On Sunday, I reached another milestone — my 79th birthday. Looking back over my life, I can see how God has truly blessed me. As I write this, I am of sound mind and body (except for a little arthritis here and there), and I am really enjoying life. I am surrounded with family and friends who love me (and I love them back), and I have an active church life, where I enjoy worshiping with my church family.
So, while my life hasn’t been “no crystal stair,” it has been wonderful. I am blessed to have lived to see significant changes being made in America toward people who look like me, and toward women. When I think back on all that my eyes have seen, it is almost like looking at a new movie reel in the Ritz Theater in Overtown, where I lived as a child. Although television had been invented, none of our friends owned one when I was 8, so we saw the week’s news as a short in the movie theater. It was where I saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the New York celebration of the end of World War II.
That’s what looking back on my life is like — a newsreel. I see a young black girl, with her mother and younger brother aboard a Greyhound bus, leaving rural Williston, Florida. There is a stop-over for us, at my Aunt Thelma’s, where my brother and I would stay for a few months until Momma found a job and housing for us in Miami.
As the newsreel unfolds, there I am in the clean-swept yard of Miss Powell’s School, and later at Douglass Elementary School. There I am with my new Miami playmates, who would later become my Miami family — Nellie and Floyd and Nathaniel Dorsett. There were my surrogate mothers, who were like sisters to my mom — Doris Dorsett and “Aunt” Mae Esther Bodie and Miz Early Mae. All but Aunt Mae, who will be 93 this year, have passed.
In these 79 years, I watched the civil rights movement take root in this country, thanks to a quiet little woman named Rosa Parks and a daring young minister named Martin Luther King Jr.; became a wife and mom; lived through the death of a beloved president, be a witness to the laws that were changed to benefit me and others like me.
And I’ve seen the death of those who fought bravely for those laws to be changed.
These eyes have seen so much in the past 79 years, but one of the greatest moments in my life was to live to see the seating of America’s first African-American president, Barack Obama.
So, here I am, a whopping 79. It feels great. In a quiet moment on my special day, I paused to give thanks and praise to God for all His blessings and for keeping me “clothed and in my right mind.”
I have as good chuckle when I think about how my great-grandson Jaylen, who will be 10 on Feb. 22, seemed so excited about my birthday. From the very first day of February, he started the countdown. “Only four more days till your birthday,” he said one morning, after he’d slept over my house.
At precisely 12:30 a.m. on my birthday, Jaylen got out of bed, stood in front of my bed and said, “Well, Grandma, you made it ... It’s your birthday. You’re 79.”
I thanked him for reminding me and told him to go back to bed.
Alone in my room, I chuckled softly. This birthday of mine is a big deal for him. And for me, too.
Rabbi Solomon Schiff honored
A warm Neighbors in Religion salute to Rabbi Solomon Schiff, who on Feb. 9 received the Legion of Honor Award at the annual “Four Chaplains” commemoration.
According to tradition, the Four Chaplains gave up their life jackets to others on a ship that was about to sink after it had been shelled during World War II.
In being presented with the honor, Schiff joins the ranks of others such as Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and comedian/actor Bob Hope.
Community Bridge Builders
The Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations (COSMOS) will honor Community Bridge Builders at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at the seventh annual Community Appreciation Dinner.
The honorees are the Hon. Norman Hemming, administrative judge for the Social Security Administration and former deputy U.S. attorney; Rene Diaz, chairman of Community Relations, Miami-Dade County; and the Judicial Diversity and Fairness Committee, Miami-Dade County.
The event will be at the Hilton Miami Airport, 5151 Blue Lagoon Dr. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Pedro J. Greer Jr. and WPLG Channel 10 anchor-reporter Calvin Hughes will be the master of ceremonies.
Tickets cost $60. Call 305-283-2261 to purchase tickets and to RSVP.
Jewish Disability Awareness
In honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, the Temple Beth Sholom Inclusion Committee will present Sabrina Cohen as the guest speaker at Shabbat services at 6 p.m. Friday.
Cohen, founder and president of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation, was born and raised in Miami Beach. In 1992, she suffered a severe spinal cord injury from a car accident. She was only 14, and her life was changed in an instant.
In 2004, she discovered the world of stem cell research and shifted her endeavors to support the cause by becoming the director of public relations for Genetics Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a legal framework to advance stem cell research. She established the Sabrina Cohen Foundation in 2006 to educate the public about the cause and raise funds for research. In 2012, she returned to the University of Miami to become certified as a professional life coach. She currently practices in Miami Beach.
Also, at 7 p.m. Feb. 23, the synagogue will present a special screening of “My Hero Brother.”
Everyone is welcome to both events. Temple Beth Sholom is at 54144 Chase Ave. in Miami Beach. Call Mark Baranek at 305-538-7231, or email him at Mark@tbsmb.org for more information.
Sistah to Sistah Connection
The Sistah to Sistah Connection is gearing up for its “Kingdom Women Destined for Greatness” empowerment conference March 10-12 at the Victory Christian Center, 100 S. Dixie Hwy., Hallandale Beach, where Bishop David L. Poitier is the senior pastor.
The conference will begin at 6 p.m. March 10 with registration, followed by worship at 7 p.m.
On March 11, workshops will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The conference costs $25 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and conference materials.
At 4 p.m. March 12, evangelist Gigi Rolle-Holloway, visionary for the Sistah to Sistah Connection, will be the keynote speaker.
Other speakers for the conference are Carol Lawrence, director, Rehabilitation Services at North Shore Medical Center; Dr. Katie Jones, On Point Communications; and Apostle Sonja Carter, senior pastor Centurion Apostolic International Ministries.
Please RSVP by Feb. 25 at www.sistahtosistahconnection.com or call 786-246-7578.
Jazz singer to perform Feb. 26
St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 14260 Old Cutler Rd., Palmetto Bay, will present award-winning jazz singer Wendy Pedersen in its next “Jazz, Etc.” concert at 4 p.m. Feb. 26.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $5 for students and free for children 6 and under. To purchase tickets, go to www.cicicchorale.info, or you may purchase tickets at the door.
Black History and Fashion Experience
The community is invited to the 16th annual Black History and Fashion Experience at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Salem Baptist Church, 2945 NW 62nd St., where the Rev. John Graves is the pastor.
The program will include a fashion show and a talent showcase with original poems and monologues. Bobbie Barnswell will serve as the mistress of ceremonies.
Call June Miller at 786-712-7209 for more information.
Charmettes’ annual cancer walkathon
The Miami-Dade Chapter of the Charmettes will host its annual Walkathon Against Cancer at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Community Complex, 3000 NW 199th St., Miami Gardens.
Registration costs $15. The fundraiser is a part of the Charmettes’ national and local initiative of cancer awareness. For more information, call Patsy Green at 305-781-9735.
Community Fireside Gathering
The monthly Community Fireside Gathering, presented by the Baha’i’s of Miami Dade, will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Miami Baha’i Center, 9300 S. Dixie Hwy., Suite 209. The topic will be “A Baha’i View of the Environment” hosted by Thomas Carsey, a former environmental scientist.
The community is invited. Light refreshments will be served after the discussion. Call 305-915-7247 or visit MiamiBahai.org for more information. It’s free.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.