Celebrate exemplary Black women in March


By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

March is Women’s History Month. Since 1982 when the Florida Commission on the Status of Women initiated the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, very few of the 105 women inducted have been African-American. From 1982 until 1991 Gwen Cherry, Sybil Collins Mobley, Zora Neale Hurston, and Mary McLeod Bethune were among the 30 inductees. In 1991, Governor Lawton Chiles requested that the Florida Legislature make the Hall of Fame permanent under the Office of the Attorney General with specific guidelines for selecting and honoring inductees. Since 1992, four (4) additional Black women have been inducted that include Carrie Meek, M. Athalie Range, Althea Gibson, and Peggy Quince. The contributions of Black women inducted thus far range from being nationally recognized educators, pioneering elected state leaders, an author, and a Florida Supreme Court Justice. Most were recognized as the “first” Black woman to achieve such a distinction. However, among the other women selected their achievements range from philanthropy, political, educational, literary, artistic achievements, and activism/ advocacy on behalf of Florida.

Of the many nominations received each year, the Florida Commission on the Status of Women can only submit 10 finalists from which the Governor selects three (3) for induction into the Hall of Fame each year. It is likely most Floridians do not know the Commission accepts nominations each year between April 1 and July 15. That may be part of the reason so few Black women of distinction are included among the honorees in the Florida Capitol Rotunda. You can go to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women website to print the nomination packet. We are making history every day. Think about Black women who were among “the First” right here in Tallahassee or who have made extraordinary achievements in politics, community service and advocacy, the arts, education, medicine, business, etc. There are some who have distinguished themselves in multiple fields.
The Oasis Center for Women and Girls, here in Tallahassee, does an excellent job recognizing the contributions of outstanding women through its Trailblazer Project. It has been honoring women who are considered trailblazers in the Capital region since their first group of honorees in 2009. Yours truly was one of the women honored in that year. The Oasis Center has also developed the Trailblazers in Schools Project, free presentations in local schools, from March 6 through April 14. Simply call The Oasis Center at 850-222-2747 to schedule a presentation at your school.

The Center’s annual Trailblazers Calendars, from 2009-2017, could be a great place to start for churches, schools, local government, and community based organizations on identifying local, history-making Black women in our area to ensure we are doing our part to include Black women among Florida’s women of distinction in the Florida Hall of Fame. Like Black History Month, Women’s History Month is about contributions of the past and today, as we inspire girls to reach ever higher.

Dorothy Inman-Johnson is host of Just the Facts_ a weekly, progressive radio talk show on WTAL 1450 AM Radio, newspaper columnist, author of Poverty, Politics, and Race in America and Lessons from America’s Best and Worst Cities, former Tallahassee Mayor and City Commissioner, and former long- time educator.