By Sheryl Edwards
Photos by Bennie Edwards
Special to Frost Illustrated
FORT WAYNE—The Second Annual Women’s History Month Luncheon was hosted by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Eta Upsilon Zeta Chapter on March 8 at Link’s Wonderland.
Women’s History Month honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women. Against social convention and often legal restraints, women have created a legacy that expands the frontiers of possibility for generation to come. They have demonstrated their character, courage and commitment as mothers, educators, institution builders, business, labor, political and community leaders, relief workers, women religious, and CEOs. Their lives and their work inspire girls and women to achieve their full potential and encourage boys and men to respect the diversity and depth of women’s experience.
It gives Eta Upsilon Zeta Chapter great pride to recognize and honor some of the phenomenal women in our very own community who have made a difference in the lives of their families and the community. This year‘s program featured Co-Pastor Glenda Griffin of Changing Lives Outreach Ministries. Entertainment was provided by the confident, articulate and talented members of the Queen’s Literature & Art Club Inc. (Janae McGill and Lauryn E. Jones). Below is a brief summary of the six honorees selected and honored at this year’s Women’s History Month Celebration:
Edna M. Smith is the executive editor of FROST Illustrated, a formidable source of news in the community for over 45 years. She and her husband Edward Smith Sr. started the newspaper in 1968. Edna has received numerous awards over the years, which includes the Governor’s Sagamore of the Wabash award. She was also very active in the community and was a former member of the Fort Wayne Urban League, Urban League Guild and NAACP.
Edna and Ed have been married for 66 years and have four children, Edward Jr. (retire firefighter), Charles (attorney), Alice Seymour and Colonel Linda Lee Smith (retired), six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Chief Condra Ridley is a contemporary griot who has been sharing African and African American folktales, culture and history since 1986. She has promoted literacy, lifelong learning and reading aloud to children through her work at Allen County Public Library for 27 years. She served as manager of the Pontiac Branch Library for 13 years and as Youth Services Specialist for 12 years. Her passion for books lead her to produce for Access Fort Wayne a television program called “The Roving Reader.”
Condra is a community leader who said she believes it is important to contribute to the improvement of where you live. Over the years, she has been involved in many organizations (NAACP, Fort Wayne Black Expo, Harambee Festival Committee, Kwanzaa Committee, etc.). She said she is most grateful for the time she volunteered with the African/African American Historical Society & Museum from 1998-2013. In August 2008, Oba (King) Adetunji Ayodele David Ajayi of Ise-Ekiti Kingdom in Nigeria bestowed the title of chief upon her. Her awards for community service include the FW Urban League Youth Service Award, the Stop the Madness Community Volunteer Award and the NAAC Marjorie Wickliffe Award. In June 2012, Cornerstone Christian Bible College of Fort Wayne presented her an honorary doctorate of humanities.
Condra has been married to Richard Ridley III for 26 years and they have five lovely daughters. Her motto for life is: “Do your best and let God do the rest.”
Regenia Frison-Jones said she believes life is about service and is committed and passionate when advocating causes aimed toward improving the quality of life for the disenfranchised, most particularly children and individuals with disabilities. She has been employed in the social services sector for more than 20 years.
As a volunteer, Ms. Jones served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in the legal system; she served as a board member and past Guild president of the Fort Wayne Urban League for five years. She is the co-founder and CEO of Queen’s African-American Literature and Arts Club, which serves girls from the ages of 9-18. Mrs. Jones has also served on various boards in the community. In addition, she and her husband have acted as foster parents to 36 children over the last 12 years.
Ms. Jones holds a BS in business administration from Indiana Tech with a dual concentration in management and human resources. She has been married to Edward Lee Jones for 21 years and is the proud mother of two sons and a daughter.
Thelma Manning attended West Point High School in West Point, Miss. She retired from Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS)-Student Services/Racial Balance after working more than 32 years. While employed at FWCS, she was a stellar employee and worked with three generations of families. She currently serves as a deaconess at Union Baptist Church.
Thelma served the community through her employment at FWCS and went over and above to ensure that children and their parents received the services they needed.
She and her husband, Isaac Manning Sr., have been married for 60 years, and they have seven children, Chlo Davie, Isaac Manning Jr., Saddie, Pat Hester, Sidney Morgan, Kathy Scott and Wanda Manning Williams.
J. Synovia Brown attended Benham High School in Benham, Ky., and Indiana University—Division of General & Technical Studies. She was one of the two first blacks hired into General Telephone Company (now Verizon)and worked there for over 40 years. During her employment, she was awarded an Outstanding Service Award.
Synovia currently attends Union Baptist Church where she is a respected pillar of the church. She is known for caring herself in a Christian, confident and professional manner with a determined spirit that has enable success of numerous events within the church over the years. Her demeanor makes it very difficult for anyone to say no to her requests.
She has been active in the community and some of her trailblazing events include co-founder of Miss Black Fort Wayne Pageant, Fort Wayne NAACP Executive Board, Renaissance YMCA Board of Management, Old Fort YMCA Committee of Management and Indiana Democratic African-American Caucus (IDAAC) to name a few. Most recently, she served on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge Committee.
Synovia is married to Waymon Jr. and they have been married for 63 years. They had four children (Howeda Stepp, Waymon Brown III, Vincent (Deceased) and Lance.
She has left her mark on this community! Her leadership continues to make a difference as she serves as a Deaconess and Membership Care Ministry Leader at Union Baptist Church.
Elder Diandra Michelle Bruen, formerly ministered at the New Horizon Baptist Church, Fort Wayne, for more than nine years where she served as a teacher for both the Adult and Children’s Bible Study ministries. She also served as the Youth Choir director for Blessed Future and The Lil Rays of SonShine Choirs. Elder Bruen recently joined Come as You Are Community Church (CAYACC) under the leadership of Pastor Anthony Payton where she has been added to the Pastor’s Ministerial Staff.
She is known to the community of Fort Wayne as a gospel psalmist, community program promoter and organizer, and she is well known as Mistress of Ceremonies for many church programs. In November 1990, Governor Evan Bayh awarded Elder Bruen the Sagamore of the Wabash award for outstanding performance in State Government where she is now currently employed for over 25 years.
She currently serves as treasurer of the newly formed Women Ministerial Alliance of Fort Wayne under the leadership of Co-Pastor Glenda Griffin. Her passion for God is evident through her tireless efforts to serve others in our community. Her compassion for our youth is extraordinary as she currently serves as choir director/mentor for Community Ministries of Fort Wayne. Elder Bruen has been singing and evangelizing for our Lord for more than 20 years with ordination to the ministry of an elder to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ on July 17, 2011.
She has four adult children consisting of three daughters and one son. She has 15 grandchildren and one great granddaughter. Elder Diandra Bruen is truly on fire and in love with the Lord!
The program ended with recognition and honorable mention of the 2013 honorees and a 2014 Honoree Quiz. Attendees that correctly answered quiz questions about the honorees received a door prize.
For more information on National Women’s History Month and the twelve 2014 National Honorees visit www.nwhp.org.