By Madeline Marcelia Garvin
Special to Frost Illustrated
A rejuvenated, revitalized Women in NAACP Chapter is on the move in Fort Wayne. Feb. 23 at Link’s Wonderland, the Fort Wayne Chapter held a memorable, inspirational Black History Month Brunch from 10 a.m. to 12:30 pm.
Prior to Keynote Speaker Dr. Phebe Poydras, J.D., MLIS, associate dean for Library Affairs and assistant law professor at the newly established Indiana Technology Law School, the approximate 300 persons in attendance were warmly greeted by the Rev. Dr. Saharra Bledsoe, president of the Fort Wayne/Allen County NAACP Branch. Bledsoe exclaimed she was pleased to welcome everyone on behalf of the NAACP and the local WIN Chapter, which is working to make a difference for women and children in our community.
“Your being here,” said Bledsoe, “speaks volumes of you coming out in such treacherous weather to embrace our differences not just for ourselves, but for generations to come.” Bledsoe concluded by saying, “I thank you for endowing me to make a difference in addressing some of our major challenges: to resurrect ACTSO and embrace the differences of those members, along with being able to sit at the table of brotherhood to say, I am somebody and I speak like somebody; thus, I wish to increase our local NAACP membership to that of 1,000, and I need your help and support to do that.”
Sheila Campbell-Curry welcomed all who were in attendance before introducing Emmy-Award winning, multi-media journalist on air Channel 15 news correspondent, Miss Eryn Rogers. Rogers who received a Midwest Emmy for a documentary she filmed and produced as a part of her graduate capstone of a man striving to save youth in Chicago from gang life. Rogers serves the community in many capacities as a member of the National Association of Black journalists and the Fort Wayne Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
The programs’ actual commencement began with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” led by the NAACP ACT-SO Youth Council. Rogers emphasized the theme of this year’s program: “Empower and Inspire for Change,” a strategy of this year’s WIN to continue promoting the mission of the NAACP. As the program continued, attendees were introduced to Josette Ryder, an NAACP collaborator and executive director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters who encouraged attendees to pick up children just as they would pick up from the ground a crumpled $20, because “Children are candles waiting to be lit.” Ryder indicated that she has expanded her partners to include the United Way, and they are looking for volunteers to assist at the Prince Chapman Academy if for no more than an hour, which prompted the distribution of book bags for those who committed to this undertaking. Rogers continued to introduce the program participants. The Honorable Kevin Howell, Allen County Councilman for District I, succinctly invited people to bring him some high school aged black males to participate in the Black College Club because Obama can’t save them; white folks can’t save them, and state and local governments can’t save them; it is up to us, and it is our fault that so many young black males are incarcerated. Before bringing to the podium, Dr. Ruby Cain, Ed.D., to introduce the keynoter, Mistress of Ceremonies Rogers reiterated “we must equip ourselves to empower all.”
Cain indicated in her brief introduction of Dr. Poydras, J.D., those in attendance were in for a real treat if they had not met her, for Poydras is a woman of many talents and many identities. Poydras said Cain possesses one of the most innovative talents as the mother of two young ladies: Mia and Tiffany. Aside from this, Cain indicated that in addition to being an educator Pydras is a Christian, and wife of Ted Poydras; but, most of all she’s the keynote speaker.
And what an exuberant, dynamite speaker Dr. Poydras is. Poydras commenced by inviting those in attendance to take a moment to tell the person to the right of you how good they look. After that brief task was performed, Pydras exclaimed, “Did you notice as we spoke those kind words how the atmosphere changed? People started smiling. Now, you know what I’m speaking about today—WORDS, and there’s power in your words. Words are powerful!
In a brief autobiography, Poydras shared that she grew up in New Orleans lower 9th Ward. Though she wasn’t in New Orleans at the time, Poydras stated that she saw what was happening during Katrina, and she couldn’t find some of her family. Though her mother was deceased, her father was still living; and she was happy to discover he was safe. However, continued Poydras, “that what bothered those of us the most regarding Katrina was being identified as refugees in your own country. It was at that moment that my father and brother who both served in the United States military along with many others saw the disconnect between the people in this country for the poor and those who had.”
As Poydras continued her discourse, she further stated that she has a lot of respect for educators because of all they have to contend with today. Thus, Poydras shared some childhood memories of experiences in the classroom of Dr. Crump who always used a “big word everyday and made us expand our mind.” She and her siblings may have been born in the 9th Ward, but, they were not limited to the 9th Ward, w and though Dr. Crump is not with us, she left a legacy that is with us.
President Barack Obama, quoted Poydras, has said, “What you say can change the direction of your life.” Did you notice posited Poydras that during the campaign, the president’s motto was forward; forward means progress. Poydras then stated: “I’d like to make two points: 1.) Every word you say can have an impact; 2.) Every word said to you may have some impact.”
Poydras then reminded those in attendance that the words that you speak are not just what you say; but, what’s in your heart. In addition, one has to be careful always what you speak—words emphasized Poydras can tell what you think and can reflect your thoughtfulness; they also can tell what others feel and whether they are there to use you. Remember that positive words form action and every word spoken to you or about you have impact. “Some of us,” Poydras said, “remember when mom would say: Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Oh, but words do hurt, as Poydras stated, and we must stop accepting negative words; encourage youth, and they will surpass us and leave a legacy.
Drawing to a close, Poydras pointed out that Michelle Obama has said, “Always stay true to yourself… I know who I am.” Finally, said Poydras, we have to let youth and ourselves know who we are, for one word cannot only change you; but, it can also change your family and your neighborhood.
Mistress of Ceremonies Rogers then brought to the podium, State WIN Chair Barbara Holder, who was proud to bring greetings from the State NAACP President Barbara Boling, Esq. Holder reminded everyone that WIN is committed, and is the wings beneath National NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and President Barack Obama. She jubilantly exclaimed that WIN is fired up and always ready to go, and we are vigilant for being the vehicles of support for the men, women and children in our communities for the battle against bullying, discrimination and homelessness is not over.
Minister Joy Smith, who brought the Invocation closed the WIN Black History Month program with the benediction, and purported that I use to think: “Knowledge is power; however, I found out that that is not true, for applied knowledge is power.”