excerpted from Spiritual Passages by Scott Awbrey (spiritualpassages.org)
It was not a new discovery for me that there have been a number of extraordinary African American women who have been very successful. Many have created very successful careers and organizations in spite of the resistance of those who have stood in the way of change. Racial prejudices have been a factor in the struggles but not a determining one. When I began to count up the number that I personally know and those with whom I am familiar, it is a phenomenal history that should be acknowledged.
I recently published a book called Dare to Be First by one of the Memphis State Eight, Bertha Looney. She was one of the first 8 to attend what is now the University of Memphis. There are a number of African American women who have found success. Some, like Oprah Winfrey are household names. Some are politicians, actresses and musicians, but I am not writing about the ones everyone knows about. I am referring to less sung heroines who have been instrumental in creating and developing institutions that are ongoing and will benefit people for a long time.
I am referring to women like Rev. Johnny Colemon, founder of the Universal Foundation for Better Living and Christ Universal Temple in Chicago. I did not know Rev. Colemon; however, I began hearing about her from my earliest connection to the Unity Movement. Today more than 4,000 attend Sunday services at Christ Universal Temple. Rev. Barbara King was the founder of Hillside Chapel and the Unity Center of Truth in Atlanta. She traveled the world developing New Thought Centers from Finland and Russia to the Middle East; and from South America to Africa. She was influenced to join the ministry by Rev. Colemon. I had the opportunity to interview her for my Core Concepts Show, which took place at Unity Christian Church in Memphis, TN.
Rev. Ruth Mosley was from Olive Branch, MS, just south of Memphis. She founded the Unity Urban Ministerial School in Detroit MI. I got to know her because I published her biography by Rev. Vertell Allison-Talifero, called The Book of Ruth. I was able to spend some time with Rev. Ruth when she retired to Memphis.
I did not know Rev. Montee Falls but she was founder of the Unity Center of Memphis. While I did not have the opportunity to meet her, I have been a member of the church for a number of years.
These women are literally giants in their chosen field. This month in Lightways we are featuring the Unity Urban Ministerial School and Rev. Sandra Wayne Campbell, the Executive Director. I
personally find it inspirational looking at these creators and what they accomplished. In conversations with Rev Campbell over the last few years I have formed the opinion that she too will leave things better than she found them. A brief look at her history sounds remarkably like those I have mentioned Sandra began her federal government career as a clerk-stenographer with the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. She would later learn that the manager who hired her was an original Tuskegee Airman. She was promoted to a secretary position with the newly formed Office of Civil Rights with the U.S. General Services Administration.
Sandra’s dream was to become an airline stewardess, but that dream was thwarted by the rigorous standards that systemically prevented brown and black people from those positions.
She left the government for a secretarial position with TransWorld Airlines, hoping it would be an inroad to becoming a flight attendant. Shortly after, threatened with job loss during a strike, Sandra returned to the federal government. She worked with the U.S. Department of Consumer Products Safety Commission, and later with the U.S. Air Force and the US. Army,
before joining the Federal Aviation Administration. She started as a Secretary, went through Air Traffic Control training, and eventually became Manager of the FAA Central Region’s Office of Public Affairs. While serving in that capacity, Sandra stood in for Bessie Coleman’s posthumous induction into the Women of Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame.
Bessie Coleman earned her international pilot’s license in France on June 15, 1921. During Sandra’s 42 – year federal career, she earned her Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees with honors, all while she and her husband (who was career military) were raising their children. She became an Adjunct Instructor, which was another step toward her career in education.
Early in Sandra’s career, a woman found her crying in the restroom at work. She was expecting her second child and in a marriage that was not working out. The woman, Joann Franklin, gave Sandra a book, Hidden Power for Human Problems by Frederick Bailles. JoAnn took Sandra under her wings and introduced her to Unity. This set her on a life-changing trajectory. She
later divorced and remarried. Five days after her marriage to her present husband her two-year old son died. That experience and her father’s murder two years later were catalysts for Sandra to fulfill her dream to turn her mess into a message by becoming a Unity minister. She had been taking classes off and on through Unity’s Continuing Education Program (CEP) when she met Rev. Catherine Thomas, a Licensed Unity Teacher. It was Rev. Catherine who encouraged her to stay focused on her goal. When UUMS established Unity’s first online ministerial education program, Catherine encouraged Sandra to enroll. In 2008, Sandra became the first student to enroll in that program. In 2012, she and two others were the first Unity graduates who took their courses online.
Sandra retired from her Federal government service in March 2012, and graduated from UUMS in May that same year. Shortly after ordination by Unity Worldwide Ministries in 2013, Sandra was recruited to teach ministry courses with UUMS, She was appointed to the UUMS Board in 2014, and became Executive Director in 2017.
What do the women I have mentioned and Rev. Sandra have in common? Most were forced to struggle along the way, whether to get an education, make a living or achieve anything of importance in their career fields. They were African American women who simply refused to be victims even while being victimized. They were creators and creation is a process that has two main words as the underpinning – INTENT and EXPECTATION. Quite ordinary people from humble beginnings develop extraordinary powers in their struggle and these two words play a role in their achievement. Once the intent was set, these creators were focused on the process of seeing it happen with full expectation that it would happen.
If you see yourself as a creator you are already on your way. If you do not, but would like to see yourself as a creator, you could certainly benefit by their example and the program of study at Unity Urban Ministerial School. Begin by learning about the Universal Principles, identify and verify them in your life experience. Establish the intent to create where you want to see yourself in a specific amount of time.
The saying that I begin the Renford Affirmations with is the key. “Anything the mind of man can conceive and believe he can achieve.” As you can see from this feature article, Anything the mind of an African American woman can conceive and believe, she can achieve