryproject.org/barrowwillie/  (Accessed 12/25/13)
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/rev-willie-t-barrow-40  (Accessed 12/25/13)
http://www.crocuta.net/Dean/DNC_WinterMeetingFull_Feb12_2005.htm (Accessed 12/25/13)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton (June 27, 1936 – February 13, 2010)


During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Lucille Clifton.

Lucille CliftonOne of the most prolific, creative voices of our time, Lucille Clifton’s work is best remembered for its brilliant use of colloquial vernacular and creative word images, carrying a spirit of the community to the literary world.

Ms. Clifton’s talent was first recognized by the great Langston Hughes, who included her poems in his 1966 anthology The Poetry Of The Negro. Her first poetry collection, the critically acclaimed “Good Times” (1969), was listed among the New York Times’ 10 best books for that year. Her work captured the continuing struggle for Black equality, for women’s liberation.

Ms. Clifton won numerous literary awards throughout her career, including the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2007 and, National Book Award for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 (2000). She was also the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize: Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980 (1987) and Next: New Poems (1987). In 1984 she won the Coretta Scott King Award for her children’s series Everett Anderson’s Good-bye. Ms. Clifton also served as Maryland's poet laureate from 1974 until 1985.

Ms. Clifton’s extensive career as an educator in creative writing and literature includes stints at Coppin State College, as poet-in-residence, 1974-79. She also held various teaching posts at: University of California, Santa Cruz; St. Mary's College, and visiting professor at Columbia University School of the Arts 1995-99.

Ms. Clifton died on February 13, 2010 at the age of 73.

"The Thirty Eighth Year"
By © Lucille Clifton

the thirty eighth year
of my life,
plain as bread
round as a cake
an ordinary woman

an ordinary woman

i had expected to be
smaller than this,
more beautiful,
wiser in Afrikan ways,
more confident,
i had expected
more than this.

i will be forty soon
my mother once was forty

my mother died at forty four,
a woman of sad countenance
leaving behind a girl
awkward as a stork.
my mother was thick,
her hair was a jungle and
she was very wise
and beautiful
and sad.

i have dreamed dreams
for you mama
more than once.
i have wrapped me
in your skin
and made you live again
more than once.
I have taken the bones you hardened
and built daughters
and they blossom and promise fruit
like Afrikan trees.
i am a woman now,
an ordinary woman.

in the thirty eighth
year of my life,
surrounded by life,
a perfect picture of
blackness blessed,
i had not expected this

if it is western,
if it is the final
Europe in my mind,
if in the middle of my life
I am turning the final turn
into the shining dark
let me come to it whole
and holy
not afraid
not lonely
out of my mother's life
into my own.
into my own.

i had expected more than this.
i had not expected to be
an ordinary woman

Photo: BOA Additions - http://tinyurl.com/kjesuwt (Accessed 1/15/14))
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/17/arts/17clifton.html (Accessed 12/17/12)
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/lucille-clifton (Accessed 12/15/12)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

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