Delta Sigma Theta Centennial Celebration travel journal
Uncut Special Presentation
From time to time, Frost Illustrated exercises its commitment to present voices straight from the community. Oftentimes, those voices insist on getting across a totally uncensored message to preserve their cadence and context. In an effort to honor such voices, we offer the following Uncut Special Presentation unedited and written exactly as the presenter intended. (Note: Uncut Special Presentations still must adhere to rules regarding slander and libel.)
By Madeline Marcelia Garvin
WASHINGTON, D.C.—For me, arriving in D.C., Thursday, July 11, to write the story of the Delta Sigma Theta Centennial Celebration was a feat in itself because I made the journey alone. Then too, as many acquaintances know, I am physically challenged, and my legs do not always wish to cooperate. However, I refuse t let wearing orthopedic shoes be an encumbrance; I merely look at it as an albatross along with being black and female. Thus, I press on towards the mark because I have heart.
Getting to my friend’s residence was tedious because she lives off the beaten path, but, she talked her directionally challenged friend in to her locale like some of my United Methodists church friends tend to do when I can’t see the route due to pouring rain. Nevertheless, I arrived safely, and Friday I went over to Howard’s campus and interacted with many Delta sisters, young and old; did a little shopping at the bookstore, met a few Howard employees, and took a few photos. Then I drove to B-Smith’s Restaurant, located in Union Station. Now, that was something I definitely should not have done, for I had no idea how long it would take me to drive down 7th Street from Howard’s campus at 4:30 p.m. The rush hour traffic jams are unbelievable; thus, that Friday, I was more than fashionably late. Once inside Union Station, locating B-Smith’s from the parking garage was no small chore; but, a Delta sister saw me on my cane and escorted me all the way to the restaurant. I never would have found the establishment if she had not assisted me, and I would have turned around and gone home. I am glad this sister appeared from out of the blue; she was my Angel! And, I am extremely glad that she came to my rescue because the food was delicious to the palate, especially the seafood gumbo. I just might have some expressed to me, because I enjoyed it so much.
Leaving B-Smith’s at approximately 8 p.m., I toured a little of D.C. at night. Though I had been traveling there on my own since 1975, I had never taken photos at night. The Rotunda and other historic monuments are simply gorgeous at night. A park employee had told me about taking a trolley tour at night, but, boarding and disembarking a bus for me is horrific.
Anyway, the appetizer at B-Smith’s was so filling, I did not need an entrée; but, you know the old saying: “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” I should have only ordered some vegetable sides; but, my friend was happy because I took my entrée and two sides to her. After sharing my day’s experiences and my repast with her, I went to sleep because the next morning I was traipsing to the Convention Center. True, I had been there several times before this occasion; once in 2008 at the NEA Convention, when President Obama was running for office against seven other Democrats, so, I had to write about that. However, then my gait was not as impaired. Since I was a non-voting delegate in D.C. when Delta Sigma Theta Founder walked down Pennsylvania Avenue with me and others in 1981, I knew I only wanted a few camera shots of this momentous occasion along with a few people’s reactions from first timers; such as Britani Wilson, an employee at IU-Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business, who has thoroughly enjoyed herself.
As one of those financial Golden Life Delta Dears who can no longer stand in long lines, I just keep moving the best I can. I no longer oooh and ahhhh over celebrities; though it is nice to have honoraries among your ranks, especially recent inductees: Angela Bassett, Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, Lisa Jackson, Paula Madison, Susan Taylor (who exclaimed she has always wanted to be a Delta), and Dr. Terrai Trent, (who attended the same church in Moses Lake, WA, with Fort Wayne Alumnae Charter Member, past President Carol Patterson). My pledge sisters were all 15-33 years older than I when I affiliated 40 years ago, so they were not in attendance, and I did this on my own, like I do everything else, and I do not deal with insolent, crass persons. I merely turn my head and ease on down the road. Aside from this, I attend very few Galas, especially large capacity ones with over 40,000. Then too, I heard National President Cynthia Marie Antoinette Butler-McIntyre speak in Gary, Ind.; I have been in attendance at other affairs and heard Michele Norris, one of the recipients of the information and communication award; I have heard Sweet Honey & the Rock at IU-Bloomington’s Summer Music Festivals. Also, I was already familiar with the musicianship of 14-year-old violinist Ade Williams and Traces of Blue, Howard University & NBC’s Sing off Competitors, and I have also been fortunate enough to hear Roberta Flack, India Arie and Patti LaBelle when I was young, so I did not venture to D.C. to hear people sing or win awards. I came for the moment; I came for the history, and I came to write about reactions.
Speaking of a reaction; a funny thing happened while I was sitting in a chair resting in the Convention Center. The Rev. Peggy Garvin Turner, another Charter Member and past president of the Fort Wayne Alumnae Chapter appeared. How uncanny is it for her to see me out of a throng of women? But then, I am relatively rotund. The Rev. Turner stated she too was enjoying herself, and her daughter was with her friends. Seeing the Rev. Turner was a shock; but, that is how the Spirit works. The Rev. Turner was on her way to the Prayer Room, and I had just exited the Press Room. Can you imagine that? She loves to pray, and I love to write.
Anyway, Galas are nice; don’t get me wrong! But, I became a Delta when past National President Lillian P. Benbow was on the activist trail, and I never got off of it. I became a Delta when past National President Jeanne L. Noble helped orchestrate the Commission on Arts and Letters and the author of my signed Beautiful Also Are the Souls of My Black Sisters, which I used as a text at IU-Bloomington when I taught the Black Woman in America. So, at this juncture in life, I tend to position myself far from the “maddening crowd”, because I am checking of items on my “bucket list”.
Writing for Frost, since I graduated from undergraduate school as a liberated voice, has allowed me to interact with a myriad of personages—some positively and some not so positively; but, I don’t fret because I have been shaped to its purpose. You may not always want me there, but, firemen and others graciously open doors for me when they see my press pass. I have never been a dancer because I honestly have two left feet. So, I joined the graduate chapter of Delta Sigma Theta immediately upon graduating from college. Ask anyone; I have always marched to the beat of a different drummer as an advocate for the disenfranchised. Yes, I am sometimes bothered because I have to look for elevators to get to ground floors, but, look what Mary McLeod Bethune did, and since I was NABSE’s Mary McLeod Bethune Award recipient, Sunday my friend made certain I was photographed by the National Council of Negro Women’s sign in the D.C. Black Cultural District. That was one of that was one of the remaining three things I had wanted to see in D.C. along with the African-American Civil War Memorial and the MLK Memorial. So, I accomplished my mission. I no longer need to attend large plenary sessions or programs by the reflecting pond; I have been there. I also marched for “Jobs, Peace and Freedom” with the 20th Anniversary King Memorial March and covered that for Frost, where I was the only African-American on the bus, aside from the bus drivers. Now, I can no longer get on the bus; but I am still an advocate for “jobs, peace and freedom.” Teaching and writing have been my passions; now, I teach thru my writing, and now, I press on towards the mark the best I can!
This article originally appeared in the July 24 print edition.