I’m feeling a little more upbeat than usual today, because this is the first day of my birth month, and I am so happy to be alive.
In the past few days, I have spent a lot of time thinking back over my life and how the Lord guided me through — and around — many pitfalls, and rescued me from many dangers, seen and unseen. I really do believe that I have many angels surrounding me each day.
Thinking back over my life, it hit me: I am the oldest working journalist that I know! And maybe the oldest one you know, too. It is still amazing to me at how this remarkable journey with the Miami Herald started.
I still remember that first Monday in January 1966, when I walked proudly into the old building in downtown Miami, dressed in a light green skirt (which I still have) and white dotted Swiss blouse. It was my first day of work at the paper, where I was hired as a file clerk in the library. My job was to read the newspaper stories, cut them out, fold and date each article, and determine how each should be filed for later reference. That was 52 years ago.
Four years and six months later, I had another first-day-on-the-job experience: I became The Herald’s first African-American woman reporter. Hard to believe.
My sons, Rick and Shawn, were 8 and 5 when I started. And in an era when the women’s movement was just dawning, I received a lot of help as a single mom. While many of my childless and single co-workers had to work the holidays, I was spared until my children were much older. I learned later that several of them opted to work holidays, so I could be off with my boys. On the days when there was no school, I was allowed to bring them to work with me. They literally grew up at One Herald Plaza.
Lots of things have changed since my early experiences at the paper. For example, the big building at One Herald Plaza no longer exists. The same goes for some of the neighborhoods and communities I once covered, neighborhoods such as Overtown’s Good Bread Alley and the black community of Ojus, many miles north of Overtown near what is now known as Aventura.
Even as I write this, my childhood home — the Liberty Square Housing Project (known in its last years as the Pork ‘n Beans Project) — is disappearing a bit more each day. It is being demolished to make way for a new neighborhood. Back in the day, when I was a child, Liberty Square had the only playground in town for Negro children. There were slides and swings, you name it.
A great Sunday outing for us would be taking the Route 21 bus to Liberty City after church and spending the day standing in line for a chance at one of the few swings. We didn’t mind. The wait would be worth it when we’d be pushed to the limit by a friend, our skinny legs pumping through the air. It felt like we were going to touch the clouds.
Even as my memories of things that were once bright and beautiful to me fade away for the sake of progress (?), I am reminded that life goes on and change is inevitable. We must learn to accept the changes of life. I must admit, though, acceptance of change is often very hard. Even so, it can be good for us.
I’ve told the story of how my mom brought my brother Adam and me to Miami from Williston, Florida, stopping briefly in Palatka, to seek a better life. Looking back at what life could have been for us, I am forever in debt to Momma for having the foresight, when she was only 24, to take the leap of faith that brought us to Miami. This was a good change.
Here, Momma was met with a community of loving people — women who became her sisters in the struggle, who became surrogate moms to us and life-long friends to our family. Many of them were from the Bahamas. I fell in love with their sing-song Bahamian accents, so much so that over the years some rubbed off on me and I’ve had strangers ask me if I were Bahamian. I always say, “Yes, by ingestion,” meaning I’ve eaten enough pigeon peas and rice, Bahamian stewed fish, and conch fritters and conch salad to be official.
As I reminisce over years past, I have come to these conclusions:
▪ I’ve been victimized by bullying and insults in my lifetime, but for all the ugliness I’ve endured, there has been tons of love to wash it away.
▪ For all the tears I’ve shed (and I’ve cried many), I’ve been blessed with so much more laughter and dear friends, that sometimes it’s hard to remember what I even cried about.
▪ And for all the physical pain I’ve suffered, my good days have well outweighed my bad days. Now, as I approach 80, I can say as the gospel song says, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.”
Barry Distinguished Alumni
Warm congratulations to the eight recipients of Barry University’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, which will be presented Feb. 8 at the Coral Gables Country Club. The 2018 honorees are:
▪ Donald DeLucca, Class of 1996; Doral police chief.
▪ Ira J. Gonzalez, Class of 2001, MBA, Class of 2005, attorney at Fowler White Burnett.
▪ The Rev. Dr. Carol Hoffman-Guzman, MA, Class of 1991, D. Min. Ph.D., former executive director of Miami Urban Ministries and Arts at St. Johns.
▪ Alexis Leal, Class of 1994, vice president of Munilla Construction Management.
▪ Michelle Major, Class of 1997, Ph.D., clinical director at The Caribbean Center for Child Development.
▪ Ann McNeill, MBA, Class of 1982, president of MCO Construction and Services.
▪ Ruth Shack, Class of 1970, former president of The Miami Foundation.
In addition, Silvia Lizama, Class of 1979, and chair of Barry University’s Department of Fine Arts, is being honored as a distinguished alumna.
For more information and to purchase tickets to the ceremony, contact email@example.com or call 1-877-899-ALUM.
You are invited to Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus at 7:30 p.m. Friday for its Gospel Explosion. The theme is, “African American in the Time of War.”
The program is free but donations will be accepted. The Wolfson Campus is at 300 NE Second Ave. and the presentation will be in Room 1261. Call Winifred Tudy Williams for more information at 305-237-3285, 786-923-7481 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dust off your old photo albums and see if you have any pictures or newspaper clippings of the Historic Hampton House in its heyday. If so, bring your stories, photos, news articles, postcards, memorabilia and any other artifacts that help tell the story of the Booker Terrace/Hampton House Motel and the surrounding Brownsville neighborhood to the Historic Hampton House History Harvest from 2 to 6 p.m. Feb. 10, at 4240 NW 27th Ave.
The event is free and open to the public. RSVP by contacting Dr. Enid Pinkney at email@example.com or call 305-638-5800. Walk-ins are also welcome.
Black History Month
Black Heritage Month activities at Christ the King Church, 16000 SW 112th Ave. begin Saturday with a Black Heritage Ministry Retreat to be facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Roy Lee. If you go, bring your Bible.
Lee earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Pius X Seminary in Erlanger, Kentucky, and his Masters of Divinity from St. Francis de Sales in Milwaukee. He also has master’s degrees from Xavier University in New Orleans, Divine Mercy University in Arlington, Virginia and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Colorado State University. He currently teaches Homiletics for the archdiocese of Atlanta. He travels the world to lecture and lead retreats, missions and revivals.
Other activities will include Mass at 8 a.m. and a Black Heritage Eucharistic Celebration at 10 a.m. on Sunday. On Monday, there will be a Healing Mass. Lee will be the celebrant for all activities.
At 3 p.m. Feb. 11, Christ the King will present its annual Black History Program. The community is invited to all activities.
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.