Mothers “They were Mothers to us all”
CORETTA SCOTT KING: When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was felled just before he was to lead a protest march, in Memphis in 1968, his wife Coretta Scott King, despite her grief, continued his work by leading that said march. She established the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in his name and turned his burial place into a national shrine. She took the torch that he had lit, brightened the flame and became the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement. She took their children: Dexter, Martin III, Yolanda and Bernice, and continued the fight, taking his legacy to the next level. Her commitment was unswerving and unyielding; her style was dignified and regal; her focus was uncompromising and total. According to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, “She was fundamentally a freedom fighter with Dr. King. Their home was bombed together. When he was stabbed, she absorbed the blow.” She was a visionary who pushed for peace all over the world.
The last send-off that she received at her funeral in 2006 signaled the quality of life she lived. She was afforded the honor of lying in state in the Georgia State Capitol – an honor denied her husband by the state governor back then – and flags were flown half-staffed. The President of the United States and his wife, along with three ex-presidents – Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were there to bid her farewell. Many who walked with Dr. King were also there, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, former ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Dr. Dorothy Height, and Rep. John Lewis A final tribute by Evelyn K. Dudley, entitled ‘The Journey’ read like this, I’LL GLADLY ACCEPT AND SIT ON THE PORCH OF THE KINGDOM TO RECAP MY TRAVELS AND REALIZE THAT THIS JOURNEY WAS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE DESTINATION … and she was a Mother to us all.
DR. DOROTHY HEIGHT was a giant among us; a mighty warrior, who walked in the footsteps of Mary McLeod Bethune and followed her as president of the National Council of Negro Women. The entire country owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Height, a woman whose life, as one of the most influential Civil Rights pioneers of the 20th century, continues to inspire a new generation of women and leaders throughout the world. A woman of grace and was very passionate about equal rights of others. She remained active in the struggle up into her 90s, a point in life where most people would retire.
A National Treasure, she was also a social activist who wore many hats–literally–and figuratively. She was so often identified by her flamboyant hats that a musical production was made chronicling her life called If This Hat Could Talk: the Untold Stories of Dr. Dorothy Height. She was a woman among men who walked with Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and a number of Civil Rights pioneers in the 20th Century, and was still walking “up to the finish line” with Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Marian Wright Edelman and today’s Civil Rights activists early in the 21st century.
Dr. Height was born in Richmond, Virginia on March 24, 1912; her family moved to Rankin, Pennsylvania where she attended high school. She was gifted with excellent oratorical skills and was awarded a scholarship to New York University, where she earned her master’s degree.
She met Bethune, the founder and president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in 1937 at a council meeting in Harlem, New York City (NYC). They immediately struck up a relationship–which would eventually last a lifetime, and beyond–and Height was eager to assist Bethune, as a volunteer, in advancing women’s rights. As a caseworker with NYC Welfare Department and an assistant director of the Harlem YWCA, Height was well positioned to lend her time and her talent to Bethune and NCNW. She fought for equal rights for African Americans in general and for women in particular, and was named president of NCNW in 1957, a position she held until 1997. She died in 2010… and she was a Mother to us all.
LILLIAN MOBLEY was described as a community treasure and that she was. To her, the community was her child and she was a mother to ‘us’ – a comforter to the afflicted, the protector of the innocent, a defender in times of peril, a teacher, a guide, and the epitome of Black Motherhood. She was always there, front and center, to protect and serve, defend in good times and to fight in times of trouble, she was there for the community – in the streets or the suites; in City Hall, Sacramento or Washington D.C. and with the powerful and the powerless. When the community called for help, Mother Mobley answered that call and she has left a legacy that will live on for generations to come including King University, Charles Drew University, WLCAC, Grandma Hands and many others.
Born Lillian Harkless in Macon, Georgia on March 29, 1930 to Charlie Harkless and Corene Basley Harkless. She graduated from Hudson High in 1948 and married James Otis Mobley that same year. Together they have four children: Phillip, Charles, Kenneth and Corene who preceded her in death.
Affectionately known as Mother Mobley, she was a community activist and the “Community Mother.” She was founder of the South Central Multi-Purpose Senior Citizen’s Center on Central Avenue in Los Angeles which services people in the community of all ages. She was realizing her dream of bringing a chapter of the Birthing Project USA to South Central with the Grandma’s Hands Los Angeles Birthing Project. It is a volunteer effort put forth to encourage better birth outcomes by providing practical support to women during and after pregnancy. Mother Mobley worked tirelessly to bring equality, justice, and resources to the South Los Angeles and Watts neighborhoods. Mother Mobley died on July 18, 2011 with family and friends by her side… and she was a Mother to us all.
MARY HENRY was a Mother to the motherless, a sister to those without a sibling, a friend to the needy and shared kindness throughout her life. “There is a certain sense of fulfillment that one gets by helping someone in need and even though I think of leaving Avalon-Carver everyday, I always change my mind after looking at the face of someone who has benefited from our services.” That was Mary B. Henry, as she forged ahead on a day-to-day basis helping others who were less fortunate and those who needed a helping hand just to get by one day at a time.
She was a civil rights activist who helped create the national Head Start program and fostered the rise of the Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center from the ashes of the 1965 Watts Revolt.
Henry’s lifelong work to provide quality education and social services to the poor was honored by presidents, governors and mayors over more than four decades and left an indelible mark on the community and her name on facilities treating the needy. She served on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty task force that led to the Head Start program that brings nutrition and early childhood education to inner-city children. She was best known for her work catering to local needs as director of the Avalon-Carver Community Center serving South-Central Los Angeles.
She was a tireless force in the development of the King/Drew complex and was said by fellow activists to have been morally crushed by the collapse of the hospital two years ago after a series of medical lapses and patient deaths.
“She believed every day of her life that we can make our dreams a reality for the coming generations, that we have to rise above division and evilness and do good for mankind,” said Southland civil rights activist Lillian Mobley, who described her friend as “the fabric of the community.”
Named the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year in 1967, Henry was also honored by the Los Angeles Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade, National Council of Negro Women and Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter… and she was a Mother to us all.
QUEEN MOTHER MOORE was born Audley E. Moore to Ella Johnson (Moore) and St. Cry Moore in New Iberia, Louisiana. Her mother died when she was six years old and her father passed away shortly after. By her fourth grade, she was an orphan and had to eke out a livelihood. At 12, she began her struggles by fighting the advances of southern white men. At 15, she became a hairdresser.
Moore’s grandmother was the daughter of an African woman who was reported to have been raped by her slavemaster; her grandfather reportedly was lynched before her eyes. This was the backdrop of her experiences and circumstances that fashioned and molded her entire life.
While in New Orleans, she heard a speech by Marcus Garvey about his back-to-Africa movement; this changed her life dramatically. She was so inspired that she moved to Harlem, New York, joined Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and also bought stock in UNIA’s Black Star Line. Encouraged by other influential Blacks – whom she regarded as her mentors – Moore became a powerful speaker and organizer, always aligning herself with causes that were fighting for the liberation of Black people.
She founded and was the president of Universal Association of Ethiopian Women and the African-American Cultural Foundation. She served in many other similar organizations, volunteered as a nurse during a flu epidemic in 1918, and assisted in opening a center for Black soldiers.
In 1957 and in 1959, she presented petitions for self-determination to the United Nations, charging the United States with genocide and demanding land and reparations to the descendants of former slaves. Her heroic efforts in Black people’s struggle for self-determination helped to lay the foundation for the future Civil Rights movements of the fifties and sixties, and the reparations movements of today.
She traveled extensively throughout the African Diaspora, Europe, Mexico and Africa. It was believed that the Ashanti Tribe in Ghana bestowed the honor of “Queen Mother” on her while she was attending the funeral of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, the Father of Pan Africanism and first president of Ghana.
While Moore was inspired by scholars and nationalists like Garvey, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, she too inspired many others such as David Dinkins, first Black mayor of New York City; Ron Daniels, political scientist; Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Deloise Naewoaang Blakely, Deputy Mayor of Harlem.
Queen Mother Moore died in 1997… and she was a Mother to us all.
ROSA PARKS When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, so that a white person could sit, the Montgomery Advertiser ran the following article the next day; it was headlined: NEGRO JAILED HERE FOR OVERLOOKING’ BUS SEGREGATION. A Montgomery Negro woman was arrested by city police last night for ignoring a bus driver who directed her to sit in the rear of the bus. The woman, Rosa Parks, 634 Cleveland Ave., was later released under $100 bond.
That act of defiance seemed routine and insignificant at the time but it was like “a falling leaf that started an avalanche.” It set into motion a pivotal movement in the civil rights history of the 20th century in America, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and started the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA).
Parks, a 42-year-old seamstress from Montgomery, unknowingly had started a revolution.
Exhausted from a long day of sewing at a local department store, she took an empty seat in the “colored” section that became a “stand” for Black people.. As the “white” section at the front of the bus filled, the white driver ordered Mrs. Parks to give up her seat. She refused and was arrested and jailed. Mrs. Parks’ act of courage and defiance inspired others to organize the Montgomery bus boycott, one of the most successful non-violent protests in American history. The stand-off ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled bus segregation illegal.
The true story of Rosa Parks is, in itself, a slice of history that swells in the heart of many African Americans. It was made into a movie and people said, “To see it played out on screen with such a high caliber of acting skill was due justice to an incredible story.”
The movie was only surpassed by the humility that Parks displayed in real life. Dexter King played his father like only a son could. And Parks was portrayed by the Angela Bassett, one of the finest actresses in Hollywood. She portrayed the humble Rosa Parks and made her into an extraordinary human being. Her role was hauntingly memorable as it – among other endeavors – placed Parks’ life into historical perspective.
“The Rosa Parks Story” and Rosa Parks were not only about the single act that resulting in a chain of events that changed history; but it was also a love story about Rosa and her husband, Raymond Parks… and she was a Mother to us all.