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IN MEMORIAM: Celebrating Wenefrett P. Watson

Her greatest contribution was as a parent to James, a father and successful actor, Cynthia, a mother and contributor of many social and political events, Janet, a dedicated daughter who assisted her in the travel agency, Geoffrey, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a father and a dedicated and revered physician and Gary, an entertainment lawyer in Hollywood. As a world traveler, Wene invited and hosted international exchange students in her home to educate them and her children about the world.

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Wenefrett P. Watson will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery on Friday, November 26, 2021, with services held at the Church By the Side Of the Road, 2108 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA at 1:00 P.M. (COVID-19 Protocols Observed). For more details and in-person/Zoom registration go to www.CBSOR.org/announcements.
Wenefrett P. Watson will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery on Friday, November 26, 2021, with services held at the Church By the Side Of the Road, 2108 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA at 1:00 P.M. (COVID-19 Protocols Observed). For more details and in-person/Zoom registration go to www.CBSOR.org/announcements.

October 29, 1921- November 9, 2021

Wenefrett P. Watson, Wene, born in Marshall Texas, October 29, 1921, graduated from Bishop College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She went on to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles securing a degree in Library Sciences (the same university where her daughter, Cynthia went on to become the first African American “Helen of Troy” at the Rose Bowl Parade). Ambitious and wanting to expand her horizons, Wene applied for and received, sight-unseen, a position with the Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. Exposed to a bright life in Harlem, New York, she met powerful Black artists. They inspired her. In Los Angeles, on a dare, she sang for Duke Ellington and was shocked when “The Duke” offered her the gig of going on the road with his band.

In Washington D. C., she met Dr. James A. Watson at Howard University. While he expanded his medical practice, they married and started a family. In those early days, with a new husband and three young children, Wene, like most young mothers, was somewhat overwhelmed. Suddenly, her life was much different, compared to the slower and much more sheltered life she had known in Marshall Texas.

Spontaneous and zestful, she enjoyed entertaining friends at home. She liked to play cards, dance and go to the movies. When the good doctor wasn’t available, she would get a babysitter and sneak out to take her six-year-old son, James Jr.), to the movies! She visited with her friend, Jackie and Mrs. Robison, while Jackie was training at Howard University. As a kindness, Jackie taught James Jr. to swim! Jackie, Mrs. Robinson, and Wene had been friends during their shared college years, Wene at USC, while they were at UCLA.

After eight years in Washington D.C., the Watsons traveled to California, where Dr. Watson was a Captain and chief of staff at Edwards Airforce Base hospital. Meeting surgeon Doctor Robert Taylor and Mrs. Estella Taylor, the Watsons moved to Oakland where Dr. Watson helped to build a large medical practice at the Arlington Medical Center with Dr. Taylor and Dr. Benjamin Majors. Dr. Watson’s son, Dr. Henry Geoffrey Watson, now runs the center, serving the Oakland and Berkeley communities.

Most people know Wenefrett for her many notable, social and civic contributions in Oakland. With five children, James, Cynthia, Janet, Geoffrey and Gary, Wenefrett Watson was actively involved with five PTA organizations! Next was her involvement with the Links, Incorporated, an upper-middle class organization that networks their resources to look out for Black families who need support within the commonwealth, highlighting the education and social grace of young girls growing into young women. Eventually she became president of the Oakland Bay Area Chapter of the Links, Incorporated.

During her membership, Wene chaired the Links’ annual grand event which is the debutant ball. This event announces the “coming-out” of these young girls becoming young adults, ready to give back to the community. Simultaneous to these activities, Wene worked with the Oakland Bay Area Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. organization to make sure her five kids, their friends, and all Black preteen children enjoy socially appropriate activities like dances, hayrides, summer camp, going to the ballet and other fun activities. She was also the founder and president of the San Francisco Chapter of The Smart Set.

In time, she worked with city officials to help Oakland partner with Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana in 1975 as a sister city. Supporting the direction of the city, she and her husband mentored Mayors Redding and Wilson, helping them to get elected. She was appointed to the Oakland Museum Commission and made serious contributions to its development. Wene supported the arts and organized “The Black Filmmaker’s Hall of Fame Awards” at the Paramount Theater in February 1977.

As a working actor in Hollywood, James Watson, her eldest son, was a co-host with Diahann Carroll. This event propelled the NAACP to begin the Image Awards. In 1984, Wene began and ran WenTravel Agency for eleven years. She worked with many large corporations creating jobs and generating wonderful experiences as well as providing a service. She and her husband traveled the world many times and brought back much enlightenment from their exciting travel. Continuing her many works, Wene served with the NAACP and the YMCA. She continued to support political candidates for the city and state. She met Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, twice!

Her greatest contribution was as a parent to James, a father and successful actor, Cynthia, a mother and contributor of many social and political events, Janet, a dedicated daughter who assisted her in the travel agency, Geoffrey, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a father and a dedicated and revered physician and Gary, an entertainment lawyer in Hollywood. As a world traveler, Wene invited and hosted international exchange students in her home to educate them and her children about the world.

People who knew Wene enjoyed her sparkling humor and joy for life. Friends and strangers alike, also could find themselves on the short end of her very candid rebuke or opinion. She was an honest and direct person when she spoke to you. Wene Watson was a bright and gregarious woman. Everyone who knew here felt better about themselves because of her. She was a devoted wife and mother. In the film “It’s A wonderful Life”, Jimmy Stewart’s character wonders if being born made any difference or gave anyone value. To everyone who knew Wenefrett Watson, imagine that she had not been in your life. Her value is in the love and appreciation you feel when you think of her. Thank God she was here.

Wene is survived by three sons and a daughter, James Watson, Cynthia Arnold (Larkin), Henry Geoffrey Watson (Carolyn), and Gary Watson. She is also survived by five grandchildren, Catherine (Max), Sara, Bryan, Angela, and Richard, and two great grandchildren and a niece and nephew, Jackie Jackson (Warren) and Wendell Phillips, along with a myriad of other family members, loved ones, and many friends. Wene was preceded in her heavenly journey by her husband James A. Watson, M.D., daughter Janet Watson David, her granddaughter Tiffany Washington (Cynthia) and her grandson Henry Geoffrey Watson, II (Geoffrey & Carolyn).

Wenefrett P. Watson will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery on Friday, November 26, 2021, with services held at the Church By the Side Of the Road, 2108 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA at 1:00 P.M. (COVID-19 Protocols Observed). For more details and in-person/Zoom registration go to www.CBSOR.org/announcements.

Activism

Collaboration Key to Anti-Trafficking Efforts

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

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Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.
Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.

Local work t stop human exploitation coordinated through DA’s Office

Courtesy of Marin County

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Bay region and San Francisco are among the top sex trafficking areas in the United States. As the co-chair organization of the Marin County Coalition to End Human Trafficking (MCCEHT), the Marin County District Attorney’s Office is addressing the problem and working with partnering nonprofits and agencies to increase public awareness, prosecute those who commit the crimes, and put a halt to all types of slavery.

On Jan. 11, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to proclaim the month of January as National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Jan. 11 happened to be Human Trafficking Awareness Day as well. Video of the presentation is on the County website (skip ahead to agenda item #4, Consent Calendar A).

The DA’s staff has worked closely with key stakeholders to make sure the red-flag warnings of human trafficking are widely known, even using advertisements at bus stops to urge people to speak up and report potential exploitation.

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

A new nonprofit created by Capra arose from her community work. SpeakSAFE, with SAFE meaning Save Adolescents from Exploitation, assists with local fundraising for educational efforts and has provided online learning opportunities during the pandemic.

“With our coalition, the DA’s Office [has] been extremely supportive and helpful in partnering on our work and connecting us with law enforcement, service providers and community members,” Capra said. “It really is all hands on deck, and their involvement has been pivotal. Our work has always been a priority with them in supporting our youth.”

Frugoli said human trafficking is difficult to detect and rarely reported. Many victims are moved from county to county or state to state, making the trafficker harder to follow and the victim feel isolated and unfamiliar with surroundings.

“Many victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family,” Frugoli said. “Our coalition’s mission is to develop our regional collaborative approach to end all forms of human trafficking. We’ve focused our efforts on education and outreach advocacy. We have turned several cases over to state and federal authorities because the conduct occurred over multiple jurisdictions.”

Cecilia Zamora, Executive Director of the Latino Council and Co-Chair of MCCEHT, emphasized the need to have the coalition’s work be grounded in multicultural best practices, ensuring that the messaging and resources are shared with our thriving Latino communities across the county.

“We do this,” she said, “by successfully utilizing our nonprofit members as partners in the education and outreach to their own constituents.”

The Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act (AB 1227) became California law in 2017 and provides a basis for localized anti-trafficking work. The MCCEHT Steering Committee meets monthly. MCCEHT’s quarterly online meeting on Jan. 19 will feature guest speaker Antonia Lavine of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking and County Supervisor Judy Arnold. The videoconference begins at 11 a.m., Spanish translation will be provided. Participation details are on the MCCEHT website.

Learn more about local anti-trafficking efforts via the PROTECT website or call the DA’s Office at (415) 473-6450.

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Activism

How the Black Press Told the World About Emmet Till

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

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Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.
Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.

By Brandon Patterson

The story of Emmet Till has made its way back into the news in recent weeks on the heels of a new TV miniseries and new developments at the federal level.

Earlier this month, the historical docuseries “Mothers of the Movement” premiered on ABC. And last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to posthumously award Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Emmett Till’s story remains with us to this day, but lesser known is the role of the Black press in bringing his story to light — and in so doing, helping to catalyze the modern Civil Rights Movement.

One of the earliest news outlets to cover the Till story was the Chicago Defender, at the time one of the most influential Black weekly newspapers in the country, with two-thirds of its readership located outside the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The account of reporter Mattie Smith Colin, who covered the arrival of Till’s body at a local train station, captured the anguish of his mother as she received her son. Then, Jet Magazine became the first news outlet to publish the gruesome photos of Till’s body at his funeral, which his mother insisted be open casket.

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

Later, Booker’s coverage of the Till murder trial for Jet helped bring the trial to a Black and national audience. Other significant Black newspapers that covered the Till story included the Amsterdam News in New York City, which, by the 1960s, was the largest weekly community newspaper in the nation, the Pittsburgh Courier, and the Atlanta Constitution.

Coverage of Till’s story was notably different in Black news outlets compared to mainstream white papers. In the South, coverage was often sympathetic to Till’s murderers, notes researcher Michael Oby in a 2007 paper on the Till case.

Black papers, however, framed the story as an obvious and horrid injustice. At the same time, they began encouraging their Black readers to get involved in civil rights organizing, and to donate to the NAACP, which was central to the Till case.

Booker, who worked for Jet for nearly five decades, went on to receive an award from the National Press Club for his lifelong coverage of civil rights in America in the 1980s. At the award ceremony, according to the Chicago Tribune, he said of his work: “I wanted to fight segregation on the front lines. I wanted to dedicate my writing skills to the cause. Segregation was beating down my people. I volunteered for every assignment and suggested more. I stayed on the road, covering civil rights day and night. The names, the places and the events became history.”

Because of his work and other Black journalists and news outlets, we know the story of Emmet Till, and so many other critical stories.

This story was written using reporting from the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and academic research by Michael Oby at Georgia State University.

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Activism

Foster Care and Sex Trafficking

On the program, experts will share their knowledge about coming into foster care, training for foster parents, and the struggles, successes and triumphs of the children who have experience with the foster care system. For information, contact Laurel Botsford, of Wisdom International: Help2Others at:laurel@wisdominternational.org

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The program is supported by the District Attorney of Marin County and the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.
The program is supported by the District Attorney of Marin County and the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

“The Nexus Between Foster Care and Sex Trafficking” a Zoom program, will be presented on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. by the Rotary Club of Terra Linda and Wisdom International: Help2Others.

On the program, experts will share their knowledge about coming into foster care, training for foster parents, and the struggles, successes and triumphs of the children who have experience with the foster care system.

Lori Frugoli, Marin County district attorney, will give the opening remarks.

The featured speakers are Cari Herthel, a tribal leader and survivor; Doris Gentry, a foster mother; Carly Devlin of the Huckleberry Youth HART Program; John Long of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking; Carletta Jackson-Lane, JD, executive director of the Sojourner Truth Foster Family Service Agency. A representative of the FBI will also be there.

This event is free. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-nexus-between-foster-care-and-sex-trafficking-tickets-248412557647Please join at 2:50 p.m. for a prompt start at 3 p.m.

For information, contact Laurel Botsford, of Wisdom International: Help2Others at:laurel@wisdominternational.org

The program is supported by the District Attorney of Marin County and the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

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