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Ambassador Ruth A. Davis Pioneered Diversity in Foreign Service

UC Berkeley Grad Continues to Bring International Economic Empowerment for Women

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Ambassador Ruth A. Davis (left) is meeting with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis was recently named as a distinguished alumna by the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. 

She also has been honored by the U.S. State Department when a conference room at the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia was named in honor of her service as director of the Institute. She was the first African American to serve in that position.

Davis, a graduate of Spelman College received a master’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1968.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, also a graduate of the School of Social Welfare, now chairs the House Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. She praised Ambassador Davis as “a trailblazing leader and one of the great American diplomats of our time. Over her 40-year career, she had so many ‘firsts’ on her resume: the first Black director of the Foreign Service Institute, the first Black woman Director General of the Foreign Service, and the first Black woman to be named a Career Ambassador, to name just a few.

“She served all over the world, from Kinshasa to Tokyo to Barcelona, where she was consul general, and to Benin, where she served as ambassador,” Lee continued. “ I am so proud of her many accomplishments. She has represented the best of America around the world, and our world is a better place because of her service.”

During Davis’ 40-year career in the Foreign Service, she also served as chief of staff in the Africa Bureau, and as distinguished advisor for international affairs at Howard University. She retired in 2009 as a Career Ambassador, the highest-level rank in Foreign Service.

Since her retirement, Ambassador Davis has served as the chair (and a founding member) of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC), an organization devoted to promoting women’s economic empowerment by creating an international network of businesswomen.

She also chairs the selection committee for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship at Howard University’s Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center, where she helps to oversee the annual selection process. Finally, as vice president of the Association of Black American Ambassadors, she participates in activities involving the recruitment, preparation, hiring, retention, mentoring and promotion of minority Foreign Service employees.

Gay Plair Cobb, former Regional Administrator of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor in the Atlanta, and San Francisco offices, was Ambassador Davis’ roommate at UC Berkeley. Cobb said, “Ruth always exhibited outstanding leadership and a determined commitment to fairness, equal opportunity and activism, which we engaged in on a regular basis.”

Davis has received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award, Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award and Equal Employment Opportunity Award; the Secretary of State’s Achievement Award (including from Gen. Colin Powell); the Director General’s Foreign Service Cup; two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards; and Honorary Doctor of Laws from Middlebury and Spelman Colleges.

A native of Atlanta, Davis was recently named to the Economist’s 2015 Global Diversity List as one of the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life and is the recipient of the American Foreign Service Association’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

Bay Area

Chris Jones, Candidate for Arkansas Governor, to Visit Oakland

A newcomer to politics, Jones, 44, said he had been turned off by the political divisions and chaos of the past few years. Dr. Chris Jones, former head of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, a nonprofit organization based in North Little Rock, has received wide acceptance by Arkansans with recent endorsement by prominent citizens of Arkansas.

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Dr. Chris Jones. Facebook photo.
Dr. Chris Jones. Facebook photo.

Dr. Chris Jones, former head of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, a nonprofit organization based in North Little Rock, is running for governor of the state as a Democrat in the 2022 race. A newcomer to politics, Jones, 44, said he had been turned off by the political divisions and chaos of the past few years. Jones has received wide acceptance by Arkansans with recent endorsement by prominent citizens of Arkansas.

“Our campaign is about lifting people up and building a fair Arkansas so there are opportunities for all of us,” he said, adding that “the reality of this moment in our nation’s history is that if we want our politics to be different, we have to be different.”

An ordained minister, Jones will appear at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, 1188 12th St., Oakland on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. The luncheon is from 11:00-2:00 p.m.

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Activism

Meet the Woman Who Spearheaded Equity, Inclusion in the Business World

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses. “We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” said Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

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Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)
Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)

By Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, has been creating change for Black people and other minorities long before she started consulting.

In an interview last Wednesday at her office in downtown Oakland, Ramsey said she first worked on easing racial conflict by serving on the student relations council in high school. The goal was to integrate the lunchroom in a school that consisted of 80% white students and 20% Black students.

Ramsey went on to get a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and has been operating Mason Tillman Associates since starting it in 1978. Her firm’s name is a combination of Ramsey’s maiden name, Mason, and Tillman, a last name by which her husband was known.

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses.

“We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” Ramsey said, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

Mason Tillman Associates’ statistical research has revealed institutional practices systemically limiting minority businesses’ access to public contracts.

The company’s disparity study research and policy recommendations have helped identify and modify governments’ practices. Consequently, billions of dollars have been distributed more fairly in over 150 cities, counties, and states since 1978, she said. For example, New York State’s current minority business law is predicated on a Mason Tillman disparity study.

Oakland officials were at first reluctant to release a disparity study for their city, causing an outcry from the Black community. The study — kicked off by Ramsey’s firm — was eventually released in November 2020. Mason Tillman Associates plans to update it following a year of talks.

The company is also credited with preparing the nation’s first competitive disparity study, which was done for Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1990.

Disparity studies aren’t just the right thing to do, they’re the law. Following a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson, disparity studies must be prepared to document the need for awarding contracts to minorities. Lawmakers can no longer give preference to minorities without evidence from a study.

Ramsey suspects 300 to 400 studies have been conducted since the SCOTUS decision.

She has also been at the forefront of breaking through ceilings for businesswomen.

“The notion of the glass ceiling was very real,” she said, adding that for Black women, the ceiling was made of “concrete.”

Starting Mason Tillman Associates gave her an occupation when doors were closed for Black women following her attempt to become a university professor, she said.

“You walked a fine line,” said Ramsey.

Women could not come off as too intelligent without offending men. She refined the art of levity to make people feel comfortable.

Before Mason Tillman Associates, Ramsey worked as a flight attendant for the now-defunct yet iconic Pan American Airways. She was the second Black female flight attendant to be hired by Pan Am, which was the only international carrier in the U.S. in the 1960s. Pan Am was known for its stewardesses — now called flight attendants, another positive change for women in the workforce.

Ramsey managed to earn her doctorate in 1977 while raising six children. Then she applied for jobs as a professor and neither UC Berkeley nor the University of Colorado Boulder would hire her. Society wasn’t ready for a Black female professor, she said.

Her experience has taken her on some interesting journeys. While living in Boulder, she secured a contract with the National Park Service to investigate whether Wilberforce, Ohio, was once part of the underground railroad. That, she said, was the start of her consulting business.

Since starting Mason Tillman Associates 44 years ago, Ramsey has trained many professionals in the company’s Oakland headquarters. The firm continues to help redefine managers’ views of Black businesses in agencies nationwide.

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Bay Area

IN MEMORIAM: Mary Agnes English Sparrow, 102

On Sept. 10, 2022, Mary departed this life surrounded by loved ones. She will always be remembered for her big, caring heart. Mary’s unconditional love will truly be missed by all. She was a giver, and Proverbs 18:16 tells us “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

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Mary Agnes English Sparrow.
Mary Agnes English Sparrow.

Mary Agnes English Sparrow was born in Beaumont, Texas, April 3, 1920. She graduated from Prairie View College, in Prairie View, Texas with a degree in Social Services 1941, but her passion was teaching. Mary followed that passion by teaching special education in Texas for 10 years.

Mary moved to Alameda, California in 1952 and was a very active member of the community. She continued her passion of teaching Special Education at Donald D. Lum Elementary School and Paden Elementary School, in Alameda for 22 years.

Mary raised her three children in Alameda. Her two sons, Frazier Sparrow II and Steven Sparrow, preceded her in death. Her daughter, Pamela Sparrow Lewis is an active community member.

Mary’s hobbies were gardening, reading, attending plays, musicals, making wonderful hamburgers and delicious lemon pies. Mary had a love for people and took in so many family members.

Sunday, April 5, 2020, about 200 of Mary’s near and dear family and friends had planned to celebrate her 100th birthday, at the Albert H. DeWitt Officers’ Club. The family had planned a day fit a queen! But the COVID virus shutdown interrupted those plans. Mary was so looking forward to that celebration.

On Sept. 10, 2022, Mary departed this life surrounded by loved ones. She will always be remembered for her big, caring heart. Mary’s unconditional love will truly be missed by all. She was a giver, and Proverbs 18:16 tells us “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

Homegoing services for Mary were held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, at Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home, Crematory & Columbarium, 4499 Piedmont Avenue Oakland, CA 94611.

A recording of the livestreamed service can be viewed from this link:

http://webcast.funeralvue.com/events/viewer/78590/hash:6B7BC20DBA2851F3

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