S. E. Williams
On Saturday, May 5, the Inland Empire Section of the National Council of Negro Women will celebrate its Golden Anniversary aptly themed, “Legacy.”
In advance of the coming event, The Voice/Black Voice News had the privilege of speaking with one of the organization’s charter members, Lois Carson. Carson was among a small group of women who gathered in the City of Rialto in 1967, to learn more about a national service organization founded by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, who served her community and the nation as an extraordinary educator, civil rights leader, and government official.
According to Carson, the women invited a NCNW member, Ann O’farrell, from the Pasadena Section to provide additional information regarding the organization and its requirements. “We were all already involved in the community, but the idea of being involved in something nationally,” Carson said, was exciting.
minimum of 50 members to secure their charter. “In my case, Carson explained, “I was involved with an organization called, Les Juene Amies (The Young Friends) that did charity work. We were very active and had about 20 members.” Her fellow members loved the idea of becoming part of Bethune’s organization. “So, we disbanded Les Juene Amies to become this chapter of NCNW.”
According to Carson, her group invited wives of active military members stationed at Norton Air Force Base to join them in the effort to bring NCNW to the inland region. The organization offered a dual benefit to the wives—it gave them an opportunity to be involved locally while their husbands were stationed at Norton and because NCNW is national, “When they went back home, they could stay involved.”
Over the past 50 years, NCNW’s work in the Inland Empire has been guided in large part by a ten-point legacy bequeathed by Bethune on her deathbed. Bethune’s first offering was, “I leave you love,” and she concluded with her final bequeath, “I leave you with a charge…” Carson explained how the organization took that charge as a commitment to continue their work to uplift the community.
Staying true to Bethune’s legacy, Carson shared how IE NCNW began their first youth program entitled ‘Check Mate.’ Through this effort young people, 16 to 19 years-of-age, volunteered their time at convalescent hospitals, libraries and the offices of Black businesses in the community.
“We had volunteer trainers,” Carson added and continued, “a nurse trained for the hospitals. Amina Carter (former State Assemblymember) trained the office volunteers and another woman, now deceased, trained those who volunteered at the libraries.”
“Since we were a women’s organization, we started with girls.” However, the organization soon added boys to the program. The boys wore white checkered shirts and the girls wore checked jumpers with white blouse. “Our first coordinator was (former California Assemblymember) Cheryl Brown.” It was under Brown’s stewardship that the youth group made its first trip to Washington D.C.
In addition to the ‘Check Mate’ program the organization ran a summer career program that provided summer jobs for young people between the ages of 16 and 21. It now runs the Bethune Youth Center in Rialto. Watch for Part 2 of the Lois Carson interview in next week’s edition of The Voice/Black Voice News.
The IE NCNW will celebrate its 50th Anniversary at the Sierra Lakes Golf Club in Fontana. The evening affair will start at 5:30 PM and feature Keynote Speaker Paulette Brown-Hinds, Ph.D., publisher of the Black Voice News and founder of Voice Media Ventures. Tickets can be purchased online at www.evenbrite.com.