Fiftieth anniversary of Civil Rights Act is a milestone

06/29/2014 12:00 AM

06/25/2014 6:14 PM

On July 2, the Miami-Dade Commission for Women will co-host a celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The event will be from 1 to 8:30 p.m. at the Kovens Conference Center at Florida International University, at 3000 NE 151st St. in North Miami. The theme is “50 Years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Fulfilling the Promise.”

Looking back, it is hard to believe that 50 years have passed so quickly. I remember so well, that time, when life in America for me, and other African-Americans was nothing much to celebrate:The Fourth of July did not signify our independence.

Fifty years ago, jut two days before America’s independence. the lives of America’s was about to change; a promise was about to be fulfilled.

In 1964, I was a young, single mom, working as a maid, when President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Bill into law. I worked on Mondays for one family, and Tuesday through Friday, for another family.

There were no paid vacations for me, nor was there any sick leave, so I worked sick many days because I couldn’t afford to loose a day’s pay. And when the family I worked for the four days went on vacation, there was no money coming in from them for a month. It hurt to know they thought so little of me. It didn’t matter that I had loved and nurtured their children as my very own, nor did it seem to matter that I was a loyal and dedicated maid to them. The woman of the house used to tell me, “Maids are a-dime-a-dozen”.

But somehow, the Lord made a way, and I was always able to find temporary work as a maid.

Then one day after the passing of the Civil Rights Bill, it dawned on me that maybe now, I could get a better job, one with some benefits; a job where I would be treated with respect. (I dreamed big!)

Early in 1965, businesses started adding the phrase: “We are an Equal Opportunity Employer” to their newspapers ads. It wasn’t always true. Often when I called the listed numbers in the ads, I was told the job was taken “as of right now.”

Then, one day I saw the ad for a file clerk at The Miami Herald. There was no number to call; only a post office box number to write to. I figured the writer of the ad wanted to see if the person responding could actually write and/or spell.

Anyway, I wrote a letter of application, responding to the ad. I got the job and when I gave my two-week notice on my old job, I was told: “You know this isn’t going to last. ... As soon as Johnson is no longer president, things will go back to the way they have always been.”

My answer was: “That may be true. But I will be one who walked through the doors when they opened.”

And as I always say, you know the rest. In 1970, I became the Herald’s first black woman reporter.

Today that era seems like only a dream. Then I realize that I have lived through that time and can now celebrate 50 years of trying to fulfill the promise. What a remarkable journey this has been.

Happy Fourth, everybody!

Preserving local history

The threat of rising seas is causing some grave concerns from the Advocacy Committee of Dade Heritage Trust. The group wonders what would become of Cape Florida Lighthouse — after all, in Cape Hatteras, N.C., America’s tallest brick lighthouse was moved more than half a mile to protect it from the rising seas.

And what about the Miami Circle? Current predictions say the Circle will be under water before the end of the century. Should a Netherlands dike be built around it? What about other historic landmarks like Vizcaya, the Deering Estate at Cutler; the Freedom Tower, and the Art Deco District?

To address this critical issue, the Advocacy Committee will create a task force to specifically examine the impact of rising water and climate change on the historic and archaeological sites in Miami-Dade County.

If this interests you, save this date: The first meeting of the task force will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on July 28, at the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave. A working lunch will be provided. To make your reservations call 305-358-9572.

UM gets new architecture dean

Belated congratulations to Rodolphe el-Khoury, who recently was named the new Dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture.

Considered a “distinguished leader in contemporary architecture and urbanism, el-Khoury currently serves as Director of Urban Design at the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty and is a partner in the design firm Khoury Levit Fong. He will start his new position at the University of Miami on July 1.

El-Khoury was born in Beirut, Lebanon and found his passion early in life. During his career, he has taught at Harvard University, M.I.T., the University of Hong Kong, Princeton University, and Columbia University.

“I am thrilled to join the University of Miami School of Architecture,” el-Khoury said. “The UM School of Architecture has changed the world as the breeding ground for the New Urbanism. It has an amazing history and continues to have an important role in the field.”

UM President Donna E. Shalala calls Khoury “a visionary and top-notch academic. We expect him to take our School of Achitecture to new heights in the 21st century.”

As a partner in Khoury Levit Fong, Khoury’s award-winning projects include Beirut Martyr’s Square; Stratford Market Square, and the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art. The design firm recently won international competitions for a planning exhibition hall in Changzhi, China and for the revitalization of Copley Square in Boston.

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