Women for a Change: A Grassroots Guide to Activism and Politics

By Thalia Zepatos; Elizabeth Kaufman | Go to book overview

been here ever since. I grew up here and finished high school with an average of 98.75. I got my first grade teaching license, but I didn't feel I was anything till I went to college in Pine Bluff. I taught school for about 44 years altogether.

And since that time, oh, I've participated in so many things. I have about 33 plaques on my wall. Mostly from community service and education, things like that. I was the only African American elected president of the Arkansas Education Classroom Teachers. The National Education Association sent me across six states, teaching workshops on human relations when integration first came. At the Seven Star Missionary Baptist Church, I'm chair of the department of education and of the program committee, and I am supervisor of the children's division.

Politically, I work with the Democratic Party, and have helped organize workshops for voter education since about 1972. I was a member of the board of the Voter Education Project down in Atlanta before I retired. I ran for Mayor at one time, and I lost by 108 votes.

The incumbent was white, and he wasn't doing a proficient job, but nobody else would run. The African American man we tried to get to run would not do it. And I said, "I will not be in this world and let people think I don't know any better." So I just ran, and to tell you the truth, we all know I won. But they have a way of fixing things down here. A lot of people voted for me, and the next morning, everyone said, 'How you doing, Mayor?' And I had to remind them, I'm not the Mayor."

I am Vice President of Arkansas Legal Services. I represent the clients, the poor people, on their board. There are about eleven lawyers on the Board, and four of us represent the indigent from 24 counties. I'm not intimidated by the lawyers -- when they get going with that jargon, I say, "Now wait a minute, you've got to break that down for me." I've been over there so long, they just turn to me and say, " Ms. Brown, is that down enough?"

I'm chair of the Education Committee for the local chapter of the NAACP, and I am chairman of the Legislative Committee for the PTA. And what else?

I started raising foster kids in the 60s. When I was teaching 7th-12th grade, I would have kids who needed help, and they would follow me home. Then a woman died and left five kids with their grandfather. The human services counselor asked me if I would take them, and I did. Then I started taking in more and more kids; all together I reared about 34 foster kids. Most of them are doing very nicely. They come back and visit and call this home, I have good relationships with them.

The biggest challenge in my life is to get these Delta people to understand that they should look up and live. I just hate to see people oppressed, and I hate to see people who don't have enough self esteem to come out from under. I'm just here trying to help those who need help. And lately, the days begin. to look a little brighter.

-169-

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