Harmony is a life member of the NAACP and the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee. She lives in Skyline.
At 90, I am very proud of my family and my heritage. I am a life member of the NAACP who has been a member of the Calvary Baptist Church since 1968, still am, and joined under Dr. SM Lockridge when I moved to California. I have four sons, three daughters, at least 37 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Black history is not just catastrophic.
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Jesse Owens is my cousin. For those of you who don’t know Owens, my second cousin, my mother’s first, he was one of the greatest American track and field stars of all time. He won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. His house is a museum in Alabama, near where my mother’s family still owns land. You see they both grew up there. Many white people want to buy this farm, but we refuse to sell. It was my grandparents’ desire that it be passed on in perpetuity from generation to generation.
It was during the Great Depression. You couldn’t just go to the store and buy something. There was rationing, like today with the COVID-19 pandemic. My childhood was not very fun; I would go to church conferences with my dad, peeled apples, split green beans, pickled beets, and during the summer when the days were longer, even dried and canned meats to prepare for the winter. ‘winter.
After my mother went to nursing school and graduated in 1921 from Meherry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, she was recruited by her teacher, Dr. Bowser, as one of three his class to found the first (and last – we would eventually witness desegregation) Black Hospital in Parsons, Kansas. It was there that she would meet my father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, and give birth to me on August 2, 1931.
I was 12 when I moved to Kansas City, Kansas after my Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) railroad engineer father transferred there in 1943. At that time there were all the black schools that were not integrated. . The blacks were in one part of the city and the whites in the other. My mother had been told about this great university hospital and had been hired as head nurse for the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Kansas University Hospital. There was only one floor then, and now it’s eight or 10 blocks, and produces some of the greatest nurses and doctors in the world.
I always wanted to become a social worker. I come from a long line of nurses, and that was expected. After my sister died in 1967 and moved to California, I decided to become a social worker, as I knew I could. My children were old enough for me to go back to school, since I had raised my elders to help me raise their younger siblings.
By then my second daughter, Donetta Moore, had already been in sports at San Diego State University, and I joined her and we went through that together in 1976 with our bachelor’s degrees. I was able to transfer credits from Southwestern Community College, where I also earned an associate degree. Later, I got a master’s degree from SDSU.
I worked 10 hour days at the old Mercy Hospital, had seven children as a single parent, and achieved all of my goals. Hope this is telling for those who say they can’t go back to school; it’s a lie. I took many classes and didn’t have a babysitter or parents nearby to help me, but my kids were so well trained that when they got home at 3 p.m. they were doing their homework before returning to play.
They threw a big party in New York for Jesse Owens when he came back with his gold medals. But Alabama, his own state in the South, did not give him the honors the world gave him. They couldn’t celebrate in downtown Danville, so they went to his Baptist Church and held the celebration there.
Today, the State of Alabama now recognizes his accomplishments, and things are changing. Finally, the Blacks are recognized. In 1996 they built a museum and a large park in his honor, and I even went there for a celebration. But first we had to go through this rejection.
What I really want to communicate during Black History Month is that our human rights that were recognized in the civil rights era are under attack. My mother saw our reconstruction progress plummet, and I saw the progress regained in my thirties, but the gains of the 1960s are now collapsing with all of President Donald Trump’s court appointments denied to President Barack Obama. by GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and acts of voter suppression in Republican-controlled states.
The story repeats itself. Our rights recognized in the 1960s are under attack by the Republican Party. In all my life, I never imagined that these gains that we made would be taken away. I had no idea this could happen; I thought things would continue to improve. But in the long run, I hope they will.
My mother desegregated hospitals in Kansas and I later schools in California, even becoming president of the PTA at Morse High School. It’s in the Skyline neighborhood of San Diego, where I live on a street now named in my honor.