Community Voices

Faith taught her how to move away from an abusive marriage

Miami-Dade School Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall speaks at a 2017 news conference. Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho stands behind her.
Miami-Dade School Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall speaks at a 2017 news conference. Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho stands behind her. Miami Herald File

Our hats are off to Miami-Dade County Public School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, who for the 19th time has hosted the “No More Broken Hearts” Domestic Violence Workshop. This year’s theme: “Respect,” which is very fitting given the climate we live in today with the #Metoo Movement and the allegations against R. Kelly.

Bea L. Hines.JPG
Bea L. Hines

While the women and girls — and boys and men, too — who suffer abuse in domestic and non-domestic relationships seem to be growing, there are still so many victims who don’t know there is a way out.

Several years ago, I was a speaker at the workshop, and told my story as a former victim of domestic violence. At first, it was hard to open up, to admit that the man I loved so much, could hurt me — not only physically — but also mentally. The two go together, you know. It is hard for a person to be physically abused and not suffer mentally.

I was one of the fortunate ones; I was able to get out early. But not without suffering a lot of damage. I was so broken; I felt unloved and stupid. I was told that I would never amount to anything, and for a while I almost believed it.

But I thank God for my faith and for a wonderful role model, my mom, who taught me how to pick up the pieces of my life and move on. After all, she had suffered in an abusive marriage, too, but had found the courage to leave our dad in rural Williston, Florida, for a better life.

It’s so funny how some memories never leave you. It was a normal morning when Mom left our dad. Like I usually did, I got up with my parents that morning, and sat on Dad’s lap while he ate breakfast and I drank a cup of milk-ladened coffee. My brother, who was 2 at the time (I was 5), was still asleep.

All week long, Mom had washed and ironed shirts and work clothes for Dad, scrubbed the house spotless and packed the old trunk with our clothes as she did her chores.

When it was time for Dad to leave for work on that fateful morning, Mom kissed him goodbye and watched from the door as the truck turned right on the dirt road. He never suspected a thing. Then like a superwoman, she called out for our neighbor, who we called Madear, to come over. They had skillfully planned our escape.

Madear helped dress my brother while Mom took care of me. Then Mom got dressed and in a few minutes a big lumber truck pulled up in front of the house. A man got out, threw our big trunk on the back of the truck, lifted me up in the cab , and then helped Mom up. Madear placed my brother in Mom’s arms. They said a tearful farewell and the truck roared away.

Looking back, the scene seemed like the stuff that would make a good movie. But this was real.

As I think about that day more than 75 years ago, I appreciate all the more the friendships that are formed between women. It was a woman who kept Mom’s secret of getting out of that abusive marriage, and who helped her get away.

So, when I heard about the annual “No More Broken Hearts” event, my mind went back to the day Mom made her getaway, and to the day I found the courage to tell my story. I remember meeting women who were afraid of leaving abusive situations. I remember the depressed look in their eyes. And I saw a young Bea Hines. I understood how some of the women could feel worthless. If you are told that you don’t matter enough times, eventually you will start to believe it.

Thanks to Bendross-Mindingall, the women who found the strength to attend the “no More Broken Hearts” event, know there is help. To the hurting, I say, let Bendross-Mindingall be your Madear.

The event was held at the Georgia Jones-Ayers Middle School, 1331 NW 46th St. and, friend that she is, Bendross-MIndingall saw to it that a complimentary breakfast and lunch was served to the participants.

Honoring community giants

Black History Month, which just wrapped up, is a time when African Americans honor other African Americans who have made strides in making their community, and the rest of America, a better place.

On Feb. 1, the Rev. Samuel Sullivan and the congregation at New Bethel AME Church, 11695 SW 220th St. in Goulds, honored two of their community’s “giants” during services celebrating Black History. The honorees are Odell Johns, businessman and lawyer, who was honored posthumously, and Maestro Willie Anthony Waters, world-renowned conductor and once conductor of the Greater Miami Opera.

Johns, who died in 1977, was a businessman and civil-rights activist known to be unafraid to stand up for what he believed in. He was the founder and CEO of a health center that he established to help mainly underprivileged blacks of South Dade. He was a graduate of Florida A&M University, marched in its famed “Marching 100,” and was among the first graduates of the university’s law school. He also fought for more black police officers in Dade County.

When Dade County schools were desegregated, and black students from Goulds were bused to South Dade High, Johns fought to get the school’s mascot name changed from the “Rebels” to the “Buccaneers.”

Johns was a widower. His children are sons Teddy and Rickey Johns and daughter Linda Johns Harris.

Waters, also a Goulds native, grew up in the same New Bethel AME Church that honored the men. It was the place where his musical skills were first noticed when he was only 7, and was playing for the church’s Youth Choir, the Male Chorus and the Sunday school.

He grew up to become a world-renowned maestro, and is one of a few black conductors who earned worldwide success. He has led orchestras and opera companies in Berlin, Australia, Cape Town, and also in New York, San Diego and Fort Worth as well as the Greater Miami Opera, which he served until 1995.

Today Waters, lives in a home at the Hartford Medical Center in Connecticut. His siblings, brother Lee, and sisters Dine Waters and Pauline Waters Wallace, live in Miami.

The awards program was sponsored by the church’s Sons of Allen organization. Gilbert Bowles is the president.

Amistad Sunday celebration

The Rev. Traci Blackman, executive minister of Justice and Witness of the United Church of Christ, will be the guest speaker 10 a.m. March 10 at The Church of the Open Door, Congregational, United Church of Christ, 6001 NW Eighth Ave., Miami, for the annual Amistad Sunday celebration.

For those who are not aware of the Amistad incident, it was in 1839 when a group of enslaved Africans broke free while being transported around the island of Cuba aboard the schooner Amistad. The Africans attempted to sail the vessel back to Africa, but were captured by the US Revenue Brig Washington off the coast of Long Island. The fleeing Africans were charged with mutiny and threatened with return to slavery.

The Connecticut Congregationalists heard about the plight of the Africans and formed the Amistad Committee, which organized a legal defense, eased the captives’ confinement during the lengthy court trial, and eventually funded their return to Africa after winning a favorable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

From the Amistad Committee grew a wider advocacy for the abolition of slavery in the United States. In 1846, Lewis Tappan, an Amistad Committee leader, founded the American Missionary Association, the first abolitionist organization in the United States with integrated leadership. The association established over 500 schools, churches, libraries and universities for the newly freed African Americans of the South.

In addition to honoring the memory of the Amistad incident, the day will also celebrate the founding of the American Missionary Association by honoring graduates of colleges and universities established by the association. The 2019 honorees are, Jacquelyn Coats, Fisk University; David Robinson, Esq., Howard University; Sandra Stubbs, Talladega College, and Willae Ivory, Hampton University.

Art exhibit

Mark Podwal will present his series “All This Has Come Upon Us” 2 p.m. Monday at the Green School Gallery at Florida International University, 11200 SW Eighth St.

The presentation is sponsored by the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, and is a body of work of a limited series of 42 individually framed and richly colorful archival pigment prints which illustrate historical tragedies and injustices suffered by the Jewish people since the days of Pharaoh.

Podwal is an award-winning artist, author and physician. His art has been featured on the New York Times op-ed page as well as other venues.

The event is free and open to the public.

Strove Tuesday

Trinity Cathedral, 464 NE 16th St., will have its annual Pancake Supper on Strove Tuesday (March 5) from 6 to 8 p.m. in Cathedral Hall. Strove Tuesday gets its name from the phrase “to strive”, which means “to confess”, according to information from the Cathedral. It is celebrated on the eve of Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

It’s free, but donations will be accepted.

Also, a service of Imposition of Ashes will be at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday in All Saints’ Chapel; at noon with the Bishop presiding and at 6:30 p.m. in the Cathedral with the choir in English, and at 5:30 p.m. in Spanish. All are welcome.