Friday, May 27, 2011

#56 - A Phenomenal Woman

Blog 56

A Phenomenal Woman
Vernon M. Herron

Mrs. Carolyn Brenda Reynolds Jones

The Western North Carolina Chapter of Bennett College National Alumnae Association recently recognized and honored Mrs. Carolyn Brenda Reynolds Jones as a Phenomenal Woman of the Church. In her own words, Maya Angelou describes this:

  Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
but when I start to tell them, they think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms, the span of my hips,
the stride of my steps, the curl of my lips.
I’m a woman Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me, A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes, and the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist, and the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered what they see in me.
They try so much but they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them they say they still can’t see.
I say
It’s in the arch of my back, The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts, The grace of my style.
I’m a woman Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing, it ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s the click of my heels, the bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand, the need of my care,
‘Cause  I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

‘Phenomenal’ is defined as very notable or remarkable; it or one is extraordinary or exceptional. The criteria of The Bennett Alumnae Association included the following descriptive words as impact, involvement, inspiration, integrity, spirituality, humility, kindness, wisdom, perseverance and serving others. We too, at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC can call Mrs. Brenda Jones a Phenomenal Woman because of her 3P’s: Position, Purpose and Personality. She is indeed a very notable, remarkable, extraordinary and exceptional person.

Mrs. Jones is the beloved wife of Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr. who is the pastor of one of Charlotte’s most prestigious mega churches, the FRIENDSHIP MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH. This is a mega church   with a membership over 7,000 members, of which 62% are females and 38% are males. The age groups reveal 8% children and youth; 60% adults 18-54; 23% senior citizens; while 8% is unidentified.

She is the alter-ego of her husband, a second “Cliff,” a trusted friend who is the opposite side of his personality. She articulates his philosophy, extends his spirit and brings his dreams to fruition. As such, Mrs. Jones is the FIRST LADY of this phenomenal congregation.

Even though “Miss Brenda” is an alter-ego, she conducts a unique ministry of personal and group needs in her own way. Among many noteworthy achievements, she helped established the Youth Opportunity University (Y.O.U.), a summer program offering academic, religious and cultural enrichment as well as scholarships for local and South African students. She was the co-founder of the CREW (Christian Really Enjoying Witnessing), coordinator of the New Perspective Bible Study (for Women) and Ministry, advisor for the Baptist Young Women (BYW), Sunday School  teacher, senior high superintendent, youth advisor and director of youth life.
The personality of Mrs. Jones is not self-serving. You won’t find her in a special seat reserved for the “first lady.” Rather, she moves about the congregation, sitting with “any” and “all,” sharing her Bible and hymn book with one who may be the city’s mayor, the former mayor,  a legislator, a judge, an educator, a financier, a doctor, a technician, a retiree,, a student, a laborer or a struggler. Her movement enhances identification with people. She loves people at their point of need. She embraces the church and calls “them all” family.
Mrs. Jones is known, loved and respected through senses rather than through thought and intuition.
To know Carolyn Brenda Reynolds Jones is to love her;
            To love her is to see her in action;
            To see her in action is to observe a—

P H E N O M E N A L     W O M A N

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#55 - The Wadsworth Estate: A Symbol of Eloquence and Distinction

Blog 55

The Wadsworth Estate:
A Symbol of Eloquence and Distinction
Vernon M Herron and Judge Shirley Fulton

The Wadsworth Estate

The Charlotte community has acquired a most distinguished and eloquent estate which enhances the cultural life of this locale. It is The Wadsworth Estate, a property listed on the registry of Historic Landmark properties and now is used for weddings, receptions, meetings and other special events.

THE GEORGE PIERCE WADSWORTH HOUSE turns 100 years old this year.  Built in 1911, the residence, carriage house and gardens in Historic Wesley Heights, are unique North Carolina examples of the Arts and Craft era that has earned historic designation.  Throughout 2011, we will commemorate the property and its significance in Charlotte Mecklenburg’s development and explore a century of history and culture.

The celebration will include myriad events, experiences, and topics—drama, music, literature, culture, law, art, community conversations, introspective, and more—opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn and to engage as we weave through and explore these 100 years, locally and beyond.

The house is located at 400 South Summit Avenue in the Wesley Heights neighborhood, an early twentieth century streetcar suburb, of Charlotte, North Carolina.   Occupying the equivalent of three lots, it faces east on a corner lot at the juncture of South Summit Avenue and West Second Street.   It is positioned to capture the aura of the Charlotte skyline and the excitement of the activities at the Panthers football stadium.  It is within walking distance of uptown Charlotte and two blocks north of the West Morehead Business corridor, making it easily accessible from all of the major travel thoroughfares.

The Wadsworth family continued to live in the house after the sudden death of George Pierce Wadsworth in 1930 at the age of 51. James Dallas Ramsey, an officer of the Textron-Southern Company, and his wife, Pearl Shelby Ramsey bought the house in 1936. The Ramseys converted a portion of the west side of the second floor to an apartment and adapted a small sleeping porch as a kitchen, probably during the late 1940s. The Ramseys moved in 1967, and the house stood vacant for two years.  In 1969, during the Civil Rights era, Mrs. Ramsey sold the property to an African American family, prominent businessman, Worthy D. Hairston (1902-1969) and his wife, Marie S. Hairston.  Hairston, a funeral director who had established the Hairston's House of Funerals in 1930, moved his family and business from Beatties Ford Road to the Wadsworth House.

Judge Shirley L. Fulton

Judge Shirley L. Fulton bought a home in Wesley Heights in 1989 and moved in 1990.  She discovered Wesley Heights neighborhood when she was searching for a home that was easily accessible to the interstates and major thoroughfares.  As a superior court judge, she was assigned to preside over courts in many North Carolina counties, but primarily in the western region.  Upon her return from these assignments, she found herself sitting in traffic trying to reach residence in south Charlotte. She was impressed with the architectural character of the housing stock and the tree lined street and recognized the potential for revitalizing the neighborhood as a desirable place to live.  After organizing the community as a nonprofit community development corporation, she led the community through a renaissance to reclaim the housing stock, reduce criminal activities, and develop a greenway in the community as a part of Mecklenburg County’s greenway master plan. 

Fulton had a vision for the property as a conference center, something that was missing on the Westside.  She pursued that vision through a restoration of the main house initially, maintaining most of its original features.  This part of the property was opened for business in August 2001.  

In 2007, Judge Fulton started the restoration of the servant’s quarters/Carriage House.  As it turned out, this project took the better part of two years to complete. Its grand opening and reopening of the main house took place on January 16, 2010 as part of Rev. Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration.  The Carriage House is now in use primarily as a wedding chapel, but is also used for meetings, receptions, small dinner parties, family reunions, political events, social gatherings and all other special events.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blog 54 - Is Jesus Black Enough? Raising the Level of Consciousness

Blog 54
  Is Jesus Black Enough?:
Raising The Level of Consciousness.
Vernon M. Herron

Black Jesus at Gethsemane
Gretta Whitted

According to demographic and statistical reports, there are five billion peoples on the face of the earth and the majority of them are peoples of color. In fact, it is reported that 2/3 of the world’s population is dark skinned. It is also reported that there are more than two billion Christians and that one third of them are dark skinned people.  If that be true, color is significant to one’s perception and image of a divine order. Since the Jesus of history is “all things to all people,”  African Americans ask, “is Jesus black enough?”, Jews and Arabs might ask, “is Jesus brown enough?”, while Caucasians can ask “is Jesus white enough?”

The dark skin of Jesus can be seen as Luke 1 speaks of Mary as, “The Black Madonna.” Mary was the mother of Jesus. She was a distant relative of David and Solomon who were of the lineage of Boaz, direct son of Rahab, “the Black Canaanite.” (Ruth 4:13) His existence can be found from Genesis to Revelation since He is Alpha and Omega. His earthly maternal genealogy can be traced from Adam to Noah and Ham. Therefore, Jesus was dark skinned.

That means that where there is difference in race, skin color and even location, there may be a difference in culture, modes of living and even religion. However, in all areas, relevancy of a deity is the key.  That is to ask, is Jesus as a God-man  sensitive to one’s total needs?

Referring to the Jesus of history rather than to the Christ of faith, the question of  Jesus’ blackness, raises the issue of consciousness and at what level.    
Often a people have experienced a mind-set which endured discrimination in housing, education and employment. The Civil Rights movement of the late ‘60’s was a period in which the level of consciousness was raised. Like a horizontal dial, it moved from being a victim of circumstance to commitment, seeking to end discrimination and to guarantee equal rights and opportunities to all people.                    

Consciousness defined is the state of being conscious, aware and alert. To raise one’s level of consciousness is to make one more aware of his or her potential to cause political or social change in oneself.  Conscious-raising is a method of making people more aware of their ability to bring about change or reforms. Conscience then is the sense of right and wrong.       

During the protesting years of the late ‘60’s, the community’s mind-set was challenged in various ways. We experienced a Viet Nam War, politics by assassination of which John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were killed. Various methods were used to make people become more aware of their potentials in voting, economic and educational power. Vocabulary changed. “Black” replaced “Negro” and “colored,”  “Black” became beautiful; the individual claimed worth by declaring that, “I am somebody.” That language influenced speakers of every sort including this preacher.
One Sunday in ‘68, this writer preached a sermon entitled “Is Jesus Black Enough?” at the Second Baptist Church in Joliet, IL. In that sermon, the real Jesus was portrayed with high cheek bones, woolly and nappy hair, (Rev.1:14) thick lips, thinly dressed, who appears as the suffering servant, despised, rejected, wounded, whipped and beaten with many stripes, bruised and cast out. (Isa.53) This Black Jesus is in contrast to the conception of an Anglo Saxon painting of a Jesus, associated with Wall Street and as portrayed by an European artist.

That sermon inspired a listening-parishioner-worshipper-artist, Mrs. Gretta Whitted who took mental notes, went home and immediately painted a Black Jesus to whom the Black community and others could relate. The following Sunday the portrait was presented to the pastor who found a prominent place for it in his residence.

Shortly afterward, an elderly saint stood before the revealing painting and said: “Look what they have done to my Jesus. They have made Him Black. Well, my Jesus has brought me this far over the years and I am not giving Him up now for another.” That saint had a mind-set, her conscious level was not raised and she could not effect change in herself nor in others.

Is Jesus Black enough? The answer is NO, if there is no movement of a mind-set conscience which stagnates mental and spiritual growth. The answer is YES, if there is awareness of a new personal potential and motivation toward a more just and humane society.

The historic Jesus comes in all shades of colors to all people. He comes in a skin color of red, yellow, black or white. His “enough-ness” depends on how you perceive Him to be, His sensitivity and His response to the needs and cries of His people. He is a personalized God who visits when one is in prison, clothes when one is naked, feeds when one is hungry, attends when one is sick, comforts when one is cast down, restores when one is ostracized, and made whole when one is wounded. “Enough” means that there is connection with the Divine because He sees me, knows me, needs me, loves me and calls me.

About the artist:

Mrs. Gretta V. Whitted

Mrs. Gretta Whitted was born, reared, educated and employed in Joliet, Il. She developed an interest in Art while attending Joliet Central College. Gretta drew the artwork for the manuals that were enclosed with the ammunition that was produced at the Joliet Arsenal. She is a member of The Second Baptist Church of Joliet, Il.