Broward Section NCNW Installation shows Mary Bethune’s vision is still alive
From to l to r: Sheila Thomas/Chaplain; Lorine Checks /Financial Secretary; Iola Glenn/Treasurer; Scherrie Thomas /Corresponding Secretary; Ja’Meka Thompson/Recording Secretary; Krystal Coke/3rd VP and Azia Powell/2nd VPN; Rev. Deborah Allen/1st VP; President Laura Richardson being sworn in by Judge Ilona Holmes.
By Staff Writer
The newly-chartered Broward County Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) held its Installation Ceremony at Inverrary Country Club, Lauderhill, July 16, illustrating that founder Mary McLeod Bethune’s spirit of service is still vibrantly alive. The Section was officially welcomed into the NCNW with a letter received April 25, 2016. The story behind its founding is as inspiring as the story of Bethune aspiring to start a school of higher education for Negroes with $1.50 in 1904. Now Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) has educated many thousands of Americans.
Bethune’s visionary call to “work together with a unity of purpose and a unity of action,” came at a time when she was serving as advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1953. A member of the President’s “Black Cabinet,” she was noted for achieving her goals, and was described by one of her fellow board members as having “the most marvelous gift of effecting feminine helplessness in order to attain her aims with masculine ruthlessness.”
A close friend of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Bethune used her position of privilege to elevate the conditions facing Black women and the need for an umbrella organization to help them focus their power.
“We live in a world which respects power above all things. Power, intelligently directed, can lead to more freedom. Un-wisely directed, it can be a dreadful, destructive force,” Section Chair Laura Richardson quoted Dr. Bethune. “It is our responsibility to accept the challenge for the improvement of our communities. It’s important that we prevail in education, healthcare, empowerment and entrepreneurship that will enhance the livelihood of women, their families and community of African descent.”
For more than 60 years the NCNW, founded as “a national organization of national organizations” has led coalesced power and led on national issues affecting the Black community. The same organizing impetus started the Broward Section which was conceptualized by Ms. Richardson in 2015. Her efforts immediately attracted more than 88 women, passionate about “becoming Marys.” By March 2016 the section had met the requirements to be chartered.
Today the membership of 11w includes nine prominent men, among them city commissioners, ministers and others who eagerly responded to the invitation to carry forward Bethune’s legacy.
The installation was performed by Judge Ilona Holmes and was attended by more than 100 section members, supporters and prospective members. Along with President Mrs. Richardson, the Section’s first vice president is the Rev. Deborah Allen. The Charter was presented by National Membership Chair Mrs. Lois Keith and National Membership Director David Glenn.
Throughout the event speakers referred to Dr. Bethune as a light and a candle, and encouraged members to let their light shine wherever they are.
“Be a Mary,” Guest Speaker Judge Shirylon McWhorter encouraged. “Be sassy. Speak your piece like Mary would.”
She also said she found it easy to encourage better conduct with the simple words, “That’s not a Mary.” Pointing to the urgency of the moment and the turbulence of events around the country she said, “If there was ever a time we were needed, it’s now. As Americans we need to reach across the aisle and collaborate.”