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Wednesday, November 21 , 2018, 1:14 am | Fair 50º


African-American Women of Santa Barbara County Luncheon a Celebration of Sisterhood

'Coming Together and Being Together' proves to be a fitting title for the first-ever event held at the UCSB Mosher Alumni House

More than 80 African-American women gathered in a celebration of sisterhood and unity at the first-ever African-American Women of Santa Barbara County “Coming Together and Being Together” luncheon held Feb. 11 at the UCSB Mosher Alumni House.

For the attendees, made up of entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, scholars and mothers, the momentous event was fittingly held in February during Black History Month.

The theme “Black Women in American Culture and History” spoke volumes in a room full of dynamic women who have excelled in various avenues of life. These courageous individuals continue to persevere despite social and economic diversities, striving to realize unlimited possibilities for the future.

The event began with words of welcome and gratitude from event co-chair Wendy Sims-Moten.

“Thank you so much for coming today,” she said. “I have tried to hold back the tears because this meeting started as a conversation that I’ve had with many of you in this room today — a conversation that I’m sure you’ve had with yourselves about bringing women of color together. So today is about taking the time to just acknowledge each other, honor and appreciate each other, and leave knowing that somebody has your back.”

Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle, esteemed poet, playwright and community activist, began the naming ceremony with a lighted long-stemmed candle in her right hand and asked each person seated at a table to stand up and introduce themselves. As the salutations continued, Rolle made her way from table to table throughout the room, igniting a single candle at each table as a symbol of solidarity.

Women of all ages, dressed in their Sunday best for the joyous and inspiring ceremony, rose to their feet and expressed strong feelings of sentiment to their peers.

Betty Chase said she was “loving being a part of this rainbow of color.”

JoAnne Meade Young, who was also celebrating her 66th birthday on this special day, stood and proclaimed to the room, “I’m normally a quiet person, but I love you all as my sisters.”

Then, a UCSB student erupted the room in laughter in sharing her words of discovery: “Good morning, everyone. This is my fourth year here in Santa Barbara, and I’ve heard you all existed!”

Francis Moore continued the positive vibe with, “I just want to shout! My heart is filled with joy.”

Another guest even compared the event to Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball, as “we are making history right here in Santa Barbara, and we need to take a lot of pictures and send them to O magazine!”

Caroline Kelton from Lompoc added: “This day must be recorded, and we need to have every woman sign something to document this occasion as we move forward from now on.”

Following the introductions, Sims-Moten asked all of the women to raise their glasses.

“This is a special day, and I want to share with you the quote of the year: ‘You are kind, you are smart and you are important,’” she said, looking out over the room.

The famous line from last year’s Oscar-nominated movie The Help was repeated throughout the afternoon and helped capture the spirit of this landmark day.

Gwendolyn Hampton shared how honored she was to deliver the invocation for the event.

“It’s great for women to get together in fellowship and harmony with one another,” she said. “And it’s important to have more events like these in the future so we won’t be so isolated here in Santa Barbara.”

After the formalities, women at each table strode to buffet tables laden with homemade roasted turkey and chicken salad, macaroni salad and the usual fare of tossed mixed salad and butter rolls.

The afternoon seemed to fly by as women around the room became reacquainted and formed new friendships, finding solace spending time with one another in the wonderful campus setting.

A notebook and pen were provided at each table for guests to express their thoughts, suggestions and prayers and put them into an oval wicker prayer basket that was passed around the room.

Each table also included a single long-stemmed red rose in a slender glass vase with small, white gift boxes wrapped in red bows and filled with chocolate kisses and a single clear, round magnet inscribed with the words, “Love, Trust, Faith, Dream.”

A brief slideshow highlighted an array of inspirational and historic events held throughout Santa Barbara, including the Martin Luther Jr. King parade and rally, the Santa Barbara African American Heritage Film Series and photos of legendary poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou, who spoke at the Arlington Theatre last September.

After the slideshow, a “What’s in my purse?” game had the crowd in stitches as guests playfully shared the similarities of hand lotions, sanitizers, napkins, lipstick and makeup compacts in a quest to gain the most points.

Next, Broadway entertainer Jewell Dennis recited a powerful poem titled “Stuff,” from a series of 20 choreopoems in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. The experimental 1975 play is a collection of poems centered on the interconnected trials and obstacles that African-American women face, coupled with the balance of love and power in womanhood.

Dennis, who performed in the play at the historic Ensemble Theatre in the 1980s, said she was for grateful for this event and explained that in the early 1990s, a group of colored women formed a club called the Sister Friends. She also noted that there were a handful of elderly women from that club in the room, but unfortunately many of the other former members have since passed away or relocated.

“This is the kind of event that is going to bring us together to network,” Dennis said. “I have lived in Santa Barbara since the ‘70s, and a lot of people think that there are not any black people here, but here we are.”

Keynote speaker the Rev. Najuma Smith Pollard, a graduate of Pepperdine University with an MBA from Woodbury University and currently working toward a doctoral degree at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, said she was honored to take time out of her busy schedule to speak with the African-American women of Santa Barbara.

“Here in Santa Barbara you don’t think of the African-American community at all, and so to know that there is a pool of African-American women of great resource, influence, authority and position here is incredible,” Pollard said. “And to bring them all together in one room is awesome and I think will add to the image of Santa Barbara.”

During her powerful speech, Pollard also touched on some issues affecting African-American women today.

“Economics is always a challenge because we are always the last hired and first fired, and we still get paid less then anybody else,” Pollard said. “I also hear women talk about the imbalance of the African-American male and woman in finding partnership on an intimate level, and the plight of the single mother raising children.”

Pollard noted a vast health disparity between African-American women and non-Hispanic and white women as blacks continue to outrank other ethnicities in heart disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS cases. Yet, women of color still have the least availability to health resources and education awareness.

“But the strength of the African-American women is that we are survivors. We know how to tie our boot straps, network and make things happen,” Pollard said. “In every major field there is at least one African-American woman of great position and influence. We don’t teach enough of that in our schools or see them as a positive influence in the news, but they are there.”

Pollard also preached that when black women work together rather than individually, they are stronger as a whole and stressed the importance of unity in faith, heritage and community.

“There is within us a three-fold cord. The first cord is our heritage; from the Ashanti queen mother to the African American Women in Santa Barbara, we have a history and heritage of being survivors,” she said. “The second cord is our community. We know how to gather together and build community because we have learned there is strength when we come together as a community and employ our voices collectively to demand respect, change and demand a shift in economy. The third cord is our faith: we have the audacity to believe that God is able and the Lord will make a way somehow and to keep on hoping when things look hopeless. It’s the faith of the African-American women that makes us strong and not be easily broken.

“We have to educate, collaborate and sometimes agitate to make things happen and to make change. So I charge the women of Santa Barbara to go out and make a difference in your community.”

» For more information about the African-American Women of Santa Barbara County, contact Wendy Sims Moten at 805.453.3452 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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