Friday, February 28, 2014

Honoring Women during Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, I have been posting pictures and biographical information about African American women on my Facebook page.  As trailblazers from the past to the present day, these women represent careers in nursing, space travel, music, acting, business, teaching, journalism, politics, missionary work, a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to serve her country during the Civil War and more.  All were and are pioneers of their day and the present day.  Strength, belief and the will to survive in the face of adversity is the example they all set forth for us.  Discovering and researching these women has been a learning curve of sheer joy for me. 

It came to me that I wanted to tie all these African American women who worked for equality into my Gena Branscombe project and blog. 

Gena Tenney Phenix, Gena Branscombe’s eldest daughter, was a pianist and musician who studied at Barnard College followed by two years at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London.  Upon returning from her European studies, she became head of the Music Department at Barnard College. 

After her marriage to her husband, Phillip Phenix, she became a community activist bar-none.  Creating the food pantry at Riverside Church in New York City was one of the couple’s most generous gifts to the city’s homeless and needy population.  The food pantry still exists to this day.

Among Gena Phenix’s other great contributions to society was her dedication to equal rights for all.  In 1963, she spearheaded the organizing of ten buses for New Yorkers who attended the March on Washington in August.  From my 2002 interview with Gena and Phillip, I was told they sat in the tenth row of seats for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”  To be among that large, peaceful assembly of people for one of the most momentous speeches of the 20th century must have been thrilling and to have been part of making American history on that day .... humbling.
As Black History Month 2014 comes to a close, I thank every African American woman I know, may come to know and those who I have featured this month on Facebook for all you have done to inspire me and countless others.  My thanks go to all people who have fought for equal rights and opportunities for everyone.  Your struggles, joys and work have been worth every minute, hour, day and year of your lives for you have set an example so strong that the correct words of praise fail me

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