First Ladies in African American History

The Inaugural First Ladies in African American History awards ceremony was held Sun., March 23 at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. It was an event to pay tribute to women of color who have blazed new trails and lighted the pathway for others to follow by their perseverance, sacrifice, dedication and hard work.

“These women have crossed not one, but two hurdles to triumphantly win a race first,” said Terri Lipsey Scott, chair of the Woodson museum. “The first hurdle is prominently being a woman and their second hurdle is being an African American.”

The honorees were presented the Sunshine Ambassador award by Councilman Wengay Newton, while Councilman Bill Dudley issued a proclamation that Sun., March 23 was the First Ladies in African American History day. U.S. Representative Kathy Castor sent a letter of recognition, and each recipient received an award and a medallion.

Leniece Emanuel, CEO of the YWCA, spoke about how sometimes “our talents and capabilities [of black women] are overlooked.” She quoted the dismal statistics that less than two percent of board positions and only 20 percent of leadership roles are occupied by black females. “We do not live in a post racial world,” Emanuel said.

The 2014 First Ladies in African American History:


Attorney Lisa Brody — First African-American female managing attorney for a legal services program in Pinellas County. “Favorite quote that has inspired me is ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead’—Nelson Mandela. As an advocate for the legal rights of those most vulnerable in our community for over 18 years, I have found great peace and joy in serving the legal needs of those most in need to access to justice.”

Trenia Cox — First African-American female to serve as manager of Community Planning at the Juvenile Welfare Board. “Ernest Ponder was my mentor at Gibbs High School; he taught social science. He was the one that encouraged me to be excellent in all my endeavors. It was he who offered my name along with the now Dr. Wayne G. Thompson to be the first African-American students to integrate the State of Florida Student Council Association in 1967. He developed my leadership and communication skills. The other teacher who influenced me was Amanda Howard. She was a social science teacher at the then 16th Street Junior High. She also encouraged me to move away and grow. Hence, when offered a scholarship to attend Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo, Mich. years later, I took the full scholarship. I modeled my poise and delivery based on her and a few others like Ms. Barnes, Ms. Welch, and Ms. Styles.”

Mozelle Davis — First African-American female supervisor of Special Programs in Pinellas County Schools. “My motivation for a happy and successful lifetime experience in the world of work came from my parents. They were hands on workers all of their lives and as I grew up in a home with them the expectation was that I too would someday be a productive member of my community with a job where I would contribute positively to my wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. I was taught to decide what my natural skills were and then prepare myself to perform.”

Rosalyn Graham — First African-American president of the Tampa Bay YWCA.“One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and what you are willing to tolerate in taking yourself where you want go. I have a reputation for finding the right things that work for me. Much of my demeanor, personality and idiosyncrasies come from the strong women in my family. My mother and aunts who exhibited such strengths in character and integrity assisted in my development. By emulating those qualities found in them I was able to create an extensive community of family and friends by which I value above all else.”

Dr. Deborah Green — First African-American female to pastor a Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. “I come for a long line of pastors and preachers. My great-grandfather taught in the Lakeland Bible Seminary. Many had the opportunity to sit under his tutelage such as Pastor L. S. McCree (Mt. Zion Progressive M.B. Church), Rev. Dr. Joseph Gordon-Pleasant (Grove M.B. Church), Rev. Dr. Henry J. Lyons (Bethel Metropolitan M.B. Church) and many others. Know your own worth and don’t allow people in this world to place a cheap value tag on you or what you do. Have integrity and be proud of who you are.

Dr. Mendee Ligon — First African-American female to own a dental practice in St. Petersburg. “As the first African-American female to both own and practice dentistry in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida, I would say I was initially motivated to become a healthcare professional because of the disparity and lack of access to healthcare that I witnessed growing up in Spartanburg, S.C. My father operated Bull Clinic Hospital, which was the only healthcare facility for African Americans during segregation. This clinic provided medical, dental, optometry and pharmacy services that inspired me to pursue a field in healthcare. My mother, an educator, motivated me more than any other family member because she had so much drive and high expectations. She told her girls many times the sky has no limits and neither do you. I believe that persistence, desire and determination are key factors to success. I also believe that all things are possible through Christ to those that believe.

Donna McCrae — First African-American woman to serve as Board Chair of the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. “First and foremost, the skill sets needed to succeed is to complete high school and if you desire postsecondary training. But a very important skill is to be willing to listen and observe. I cannot emphasize those skills enough. Listen to those you admire and observe their behavior. Hopefully they are of good character. Another is to never give up on your goals; persevere, endure and hang in there.”

Judge Patrice Moore — First African-American female Circuit Court judge from St. Petersburg. “Next to God’s grace and His mercy I would say my family as a whole have always inspired me to be the best that I can be. They have prayed, sacrificed and made me believe that with God’s help there is nothing that I cannot do. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have a grandmother who has gone without so that her children, grandchildren and her great-grandchildren could succeed. To my father, my pastor and my friend who has always been a great provider. The people in my family that sacrificed the most have been my husband and kids each and every day they love me, encourage me and remind me to keep believing and trust that God will supply our needs.”

Manitia Moultrie — First African-American female Environmental Scientist/Engineer in the State of Florida. “I entered first grade during the year of integration. My parents sat me down and explained that I would be the ‘first’ at P. K. Young Elementary School in Pensacola and explained why I belonged there. They started telling me that I could be anything I wanted to be when I entered kindergarten at the age of three. I drew on that message then and through my educational and career journey and long series of ‘firsts.’ During challenging times, my Dad would say, ‘did you do your best’ or ‘good isn’t good enough.’ My mother was supportive and no-nonsense. She positioned me in all kinds of youth programs including Sunday school. Whining, complaining and fretting were not allowed. She pushed me and always asked, ‘what’s next?’ I am very thankful and blessed to have had parents that saw my potential and taught me to understand my worth.”

Crystal Pruitt — First African-American female President and Treasurer of the Florida Government Communicators Association. “Vivian Rouson was a great mentor and had a big influence on my life when I was a summer student at Poynter Institute. While working with her, I developed a passion for newspaper writing. I was also awarded a St. Petersburg Times Journalism scholarship after graduating from High School.”

Chief Cornita Riley — First African-American female Chief of Orange Corrections Department. “My favorite quote and biblical principle that I live by is Proverbs 19:21: ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ I love this verse because if we really fix our heart on what it’s saying, we realize that the only thing that matters is what God has said about you and/or the situation. We can’t be moved by what people say or think about us. I firmly believe, if God said it that settles it!”

Barbara Shorter — First African American female High School Principal in St. Petersburg. “There were many obstacles and challenges placed before me, but I persevered because I had prepared myself by studying hard, believing in my abilities, worked hard, treated everyone with dignity and respect, never made any excuses for any short coming and had an unshakable faith.”

Dr. Kanika Tomalin — First African-American female Deputy Mayor in the City of St. Petersburg. “I attribute my success, not in part, but in absolute entirety, to many family members and a close circle of a few friends who love as if they are family. Success is a subjective assessment, often used to describe an aggregation of accomplishments that illustrate the highest aspirations of society at a given time. Many of these aspirations: income, education and profession vacillate and evolve with time, but the most defining elements of success — those I most highly value, remain constant. The metrics by which I measure success include both having, and serving, as a source for others’ happiness; gratitude; deep and abiding love, integrity, respect, fulfilled opportunities and the certain confidence that comes with knowing the unified force that created our world.”

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