Sunny Nash Edits Book of Historical Profiles on African American Women

Sunny Nash is the editor of BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way, historical profiles on 12 African American women who made a difference in the history of Long Beach, California.
By: KSUN Incorporated
March 2, 2009 - PRLog -- Sunny Nash Edits Book of Historical Profiles on African American Women

Sunny Nash is editor of the celebrated BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way, a book of historical profiles on 12 African American women who made a difference in the history of Long Beach, California. “This book is a testament to courageous women who lit new paths through perseverance and focus,” said Nash, who is also among the distinguished scholars from around the world who contributed to the eight-volume African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and produced by Harvard University and Oxford University Press.

“We all know women like Doris Topsy-Elvord, Wilma Powell, Vera Mulkey, Carrie Bryant, Alta Cooke, Bobbie Smith, Patricia Lofland, Evelyn Knight, Dale Clinton, Maycie Herrington, Autrilla Scott and Lillie Mae Wesley, even in our own families,” Nash said. “I created this model to show others how to commemorate women in their communities in a scholarly way, using journalistic guidelines in developing the interview questions to elicit similar data across the range of female subjects.” Nash then edited the data, compiled the BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way book manuscript, wrote the Introduction and produced a film to accompany the book.

Carolyn Smith Watts, who coordinated the project and wrote the Foreword, said, “I am blessed to have known most of these women and I have a wonderful relationship with many. These 12 women have contributed over six-hundred years of experience to Long Beach. In the past fifty years, they have mothered hundreds children, some of whom were their own and others were neighborhood children who needed love and support. Yes, of course, there are other women in our city with thousands of stories and each one invaluable.“

Dale Clinton, born in 1927, wrote a 38-page letter to President Lyndon Johnson about poverty in American. She said, “Do what you want to do and don’t let anybody sway you.” Wilma Powell, the first female Chief Wharfinger for a U.S. Port, said, “I believe the number of women in positions to help other women up the ladder is growing.” Bobbie Smith, born in 1932, was the first African American woman to be elected to public office in Long Beach. Smith said, “One of the things that is so exciting about today is there are no barriers. Young woman can go wherever their abilities take them.”

Doris Topsy-Elvord, born in 1931, the first African American female elected to the Long Beach City Council, said, “I believe my greatest contribution is showing people the advantages of doing the right thing.” Topsy-Elvord, also the city’s first  African American female Vice Mayor, was the first African American and the third woman to hold a position on the 100-year-old Harbor Commission for the Port of Long Beach, the second busiest U.S. harbor.
Maycie Herrington, born in 1918, who was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 for work at the Tuskegee Army Air Force Base during WWII, said, “One of my concerns today is that so many youth drop out of school. I cannot understand that. When I was in school it was such a privilege to go to school.” Evelyn Knight, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, said, “My advice to young people today is to be willing to challenge yourself and you must empower yourself through learning.”

BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way has been recognized by historical organizations and libraries nationally and honored with a Chroma Medallion, presented to the Historical Society of Long Beach by artist of international renown, CJ Latimore. Julie Bartolotto, Executive Director of the Historical Society of Long Beach and author of the Preface, said, “Many women profiled in the book were part of that movement of people from the nation’s Deep South and Northeast to the West Coast. Their efforts made life better for their families and their community–and for current and future generations of Long Beach residents of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

Autrilla Scott, born in 1930, came to Long Beach in 1955. Scott, who is a published author and has a street named in her honor for community service, said, “Things do not always happen overnight. You have to be patient, especially when you are not the controlling factor.” Carrie Bryant, born in 1940 and came to Long Beach in 1960, is the first black educator to own and operate a private school in Long Beach. Bryant said, “The children in my school do not refuse to do anything they have been trained to do. I have three-year-old readers and spellers and speakers and singers. They are not a bit reluctant to compete because they have grown up learning.”

Alta Cooke, born in Long Beach in 1936, the first African American high school principal In Long Beach (1987), said, “Get a good education. That is very important. Adversities happen. Go on. Do not think about the past except for the lessons the past can teach you. You have to meet the challenges and keep on stepping.” Lillie Mae Wesley, born in 1921, was a Parks and Recreation Supervisor and neighborhood parent. Wesley said, “To me, helping people is the most important thing a person can do in this life.”

“By living their lives beyond what seemed possible, these women demonstrated personal and professional survival and service to their fellow human beings, raising  the level of goodness in the world,” said Nash, award-winning author of the family memoir, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, recognized by the American Association of University Presses its understanding of race relations in the United States. “The contributions of these 12 women to their community are incalculable.”

A recurring theme in the conversations of this pioneering dozen was being prepared, meaning education, training and experience as the primary route they chose to become successful, advising the next generation of women to follow the same formula. However, all of the woman placed helping others, family and friends above any personal ambition they may have had for themselves.

Vera Mulkey, founding member of the African American Heritage Society of Long Beach, came to Long Beach in 1953 with her parents who were seeking jobs and a better education for their only daughter. Mulkey said, “My earnest desire is to make a difference in the lives of others.” Patricia Lofland, born in 1937, followed her parents to Long Beach in 1955. Lofland, who became the first African American member of the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees, said, “To young women, young mothers in particular, let your first career be raising your children…you only get one chance to mother your young children.”

“One of the most important lessons young people can learn from these 12 incredible women is to be dedicated to their dreams and be willing to make certain sacrifices to nurture their dreams,” Nash said. “Time is a sacrifice that must be made to become educated in the area of interest. Although nothing is guaranteed in this life, education is a necessary part of preparing for a successful future. Study, one solid method of giving a dream a fair chance to become a reality, grooms a person for the inevitable competition of those who may have the same dream.”

Sunny Nash is also an internationally acclaimed photographer, featured in Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 – Present, collected by the Smithsonian Institution; and recognized by Women In Photography International. Nash, who writes regularly for Ancestry and other historical publications, which she illustrates with her own photography as well as historic reproductions, is an award-winning producer.

© 2009 KSUN Incorporated

# # #

Sunny Nash, author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's, is an award-winning writer, photographer and producer. and a public speaker.
KSUN Media News
Most Viewed
Daily News

Like PRLog?
Click to Share