Wilma Powell–The REGULATOR

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Wilma Powell a.k.a. The REGULATOR (photo: Courtesy Port of Long Beach

Wilma Powell
a.k.a. The REGULATOR
(photo: Courtesy Port of Long Beach)

Wilma Powell changed the way women’s roles are viewed at ports across the nation and the world, earning her the title, The Regulator, at the Port of Long Beach.

The first woman in the nation to hold the position of Chief Wharfinger, Wilma Powell was the first and only woman, and the first African American to be promoted to the executive position, and one of the highest levels of management at the Port of Long Beach, Director of Trade and Maritime Services, to whom the Chief Wharfinger reports. As Director of Trade and Maritime Services, Powell traveled throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe to meet with national and international executives whose companies–including Target, Walmart, Lowes, Payless Shoes, Home Depot, Nike, K-Mart, JC Penny and Sears, to name a few–that ship merchandise through the Port of Long Beach.

Port of Long Beach

Port of Long Beach

After 25 years as one of the most important persons in the more than 100-year history of the Port of Long Beach, with appointments to its highest positions–Port Chief Wharfinger, a.k.a. Port Chief Regulator, and Director of Trade and Maritime Services, Wilma Powell was presented with a commemorative REGULATOR Clock, which represents the high esteem with which she was held during her tenure at the Port of Long Beach.

Wilma Powell's Commemorative REGULATOR Clock, a gift upon her retirement from the Port of Long Beach

Wilma Powell’s Commemorative REGULATOR Clock, a gift upon her retirement from the Port of Long Beach

Wilma Powell’s commemorative REGULATOR Clock is one of the artifacts to be displayed in the upcoming BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way Exhibition, comprised of collections of historical photographs, document restorations, artifacts, official papers, memorabilia and much more on 12 African American LEGENDS who made a difference to the cultural history of Long Beach, California.

The other LEGENDS are: Carrie Bryant, first African American owner and operator of a private Long Beach school; Alta Cooke, first African American Long Beach High School Principal and Honorary Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff; Dale Clinton, first African American Long Beach Civil Rights Activist to write letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter in Library of Congress; Maycie Herrington; first African American Long Beach recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal and first Tuskegee Airmen historian; Evelyn Knight, Long Beach Civil Rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King from the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, March 1965; Patricia Lofland, first African American Member and   President of the Board of Trustees at Long Beach City College; Autrilla Scott, Autrilla Scott, first African American Long Beach Resident Honored with street name, Autrilla Scott Lane; Vera Mulkey, first African American City of Long Beach Chief of Staff; Bobbie Smith, first African American female elected to Public Office in Long Beach, first African American Faculty Senate President at Long Beach City College and has school named in her honor; Doris Topsy-Elvord, first African American Member and President of the Long Beach Harbor Commission and first African American female Long Beach City Council Member and Vice Mayor; and Lillie Mae Wesley, first African American to challenge Long Beach City Cemetery burial policy.

Leadership Long Beach Long Beach, California

Leadership Long Beach
Long Beach, California

The BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way (BTLW) Exhibition opens Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 4-7:00 p.m at the Long Beach Public Library (101 Pacific Avenue, Long Beach CA) Atrium Level. Be sure to see the BTLW FaceBook Page for details. While you’re there, be sure to LIKE their page. The overall project sponsor is Leadership Long Beach. Wilma Powell served as this community organization’s first African American president.

 

Sponsors – Partners – Donors

 

Leadership Long Beach – Project Sponsor

Port of Long Beach – Premier Signature Sponsor

Robin Perry & Associates – Signature Sponsor

Supervisor Don Knabe – Signature Sponsor

Arts Council for Long Beach – Signature Sponsor

Molina Healthcare – Signature Sponsor

City of Long Beach – Partner

LA County Sheriff’s Department – Partner

Historical Society of Long Beach – Partner

Long Beach Public Library – Partner

Long Beach City College – Partner

Long Beach Unified School District – Partner

Pepperdine University – Partner

International Realty – Donor

Chick-fil-A Towne Center Long Beach – Donor

Andy Street Community Association – Donor

Tuttle Cameras Long Beach – Donor

Vera Mulkey – A Life of Giving and Achieving

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Vera Mulkey
Vera Mulkey

Vera Jo Smith Mulkey has made contributions to society through a life of giving, moral virtues and perseverance.

Vera Jo Smith Mulkey was born in 1936 in Austin, Texas, at the height of the Great Depression. At the time of her birth, many Americans, and especially African American females faced a dismal future of poverty with few choices in education and professional development.

Despite the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration’s federal aid programs during the depression to relieve unemployment, the vast number of government opportunities brought little advantage to Austin’s African American community. Black unemployment in Austin was high and opportunities were scarce for black students with ambition. Vera became one of those few ambitious students who was encouraged by her grandmother, Daisy Selmon, who owned a small farm where Vera spent every summer about 120 miles northeast of Austin near Nomangee, Texas, population less than 500 hundred when Vera was born and only 600 today.

Daisy Selmon Vera Mulkey's Grandmother
Daisy Selmon
Vera Mulkey’s Grandmother

“My grandmother said to always know I am somebody, to carry myself like I am somebody and do something with myself like I am somebody,” Vera said. “I listened to my grandmother, even though I wasn’t sure what I could do or what any little black girl in the south in the 1940s would be allowed to do. So, I studied hard and tried to make the best grades I could so my grandmother and my parents would be proud of me; and I have always tried to be a good person.” Vera’s legacy is so significant that she is part BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way about the contributions of 12 African American women who made a cultural difference in the history of Long Beach California.

Long Beach City College

Long Beach City College

BTLW is an educational project that includes an exhibition of historic photographs, document reproductions, artifacts, papers and memorabilia of women who were firsts in their careers. Vera Mulkey was the first African American to hold the position of Chief of Staff for the City of Long Beach, California. Vera achieved this career advancement with training at Long Beach City College, where she studied sociology.

Lorene Smith, Vera Mulkey's Mother
Lorene Smith, Vera Mulkey’s Mother

When Vera was a little girl, she learned from her mother the importance of sharing the little they had with other poor struggling neighborhood families. Vera’s parents grew weary of living on the fringe in East Austin–walking to distant downtown employment, where many black men shined shoes or worked as janitors and hard laborers, while women sweated over department store pressing tables.

Vera Mulkey, 1952 Anderson High School Austin, Texas
Vera Mulkey, 1952
Anderson High School
Austin, Texas

The struggle became too great even for Vera’s parents, due to no available work or low wages requiring multiple jobs that kept them away from their child for long periods. When Vera was a sophomore honor roll student and a majorette at Austin’s Anderson High School, her parents decided to leave Austin and, like many working poor of the Jim Crow impoverished southern United States, moved West to Long Beach, where they felt they would be able to find work at decent wages, own a home and educate their daughter.

Vera did not want to leave her school in Austin, but her parents promised that if she continued to make good grades in California, she would be able to attend a good college. Vera enrolled at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California, and continued her honor roll work.

Long Beach Unified School District Personnel Commission

Long Beach Unified School District Personnel Commission

The transition from segregated Anderson High School in Austin to the integrated Polytechnic High School in the Long Beach Unified School District was difficult for Vera. She was not at all certain that she was prepared academically to complete with California students. “I was lonely at Poly,” Vera said. “Everything was different. I didn’t have any friends when I first got here, so all I did was study. And studying became a habit., a good habit, though.”

Before graduating from Polytechnic High School in 1954 as an honor student, Vera was recruited by Pepperdine University, a private, nonprofit, coeducational, integrated research university, affiliated with the Churches of Christ. Based on its student criteria, the university offered Vera a scholarship as an award for her academic achievements, her exemplary civic conduct and moral character.

Vera Mulkey, 1954 Graduate, Polytechnic High School Long Beach, California

Vera Mulkey, 1954
Graduate, Polytechnic High School
Long Beach, California

After high school graduating , Vera attended California State University, Long Beach, until she had to go to work full time. Eventually, after marriage and raising a family, she earned an Associate’s Degree in sociology from Long Beach City College in 1978. She began her professional career as a medical administrator for the late Dr. Charles Terry and then went on to become manager of a Psychiatric Services Medical Clinic in Downey. Vera became the first African American female to hold the position of Chief of Staff for the City of Long Beach, serving the Sixth District’s Councilman, Clearance Smith. This was the last position she held before her retirement. Vera Mulkey also was a constant presence on the Long Beach Unified School District Personnel Commission for 15 years and much of her service was a Chairperson.

“M mother taught me respect, respect for myself, first of all, and certainly respect for other people,” said Vera, who has earned many humanitarian awards and professional honors over the course of her life and career. “My mother taught me to be honest and to be myself. I have tried to carry that respect with me throughout my life. In learning to respect myself and to respect others, I believe I can call myself a lady.”

Pepperdine Letter from Dean Robert Harrell’s Office Expressing disappointment that Vera could not attend Pepperdine

For 61 years, Vera Jo has saved the Pepperdine Letter from Dean Robert Harrell’s Office expressing disappointment that she would not be attending Pepperdine

From Vera Mulkey’s Memoir:

“The most significant thing that happened to me soon after I arrived in Long Beach was a scholarship to Pepperdine. Unfortunately, my parents, examining the situation, were simply not able to defray the cost beyond the scholarship, which covered tuition. Pepperdine was a very expensive school. While the college offered some employment opportunities on campus, the administration’s strong recommendation was that they didn’t really want their freshmen to engage in employment. They felt that employment might negatively impact their studies.

So, to my disappointment, I was not able to use the Pepperdine scholarship. Receiving that scholarship was very significant to me because I was new to California. I was new to Long Beach. To be able to come to Long Beach, California, and have that kind of honor was important to me and was very important to my parents as well. But I recognized our financial situation and just had to move on.

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University

I really have to back up when I think about the Pepperdine scholarship. I sometimes wonder what I would have been able to do with my career had I been able to attend Pepperdine. I think my focus would have been somewhat different than it was. In my career, I would like to have been able to devote more time to furthering my education.”

Leadership Long Beach Long Beach, California

Leadership Long Beach
Long Beach, California

The BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way (BTLW) Exhibition opens Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 4-7:00 p.m at the Long Beach Public Library (101 Pacific Avenue, Long Beach CA) Atrium Level. Be sure to see the BTLW FaceBook Page for details. While you’re there, be sure to LIKE their page. The overall project sponsor is Leadership Long Beach.

Sponsors – Partners – Donors

 

Leadership Long Beach – Project Sponsor

Port of Long Beach – Premier Signature Sponsor

Robin Perry & Associates – Signature Sponsor

Supervisor Don Knabe – Signature Sponsor

Arts Council for Long Beach – Signature Sponsor

Molina Healthcare – Signature Sponsor

City of Long Beach – Partner

LA County Sheriff’s Department – Partner

Historical Society of Long Beach – Partner

Long Beach Public Library – Partner

Long Beach City College – Partner

Long Beach Unified School District – Partner

Pepperdine University – Partner

International Realty – Donor

Chick-fil-A Towne Center Long Beach – Donor

Andy Street Community Association – Donor

Tuttle Cameras Long Beach – Donor

Rosa Parks & The Montgomery Bus Boycott

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Rosa Park kept her seat and ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott, setting off in the nation a protest against Jim Crow laws  that became the Civil Rights Movement, of which she became the mother.

 

Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-56

Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-56

I didn’t fully understand what Jim Crow laws were when  was a little girl. I just knew Jim Crow laws were bad for black people and meant there were many restrictions on what we could do:

Where we could live
Where we could go
What seat we could take
Where we could eat
Where we could go to school

Although, news reports of Rosa Parks were slow to reach our home, I began to realize the role Rosa Parks played in the fight against Jim Crow laws. My parents tried to insulate me from the ravages of discrimination the best they could, but I had to go out into the world to go to school and shop. Even as a child, I could see the differences between our streets and those that led to the downtown district. Then when my house and neighborhood began buzzing about civil rights news and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I learned about Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights Movement and the names of civil rights activists like Rosa Parks from hearing their names in conversations between my mother, father and Bigmama when they talked about current events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Brown v the Board of Education.

Laura Nelson, Oklahoma, 1911

Laura Nelson, Oklahoma, 1911

At the time, though, there was no biographical information about the central figures of the civil rights movement and my family probably had no idea of Rosa Parks’ involvement in the protection of black women from rape and lynching. I only began to learn about that part of her life lately as I investigated for a book I am writing about her. I am shocked that I was not aware of the number of black women raped and lynched in America after slavery ended. Rape and lynching of black women and, of course also black men, went on through the 1950s and ’60s.

The Laura Nelson lynching was two years before Rosa Parks was born, but still fresh in the minds of young black girls as to what could happen to them. I never saw this picture when I was a child, but I had heard the name Laura Nelson and the fear that accompanied discussions of her lynching. I remember thinking, Laura Nelson could be me or a woman in my family.

Rosa Parks - Booking Photo, Montgomery Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks joined the NAACP and became an investigator of rape and lynching of black women in Alabama a decade before the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She set out to prove that lynching was being used as a weapon against the African American community by the ruling class to control behavior. Parks unearthed several cases of rape, but was unable to bring them to justice and use them to fight Jim Crow laws and treatment of black communities.

Eventually, Parks and the NAACP planned the Montgomery Bus Boycott to meet civil rights requirements because black women going to work were the primary passengers and were being abused and discriminated against while riding the buses. For her part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were jailed.

Little Girls Killed in Alabama

Little Girls Killed in Alabama

I knew of the children killed in the church bombing in Alabama. They were my age. They could have been me and my friends. If the purpose of all the violence I was hearing about and seeing on television was to frighten me, then the violence did what it was intended to do. I was scared out of my wits.

In fact, I didn’t want to go out of the house. I just didn’t see the point in living at all until my mother told me, “You have no choice but to live,” she said. “When you think you can’t go on, you go on.”

My family either knew changes were coming or were unwilling to let me use Jim Crow laws as an excuse for bad behavior and poor performance in the schools I was allowed to attend. My mother, especially, made me feel really badly when I confessed to her that I was not currently reading a book that had not been assigned at school. Then, she would assign a book. She had constructed shelves in the living room for books that she purchased at yard sales and places going out of business. At that time, in our town, the library was not actually segregated, but reserved for white readers only. My mother and I made many trips on a Greyhound Bus to public libraries in cities near us.

Jim Crow laws affected everything about our lives, including the schools I attended until I graduated from high school; and later getting into college. But Jim Crow laws did not affect the global education my mother presented to me with my China tea set and other tools, like meditation, which she discovered and adapted to her global education. My mother would use that China tea set to teach me about the world outside of Jim Crow Laws, under which my ancestors had lived for nearly a century and my family would live for years to come.

Sunny Nash, Author Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's

Sunny Nash, Author
Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s

Sunny Nash–author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations in–writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking, Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life–from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women’s issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements–past and present—to today’s post-racism. 

Bigmama Didn’t Shop at Woolworth’s is recognized by the Association of American University Presses for its value to the understanding of U.S. race relations. The book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg in New York and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. 

© 2013 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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Rosa Parks, Woolworth Sit-ins & Other Jim Crow Law Protests

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Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and other sit-ins and demonstrations destroyed Jim Crow laws and changed civil rights.

Parks_nixon_fred_gray

Rosa Parks had challenged Jim Crow laws in Montgomery bus policy twelve years before she boarded the bus on December 1, 1955, and started the Nine months before the boycott, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was dragged off a Montgomery bus by police, handcuffed and jailed on March 2, 1955. Her case, got little notice and no support. Review and purchase Claudette Colvin at links on left. In 1943, Parks refused to board the bus using a rear entry, the door for black bus riders. Parks and her mother had always refused to enter the bus through the rear door, while other black riders had to use the rear door. 

 

 

On March 2, 1955, nine months before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was dragged off a Montgomery bus by police, handcuffed and jailed, but her case, got little notice and no support.

At the end of 1955, Rosa Parks ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped to launch Martin Luther King as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. This legacy affected civil rights and race relations in America from Jim Crow city buses to black actors in Hollywood films

 

 

 

Martin Luther King – I Have a Dream

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Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream,’ written after Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, ignited the Civil Rights Movement against Jim Crow laws.

Doris Topsy-Elvord, Long Beach Living Legend

Photo: Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus Boycott

Martin Luther King, starting with Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, came into national prominence fighting Jim Crow laws. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King was assisted by both black and white members of an organization he founded, the Montgomery Improvement Association. This organization’s purpose was to raise money to finance the activities of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, money to bail those involved in the boycott out of jail and buy gasoline for drivers. 

 Martin Luther King – March on Washington & The Dream

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Legacy of Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott

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Rosa Parks challenged Jim Crow laws, igniting the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and her legacy lives on.

Legacy of Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks on Bus

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to another bus rider, she set the nonviolent tone used by Martin Luther King in his nonviolent protest methods that left quite a legacy for both civil rights activists in their fight against Jim Crow laws. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, including the Woolworth Sit-ins and Freedom Riders, were modeled on the nonviolent style and tactics of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.

Learn more about Rosa Parks:

Rosa Parks: Black Womanhood, Rape & Lynching

Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells created a century-long movement (1850s-1950s) against Jim Crow laws that allowed rape and lynching of black women and girls.

 

Rosa Parks, 1960s Fashion and Civil Rights

Fashion in the 1960s is a memorable part of the Civil Rights Movement.


Before Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth – Ain’t I A Woman?

Before Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, a former slave, became a women’s and civil rights activist during the era of Jim Crow laws.

My Mother & The Thinkers

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My Mother & The Thinkers.

My mother said people who create, participate in and appreciate art are better thinkers than those who do not. 

Sunny Nash Signs Her Book

Sunny Nash Signs Her Book

“Those interested in literature and art handle conversation better,” she said. “It has to do with the way their brains work and how they decide to live their lives; maybe because they read.” Over the years, I have to admit that she was right dragging me to see exhibitions, making me read biographies about artists like Rodin and listening with me to classical music.

It wasn’t enough to just own a book. My mother said, “You’re no better off, if you don’t read the book, than you would be if you didn’t even own it.”

During the era of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Jim Crow laws, my mother tried to give me an elevated experience, I was not as receptive to it as she would have liked. I was distracted by the Civil Rights Movement that heating up when I was still young. So, she subscribed to national black periodicals and made me read about Brown v the Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Riders and the Woolworth Sit-ins. Some of these events happened when I was so young that I was picking out words, one at a time, and asking her what they were. I wasn’t too happy about all that reading, either, but I began to appreciate her insistence that I become educated outside of my segregated world.

“Being a thinker means you want to know something about art,” she said. My Mother & The Thinkers.

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