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Senior advocate continues legacy of love and service

NNPA NEWSWIRE — For 35 years, Ruth Tate directed the activities, special events, bus excursions, and even a trip to Europe for senior participants. Tate is now director emeritus. Even at the age of 87, not too much goes on without her input. But on May 1, the staff of the Ruth Tate Center did something about that.

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By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

It’s hard to surprise a woman like Ruth Tate, especially at the Ruth Tate Senior Center in South Memphis.

For 35 years, she directed the activities, special events, bus excursions, and even a trip to Europe for senior participants. Tate is now director emeritus. Even at the age of 87, not too much goes on without her input. But on May 1, the staff of the Ruth Tate Center did something about that.

“Ms. Tate started the senior center. She was honored some years back, and the center was named after her,” said Alton Edwards, president of the Ruth Tate Council at the center. “We thought it would be a great idea to surprise Ms. Tate on her birthday with a party!”

Edwards and the other seniors pulled off the near-Herculean feat of keeping the party under wraps during the careful planning and execution of one of the year’s most highly-anticipated events.

“Over the years, Ms. Tate has helped so many families,” said Crystal Conley, the acting director for the center. “It is so important for seniors to stay actively engaged in socializing with their peers and being a part of a social network. The center is an important outlet, an extension of the family.

“Keeping seniors active and happy contributes to longevity and enhances the quality of life,” Conley continued. “So many seniors and their families over the years owe so much to the work of Ms. Tate.”

Even after 35 years as director of the center, Tate still spends most of her days there at the senior complex. She remembers the surprise party as one of her brightest and most memorable days.

“They really got me that time because I was truly surprised,” she said. “It was such a wonderful day, and I just felt very special and honored for them to remember my birthday like that.

“So many people were there who came by to wish me a happy birthday,” she added. “My son from Houston was even there, and that really surprised me. It made me feel good to know that so many people appreciate what I tried to do for seniors.”

The beginning of Ruth Tate Senior Center was an humble one, but the call to lead the project seemed tailor-made for Tate.

“It all started with a study that was done at Memphis State, well, you know, it was Memphis State at the time. We know it’s the University of Memphis now,” said Ms. Tate. “And they said that we needed a senior center in South Memphis because of the large number of seniors who lived in the area.

“It was part of Senior Services, and we started out in the basement of Christ Missionary Baptist Church when Eddie Currie was pastor. Senior Services was giving us $200 a month for rent, but we were told they needed more money. That’s when we asked Dr. Reuben Green over at Central Baptist Church if we could start meeting there. And he said, ‘Come on, Ms. Tate.’ We stayed there until our building was finished. When it was time to move, Dr. Green said, ‘Don’t leave, Ms. Tate.’”

Her love for planning activities and facilitating special events is legendary. The center’s annual Pre-Mother’s Day Luncheon is the big fundraiser, hosting more than 500 participants.

“I asked the Lord to give me something for Mother’s Day that wasn’t sad,” she said. “My own mother died at the age of 32, leaving two small children behind. So, I understand people grieving their mother on Mother’s Day, even when they are seniors. But our luncheon is fun and uplifting. People take their vacation during that time so they can come take their mother to this event. It continues to be the big highlight of our year.”

This director emeritus still has the magic touch. She planned a Father’s Day luncheon at the center, Tuesday, June 11 at 11:30 a.m. Along with the luncheon, was a men’s health conference.

“United Healthcare is sponsoring the health component,” said Conley. “Although the emphasis will be on men, the women are not excluded. We are looking to have a wonderful time celebrating fathers at the luncheon.”

As for Ms. Tate, she plans to stick around indefinitely.

“My doctor said they made a mistake on my birth certificate because I can’t possibly be 87 years old,” she said. “But I say, we are going to keep living and enjoying our life. We’re not going to let age stop us.

“Many of our seniors live alone,” she continued. “It’s no good staying home thinking about all your aches and pains. We spend time at the center. That’s really the secret to staying young.”

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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