Celebrate 50 Years With Me

Celebrate 50 Years With Me


I usually do not have big birthday celebrations; in fact one of the only big parties I recall having was when my parents successfully surprised me on my 10th birthday. I’ll never forget that day. I remember spending it with my dad shopping for a special birthday gift, a watch. And being disappointed when he refused to buy any of the ones I liked. “I’m sure there’s something even better at the next store…” he said as we drove from Kmart to Fedco to Zody’s. I had no idea at the time that it was just an elaborate ruse to get me out of the house so all of my friends could arrive without my knowledge. The Girl Scout watch I desperately wanted was there all along waiting for me with the rest of my gifts. I was reminded of that special birthday celebration this year, when I reached another milestone and celebrated half a century on earth. See pictures from the birthday party.

Instead of the infamous watch or other gifts, for my 50th birthday I asked for contributions to the Black Voice Foundation for several programs that are dear to me. With a focus on media, education, and the documentation and preservation of African-American culture, my birthday goal is to engage 50 donors to support some of the exciting work we are doing to preserve the past, inform the present, and prepare for the future:

Preserving The Past

We have been entrusted with The Gore Collection, a collection of rare slave-era artifacts, collected by historic preservationist Jerry Gore, a life-long resident of Maysville, a small agricultural town located in Northeastern Kentucky. Before his unexpected death last year, he was known for his knowledge of the community’s history, especially that of the Underground Railroad, or as Brother Jerry would often say the “UPground Railroad.” As a community historian, he led tours throughout the region, sharing the history of enslavement etched in the landscape. As a griot, he magically weaved the tales of freedom in the stories of John Price, Addison White, the Rev. Elisha W. Green, and others, teaching us the true meaning of Kujichagulia, the fierce “self-determination” these individuals had to exhibit to take their own freedom and leave bondage behind. The collection, which will be exhibited in February for the first time in conjunction with UC Riverside Special Collections & University Archives, features bills of sale for enslaved Africans, wills, slave tax receipts, shackles, branding irons, rare newspapers and books from the antebellum period.

Informing The Present

The Footsteps to Freedom Underground Railroad Study Tour teaches empathy and serves as a leadership training experience for educators. Each year we partner with local school districts to re-trace a probable route of the Underground Railroad. The tour has grown from one to three trips per year – from less than 50 people a summer to over 150. We are currently developing an academic program with Claremont Lincoln University, offering a certificate in Underground Railroad Studies. The tour is part of the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom and has over 1,000 alumni.

Preparing For The Future

Returning to our media roots, the foundation has partnered with The Black Voice News, global mapping giant Esri, and select non-profit and educational institutions to launch Mapping Black California, a collaborative community mapping project bringing together technology, data, geography and place-based study. Our team will utilize Esri’s ArcGIS platform to not only tell the story of Black California, but to also better understand the data and history of the communities we serve. Through this community-mapping project we will also address the growing national concern over the lack of diversity in the technology industry. Our project, in its very design, will create a pipeline of African-American experts ready to explore careers in the field of geospatial analytic technology. 


For my 50th birthday last week I set a personal goal of getting 50 new donors to support these programs. I’d like to thank the following people and institutions for their generosity. I’m close to reaching my goal of 50 new donors; will you please consider joining my list of supporters?

  • Esri 
  • Southern California Gas Company 
  • California State University, San Bernardino 
  • Dwight Tate & Kathy Wright 
  • Dr. Kim Wilcox & Diane Del Buono 
  • Marlan McClanahan & Eulalia Sanchez 
  • Benoit & Kathy Malphettes 
  • Cheryl Duffy 
  • Charles & Elaine Bibbs 
  • Don Ecker 
  • Linda Sherman-Nurick 
  • Liz Ostoich 
  • Ryan Wicks 
  • LeeAnn Faucett 
  • Nefertiti Long 
  • Dr. Deborah Deas 
  • Laura Klure 
  • Georgia Elliott 
  • Scott & Michelle Claus 
  • Jalani Bakari 
  • Eden Casareno 
  • Zelma Willett 
  • Tonya Burke 
  • Rev. Tony Dupre 
  • Tamara & Reggie Brown 
  • Carolyn & Floyd Brown 
  • Dia Poole 
  • Bruce & Charlotte Hall 
  • Dr. Denise Fleming 
  • Briana Boykin 
  • Wilmer Amina Carter 
  • Dr. Roger and Connie Ransom
  • Dan Bernstein
  • Jeff Rhyne & Kim Orlijan
  • Assemblymember Jose Medina


About The Author

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