S. E. Williams
When the Inland Empire Sector of the National Council of Negro Women celebrates its Golden Anniversary on May 5, it will provide an opportunity for members to reflect on their years of service and commitment to the region’s African American community.
In Part 1 of this 2-part report published last week, a charter member of the organization, Lois Carson, spoke about its beginnings in the inland region.
Carson highlighted the group’s commitment over the years to stay true to its service mission as defined by the organization’s national founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, who served her community and the nation as an extraordinary educator, civil rights leader, and government official.
The Inland Empire’s (IE) National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) Sector’s first service program was titled ‘Check Mate.’ The program, originally focused on girls 16 to 19 years-of-age and quickly expanded to include boys. As part of the program, the students volunteered their time at convalescent hospitals, libraries and the offices of Black businesses in the community.
Former State Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown was among the early members of the IE’s NCNW. Brown had stewardship for the ‘Check Mate’ program.
“It’s hard to believe it was 50 years ago when I joined Lois and some of the other ladies in the early days,” Brown shared. “This organization taught me leadership and with those skills, we were able to do a lot of work in the community.”
Brown said working with girls and teaching them a skill was one of the goals when IE NCNW started the Check Mate program. “It taught them how to work and give back to society,” she said. Also, according to Brown, the program was so successful, NCNW’s national president came out, learned more about how it worked and said, “it needed funding.”
According to Brown, once the program was funded they were able to move some of the students from serving as volunteers at a convalescent hospital to a library internship program. “When the boys came along, they wanted to learn office work,” and according to Brown, IE NCNW created opportunities for them to do so.
The student program originally started in San Diego but was not sustained there. The IE NCNW kept their program going and achieved such success, it was adopted by other sections of NCNW. “It gave kids a peek into their future,” Brown shared adding, “Some went on to successful careers.”
Brown then stressed, “Whatever we needed to do to help in the community, were things the organization did.” Another example of the group’s early involvement in community outreach was related to members of the military leaving for Viet Nam. “Everyone went to Viet Nam through Norton Air Force Base,” Brown said. “We would give the soldiers goodie bags before they left.”
From an international perspective another outreach effort supported by the IE NCNW involved purchasing piglets for women pig farmers in Swaziland. The women then raised and bred the pigs to produce more piglets as a way to meet their country’s demand for pork while at the same time generating income to care for their families.
Both Carson and Brown agreed throughout the years, IE NCNW members remained very active and were always concerned with youth and making sure the next generation had an opportunity to be successful in whatever they wanted to do.
According to Brown, “We preached all the time about how important it is to give back to your community through volunteer work.” This is a priority that has remained important to the organization.
The former national president of NCNW, Civil Rights activist and past YWCA president Dorothy Height, visited the inland area on occasion and was very supportive of the IE NCNW. “She was really hands-on,” Brown confirmed. “When she came, she would sit down, hold court and teach us.” Height spoke often about the important contributions of NCNW’S founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
Carson helped put the impact Bethune’s legacy has on the organization she founded in perspective. “We have always been an advocacy group,” she stressed. “Bethune knew how to pursue good public policy, as did Height.” This included, “issues that impact our youth communities. We fight against anything that negatively impacts our community.”
Another key area of the organization’s focus includes voter education and registration. As an example, IE NCNW has planned Voter Empowerment workshops for inland area voters. They are scheduled for April 7, in Riverside and April 14, in San Bernardino. To learn more about these workshops, visit https://www.facebook.com/NCNWIESection/. “We have asked other organizations to join us,” Carson explained. “This is how we provide local leadership.”
Looking to the future, the IE NCNW has intensified its focus on young people going to and succeeding in school. This will help prepare them Carson explained, “So, they can have a good life.” The organization has also maintained its focus on women, particularly women raising families alone. “We encourage them to get better jobs and provide a better life for their children.”
Over the years, the organization has maintained its focus on public policy. “We talk to legislators to let them know what we need for our community.” The IE NCNW also boasts a roster with a good number of current and former elected officials. “We have two former Assemblywomen, two current mayors, one former mayor, one city clerk and five past and present school and/or college board members. “We all learned our leadership skills in the organization,” Carson boasted proudly.
The organization’s outreach is also broad though as Carson stressed, “We still focus our efforts on people in need.” These outreach efforts include the homeless, women suffering from domestic violence, and the list goes on. “We also want to introduce our community to the finer things in life, including the work of Black artists. The group also hosts a black-tie event every year, in addition coordinating trips to see plays like Hamilton.
Carson stressed the valuable role of younger members in IE NCNW and how important they are to keeping the organization alive. As one of IE NCNW’s charter members Carson proclaimed, “It gives us great joy to continue what we started.”
The IE NCNW will celebrate its 50th Anniversary on Saturday, May 5, 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.