Some people are just unforgettable. Dorothy Edwards is one of them.
On Wednesday, a few of Edwards’ close friends and family members gathered at her home in Brownsville to celebrate her 102nd birthday. It was a fine day, said Georgiana Johnson Bethel. “She’s a little hard of hearing now and walks with a cane, but she is very independent and still very agile.”
That she is still agile can be attributed to the fact that back in the day, Edwards was quite an athlete, having been a star tennis player at Florida A&M College, now Florida A&M University, in Tallahassee. Perhaps in another time her skills as a tennis player would have made her famous.
But Edwards was never one to lament over what might have been. Once out of college, she got a job as a physical education teacher at the old Dorsey High School in Liberty City, married Oscar Edwards and became the mother of their only child, Oscar Jr. She later served as a counselor and dean of girls at Dorsey, and also at Northwestern Senior High. She is now the grandmother of two, Paula and Troy.
Bethel, a retired Booker T. Washington High School teacher and one of Edwards’ long-time friends, was there to help her friend usher in another year.
“She has quite a history,” Bethel said. “She has mentored and mothered literally hundreds of young people during her years as an educator.”
Indeed she has. I attended Booker T. Washington High school as a teenager and I knew of Edwards. Her husband, Oscar, was the dean of boys at my school. Whenever I saw her, I watched her curiously. She was a tiny woman but seemed so much bigger. I think it was the way she carried herself. She just oozed great self-esteem.
Phillip McKinnon was one of those Edwards helped. Now a retired engineer, McKinon said while he is not biologically related to Edwards, he is “emotionally” related. “I met her in 1963, when I came from Dorsey Junior High, to Northwestern Senior High. She was in charge of the girls and guidance at the time. The attention I received from her and other teachers was pivotal in my getting a degree from the University of Miami,” said McKinnon, who grew up in Liberty Square Housing Project.
“She took a group of us under her wings and made sure that we were prepared to do our best in college,” McKinnon said. She pulled strings behind the scenes to help us. She is priceless. It is amazing that she has celebrated her 102nd birthday and still maintains her mental faculties. She is a joy to be around. I consider her a treasure.”
The Rev. Ralph Ross echoed McKinnon’s feelings. “Mrs. Edwards’ priority was education,” he said. “And that had a lot to do with the racial situation at that time. I believe that she, like many of our forefathers and mothers believed that education was the best way to receive freedom and human dignity we deserved.”
Ross, who now is Edwards’ pastor said, “She had a passion for encouraging young people to go to college.” He mentioned how the Rev. Leonard A. Duncanson Jr., an associate minister at the Historic Mount Zion Baptist Church in Overtown where Ross is the pastor, was an excellent student, but had no interest in college.
“Mrs. Edwards told him that he was going to college. And she got a scholarship for him. He graduated with honors, went into the army and retired as a major. He tells that story often. That’s just an example of the many youngsters Mrs. Edwards helped.
Ross himself is another example. “I was good at football and I wanted to go to Florida A&M. My coaches said they would ‘red shirt’ me, which meant that I would never get to play. I planned to go into the Army and hopefully I would gain weight.” He said his plans were changed the day Edwards called him into her office and told him about a scholarship to Knoxville College. “I accepted the scholarship, and later, received a scholarship to go to seminary, also with the help of Mrs. Edwards. Now, I am her pastor. It wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t called me into her office and offered that scholarship.”
Edwards is still as “sharp as a tack” and has a great memory, Ondrea Mack said. “At the party she shared great stories with us. She still calls me the “baby” of the group because I used to work with her and Mrs. Bethel to help get out the church’s Sunday programs. She really is one of a kind.”
REMEMBERING THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
Did you know that Florida played a prominent role the Underground Railroad, the way to freedom for thousands of slaves in the early 1800s?
According to the Key Biscayne Historical and Heritage Society, the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne is designated as one of the earliest Underground Railroad Stations in the nation by the National Park Service.
At 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, the society will present a program entitled, “The Florida Underground Railroad and Its Legacy: Linking the Past to the Future.”
The program will be held at the KB Community Center, 10 Village Green Way in Key Biscayne.
The event will feature presentations by nationally, regionally and locally recognized historians and scholars in remembrance of the 19th century Underground Railroad, its Freedom Seekers and the Abolitionist Movement.
“Through the individual presentations and panel discussion, we will tell about the early Freedom Seekers who arrived on Key Biscayne seeking passage across the Gulfstream to freedom in the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti and the Caribbean,” said Kristopher Smith, founder of the Florida Underground Railroad Project and co-chair of the event. “We will recognize others whose work continued the legacy and we will share stories that may resonate in today’s world.”
In addition to Smith, other program participants will include co-chair and author Joan Gill Blank; Art Levy, Special Service Ranger at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park; Jane Landers, professor at Vanderbilt University; Sheri Jackson, regional manager of the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, Interior Department in Atlanta; Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, founding and active member of the Virginia Key Trust and Florida International University professor; Rosalyn Howard, Florida author and anthropologist; civil rights activist and author the Rev. Bob Libby; and Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press.
Said Art Yerian, manager of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park: “I’m excited to attend this commemorative event to learn more about Florida’s fugitive slaves and Seminole blacks who fled from our beaches to freedom in the 1820s.”
If you go, the reception starts at 6 p.m. followed by the presentations at 7 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling 305-361-2770 or by visiting email@example.com.
SUNFLOWER SOCIETY PROGRAM
The Sunflower Society invites the community to a program honoring veterans and the installation of the 2016 Sunflower officers.
The event will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Limoncello Restaurant, 19088 NE 29th Ave. in Aventura.
The veteran honorees are U.S. Army Corporal Mark Causey; Navy First Class Petty Officer David Blake; Marine Sergeant Gustavo Cruz, and Dr. William Zubkoff of the U. S. Air Force. Artist Conni Gordon will receive the Lifetime Achievement award.
The cost is $35 per person or $300 for a table of 10. If you go, please make your reservations by Jan. 20 by calling 305-978-4054.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. YOUTH SYMPOSIUM
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Symposium will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17, at Miami Carol City Senior High School,, 3301 Miami Gardens Dr. in Miami Gardens.
The program is presented by Women Involved in Service to Humanity Foundation (W.I.S.H. Foundation) in partnership with the Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the United Teachers of Dade.
Its free and open to the public..
CELEBRATION OF WOMEN’S ATHLETICS
The second annual Celebration of Women’s Athletics will be 11 a.m. Jan. 24 at the Bank United Center.
The event was founded by University o f Miami Board of Trustees members Hilarie Bass, Barbara Havenick and Laurie Silvers will feature a brunch and the Hurricanes women’s basketball game against Florida State.
The celebration will honor the legacy of women’s athletics at University of Miami. The brunch will follow the game and female students athletes who have excelled on the playing fields as will as in the classroom and community, will be honored during the luncheon.
The event also kicks off the inauguration week of new University of Miami President Dr. Julio Frenk.
The cost is $50 per person. To RSVP or learn more about the event, call the Hurricane Club at 305-284-6480.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.