At the beginning of the TNBC’s fifth annual Women’s Day, a special tribute to the late Coretta Scott King, a Freedom Fighter and wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the highlight of the morning. In Atlanta, Georgia, home of the Civil Rights movement, a sea of red shirts filled the hotel ballroom as TNBC delegates observed Women’s Day with inspiring speeches, recognitions and a special luncheon. View more photos from this event.
“The reason for organizing this group of strong black women is to mentor and educate each other. To give women an opportunity to let the men know we are also involved in the TNBC,” said Ferline Buie, Teamsters International Vice President and President of Joint Council 55 in Washington, D.C. “We continue to fight the war on workers, and we’re working hand and hand with our brothers.”
The crowd was greeted by Willie (W.C.) Smith, President of Local 891 in Jackson, Miss. “I love to be here, this is one of my favorite events to visit,” Smith said. “General President Hoffa wanted me to let you all know to keep up the good work and to not give up. There is a war on workers out there, so we must continue to fight and give our all.
“Most importantly, I saw a brother today in a long-sleeve shirt. On one sleeve, it said ‘accountable.’ The other sleeve said ‘education.’ So let’s be accountable for our actions and educate our youth,” Smith said.
Smith discussed the James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund and encouraged the delegates and members in attendance to get an application in the hands of their children and grandchildren because there is money available to assist in their college education.
The TNBC Conference is integral in the union’s mission to educate coming generations to continue to fight the good fight. As word gets out about the conference, new Teamsters are welcomed each year.
“I’ve been a Teamster member for 15 years. I wish I had known about the TNBC 10 years ago,” said Melissa Spaulding, who is a proud Teamster member. “This is my fifth year in attendance. The importance of the TNBC Conference is to inform the youth of exactly who the Teamsters are, and what we do.”
“We are in the right place at the right time,” said Al Mixon, TNBC Chairman and International Vice President. “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Dr. King delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Did we know we would be in Atlanta, Georgia, this time last year? No, it was all in God’s plan,” Mixon said.
A rose ceremony took place for all the women holding a position within the Teamsters. They were each given a rose in memory of Coretta Scott King.
The keynote speaker for the morning was Xernona Clayton, who is founder, president and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, who set the tone of the day for all in the room.
Clayton, who helped desegregate Atlanta hospitals in 1966, has a sense of humor as well as a long list of accomplishments. She worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and traveled extensively with Coretta Scott King on her nationwide concert tours. It touched everyone in the room to hear the story of Dr. King’s last day at home before travelling to Memphis. His children begged him not to go, unaware it would be their last time seeing him.
Clayton told the audience of how strong Mrs. King was when she first heard of her husband’s death, saying “Not one tear dropped. Not only was that because of her strength, courage and dignity, but also her faith in God. That kept her going through this tragic time.”
Jack Curran, Director of Organizing in the Eastern Region, announced the victories of the port and school bus campaigns, which have resulted in organizing 35,000 new members at more than 300 job sites and 120 locals.
More than 600 parking workers in Boston were organized through card-check recognition with three companies. Curran also mentioned that waste workers in San Diego voted overwhelmingly to join the Teamsters. Recent Seattle campaigns include workers at ports, airports and taxi companies.
East African immigrants are the fastest growing group of workers and he talked about why the Teamsters was the right labor union for them.
Clara Day’s Luncheon
Jacqueline Wilson, Eula Mae Cleveland and Lisa Mack were recognized at this year’s Clara Day luncheon. They are Freedom Fighters and Teamsters who are no longer with us and were recognized for their hard work and dedication to the union.
In her presentation on health and wellness, Carmen Jackson gave great tips on diabetes awareness, encouraging the attendees to get more active and eat healthier.
Dr. Shirley Ann Browne, an Atlanta native and minister at Antioch-Lithonia Missionary Baptist Church, was the keynote speaker for the luncheon. “God is in control…Trust Him!” she said.
While TNBC Conference attendees wore red, Browne talked about why red is the color of courage. Red was the color worn by all the women at the conference as well as the leaders, members and guests in attendance. “It’s an intense color. Determination and obedience is the true meaning of the color red,” she said.
“The power of this organization faces the issues of black men and women in the workplace as well as the community,” Browne said. “Real leaderships can be found in suits, skirts, blouses and pants. The cycle of complacency has been broken because of the inspiration of Teamster women. Those who do not know their past can mistakenly repeat the past,” Browne said.
Browne reminded her audience that Coretta Scott King earned the title, “First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement” because she marched with her husband in nonviolent protests. She encouraged all the Teamster women to make a difference by sharing all their talents and God-given gifts with others. In spite of everything, fighting the good fight must be continued, she said.
“Women should love and embrace each other,” Browne said. “A union is about relationships. To form relationships, we must work in unity.”