- Faith & Family
We are in the early days of the month of March during which we celebrate women’s history. But even as we note the contributions that women have made in the U.S., the question still remains, “are we there yet?”
Though women’s suffrage and civil rights issues have dissipated as “official” causes, some women still suffer inequality, thus calling for the need to continually acknowledge the accomplishments of women. Three Black women here in Miami widely diverse missions give us their perspective on the recurrent need to honor the contribution of women.
Working it out in the State Capitol
Yolanda Cash Jackson is following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Rosa Lee Storr, who raised eight children, was devoted to her church and was a feminist before it was popular.
“She made sure we were in Sunday school each week and despite having just a modest education, left all of her grandchildren money to help them go to school,” she said. “They don’t make them like that anymore.”
Jackson proudly claims Charles Drew Elementary, Edison Middle, Edison Senior High and the University of Florida as her alma maters. She works as lobbyist and is the first Black to serve on the managerial committee of Becker & Poliakoff. While her national clients include the likes of AT&T and Sunshine State Health Plan, she is equally proud to represent several Florida Black colleges: Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Memorial University (FMU) and Edward Waters College.
Having spent the majority of her life in a male-dominated industry, she says, “We’re certainly not there yet.”
“The number of women [lobbyists] are so few that everyone knows who we are — perhaps there are dozen in total. But I have been lucky to have some great mentors like Congresswoman State Senator Arthenia Joyner and Black female litigators in Tampa, as professional and political mentors.”
The master builder
Ann McNeill, whose construction company MCO exceeds billings of $110 million, agrees that women still have a long way to go. She founded the National Association of Black Women in Construction and the International Master Mind Association, owns a tax franchise and Constructively Speaking, Inc. — a motivational speaking company. Her company has contributed to Miami’s landscape in profound ways including Miami International Airport and the Adrienne Arsht Center.
“Changing our [women] mindset, will help us overcome any barriers — real or imagined. My goal is to encourage women and girls to make the mindset shift.”
McNeill attributes her success to several female role models.
“Susie C. Holly for whom the religion building at FMU was named would ride the train throughout the County to collect coins to help FMU remain open,” she said. “I watched Dr. Dorothy Height grow Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the National Council of Negro Women to new heights. Locally, Athalie Range was a daily example of what women could be and do.”
Communication is the key for Armstrong
DaVenya Armstrong is the president and senior consultant for Armstrong Creative Consulting, Inc. — a communications firm specializing in community outreach, public relations and branding. In her highest grossing year the company topped $350,000 with clients that include: The Children’s Trust, The Miami-Dade Housing Authority, NBA star James Jones and five successful political campaigns.
“I have spent my entire life paying tribute to the women who have inspired and guided me and whose call it is to inform, educate and empower others while having fun at the same time,” she said. “I’m a single mother, mentor for girls and a community advocate and embrace women’s history on a daily basis.”
She says her role models as her late mother, Dianne Armstrong who “didn’t allow the word can’t to be part of my vocabulary,” Susan Vodicka, Dr. Ana Price — the first Black mayor of South Miami and Jacqui Colyer.
Each of the women above agree that while progress has been made, that women still lag behind in terms of equal pay and more representation in STEM-related careers.
By Tanya Jackson
Miami Times writer