Oldest Living African-American Alum Praises UC s African American Cultural and Research Center
If you ever travel across Ghana, your first stop is at the Queen Mothers house, says P. Eric Abercrumbie, director of Ethnic Programs & Services and the AACRC. It is the epitome of what were culturally about as a people. This is the third official time that our Queen Mother has come.
Re-enacting the official opening of the AACRC (which played simultaneously on a television near the door through the miracle of technology), Ms. Beasley entered the room to exuberant applause. As Eric Abercrumbie explains, when the AACRC opened in 1991, it was important that the first feet over the threshold be black feet.
Not the university president, not city council, says Abercrumbie. We said Not them first the Queen Mother first!
When Abercrumbie found out that Ms. Beasleys greatest wish was to see her own mother, he obtained photographs of her and rededicated a wall in the AACRC to Ms. Beasleys mother. Now as she gazed upon the images of her mother, many people honored UC's Queen Mother, Georgia E. Beasley.
When Georgia Elizabeth Beasley graduated from the University of Cincinnati, she walked alone. Being the only African-American student at the time, she was asked to walk in separately from the white students.
I wouldnt walk in front or in back, said Ms. Beasley. And they didnt want me in front, I dont think. They put me in the middle. And everyone could see I was all alone.
She may have walked alone that day in 1925, but only in a literal sense. Every step of the way, her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority was with her, watching over her. And they were with her in 2004, as she returned to the AACRC for a jubilant celebration of her life.
Shes part of the history of the sorority, said Grace Daniels, of the Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
After her warm welcome and a prayer, Ms. Beasley was celebrated in a ceremonial libation, performed by Abercrumbie. As he poured water from high in a vase, he called upon the ancestors.
"Mothers of our mothers, fathers of our fathers, render mercy and justice for all and a special libation for the Queen Mother!
Ms. Beasley was shown the newly exhibited photograph of her mother. Many testimonials were given, talking about Ms. Beasleys life and the effect her living had on others lives.
Nicole Smith, president of the United Black Students Association, recounted the beginning of Ms. Beasleys life at UC. After graduating in 1921 from Withrow High School, Ms. Beasley won the first Alpha Kappa Alpha scholarship to UC. (The scholarship was for $25.) She was one of the first inductees into the Omicron chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (and has served the sorority for more than 80 years at both the local and national level).
After graduating from UC in 1925 with a bachelors degree in home economics, Ms. Beasley went on to Columbia University in New York and earned her masters in art education. Her cousin established the Georgia E. Beasley scholarship at UC, administered through the Darwin T. Turner fund.
One recipient of the Beasley scholarship, Leisan Smith, now a vice principal of a charter school, told the crowd how Ms. Beasley inspired her to receive a bachelors degree in communications and a masters degree in education for herself. After the ceremonies, Smith commented that just knowing about what Beasley had gone through, how she was able to go to the University of Cincinnati and come out with a degree in the times that she was in was a deep motivator.
And looking at how we dont have it as bad now that was definitely something that stayed in my mind to keep me moving forward toward my degree.
Smith is the assistant administrator for Life Center School on Gilbert, a public charter school geared toward students between the ages of 16 and 22. It gives students another opportunity to go back to high school who may not have done too well at their first high school, says Smith. I think just in my career and in my community service organizations I want to make a difference in any way that that might be whether in a small amount or on a larger scale.
Bleuzette Marshall, director of development for the UC Foundation, Student Affairs, thanked Ms. Beasley for being a trail blazer at UC, and for being an inspiration especially to the students present.
Thank you for your zest and your zeal for education, said Marshall. If you could do it in 1925, surely they can do it in 2005.
Besides her special relationship with her students over the years, Ms Beasley also forged special relationships with artists and musicians. It was to Ms. Beasley that Ralph Corbett went calling when he wanted an entrée to Marian Anderson. And Ms. Beasley introduced Corbett to Anderson in her own home.
Marian Anderson was one of the outstanding singers of our time and one of the first to go to Europe, said Ms. Beasley. I met her when we were 9 or 10 years old, and I was with her just before the time she parted from this world.
While some in the room might have heard of Marian Anderson and now knew that she was a famous singer, many might not have realized the trails that she, herself, had blazed. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) prohibited Anderson from singing in their Washington DC auditorium because she was an African American. Then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned in protest from the organization and furthermore arranged for Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 75,000 people heard Anderson sing that day far more than would have been able to fit in the elitist DAR auditorium.
After all the testimonials, Abercrumbie reassured Ms. Beasley with words that all gathered needed to hear for themselves: Your homegoing will be reflective of your whole life.
Finally, the Queen Mother could contain herself no longer.
May I take one minute or two? she asked. I want to tell you how happy I am that God has let me live long enough to come back to this place. She reflected on the 1991 opening of the AACRC. It was wonderful then and its wonderful now. Always be proud that you had the opportunity to work in this place.
Ms. Georgia E. Beasleys Words of Wisdom:
- I was perfectly satisfied to fight my way if I had to. If I was supposed to be someplace I was.
- I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go and I just did it. If you want to do something just do it!
- Let the person who would oppose you know that you will not stand for it.
- First you have to be right, then demand by your actions to be treated right.
- You dont have to feel inferior. Dont let anyone make you be inferior. Youre as good as anybody. Then whore you going to apologize to? Nobody!
- When youre traveling, let everybody in the group know what youre interested in and be part of the group. You dont have to be different.
- Make this world be one where we can do things together. Were living in this world together. Of course you have to be true to your own group, but you can also learn from others.
- You are an example for someone else coming along. You have that responsibility to future generations and that opportunity. Take advantage of that. Youre not going to get it everywhere, and youve got the best here.