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

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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

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.

Shooting Without A Gun

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In the neighborhood I grew up in, guns, knives, fists, chains and other weapons were common. I saw first hand what guns and other violence could do to a neighborhood, a family, a childhood.

On weekends, people got drunk and forgot what they had been taught at home, if they had ever been taught anything at home. As a child, I saw this behavior around me, no matter how hard my mother tried to shield me from it. The behavior was in my family. Cousins, aunts, uncles who visited sometimes had too much to drink, and sometimes started fights with each other or friends or neighbors or anyone handy.

Walking home from school, I passed five beer joints where drunks staggered to the sides of the buildings to relieve themselves in plain view. Fights were so common, we simply crossed the street to avoid being hit by flying beer bottles. My cousin was shot in the arm passing by a beer joint at mid-day. All the violence around me was hard to digest. People were saying it was because poor black people felt cheated and discriminated against; and they didn’t know any other way to handle their frustrations than violence.

Even the president wasn’t safe from the violence. President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas as I watched on television with the rest of my schoolmates. Some Americans said they were not saddened by his assassination and blamed his liberal Civil Rights policies for his death.

Kennedy_signing bill

President John F. Kennedy

At the time, I was child struggling with a life that was filled with violence. If the president of the United States could not be protected from violence, how could I feel safe? Television was filled with police violence against civil rights marchers and bus riders. Dogs were even set loose on little school children protesting Jim Crow laws.

When a man killed a cousin of mine by beating her to death with a car chain, he went to prison for about a year. I vowed to kill him when he got out, not because I was afraid of him. I felt pure vengence when I stole my grandmother’s gun from her underwear drawer. But I couldn’t find her bullets. She discovered my plan and confronted me. Later, she presented me with a Brownie camera and said, “Now, you can shoot without a gun.

Read more about Sunny Nash’s childhood in her book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, about life with her part-Comanche grandmother, Bigmama, during the era of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations; listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida.

Ethel Waters & Jim Crow Television

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When Ethel Waters entered show business, television and radio broadcasting, film making and music recording were in their infancy. Watersachieved fame and fortune in Hollywood as an actor in race movies. Radio and television producers, bandleaders, songwriters and executives in the music recording industry took notice of Waters as she developed into a natural talent in front of the camera as television was being born.
 
Ethel_waters_pinky

 

Known as the first black female superstar, Ethel Waters became one of the most popular and highest-paid entertainers of her day, rising up from her humble childhood, daughter of a rape victim, mostly raising herself on the streets of Chester, Pennsylvania, until she married at age 13. She soon left the abusive husband, moved to Philadelphia and became a hotel maid until she was encouraged to sing a couple of songs. That changed everything. At age 17, the youngster began singing and dancing her way through the vaudeville circuits to Broadway to Hollywood and became the second African American to be nominated for an Academy Award for her 1949 performance as Dicey Johnson

in the movie, Pinky.

Parenting A Race

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Parenting–making a home, keeping the family safe and providing for the children–was essential during the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights Movement, when people like Rosa Parks stepped up to demonstrate to America’s black children how to get their civil rights.

Parenting, making a home and keeping the family sheltered and safe are activities that cross all racial, ethnic, economic and gender boundaries. Home and family got America through slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, assassinations of presidents and national leaders, integration, re-segregation and post-racism.

Sunny Nash U.S. Race Relations Blogger Posts

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List of Sunny Nash Race Relations Blogger Posts

Sunny Nash, a leading author on U.S. race relations, is the author of Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’sabout life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement. Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations; listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida.

Bigmama_cover

The former syndicated columnist for Knight-Ridder and Hearst newspapers, internationally acclaimed photographer and award-winning producer 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.

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List of Sunny Nash Race Relations Blogger Posts

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