March 26, 2007
Planted flowers bloom
Mozella Galloway is an Information Analyst at the School of Medicine and co-founder of the National Black Herstory Task Force.
Eleven years ago, a work study student assigned to assist me in the financial aid department became puzzled when I began describing how much I loved my job at Emory, and that for me working in academia was a true blessing. I had made a career change earlier that led me to Atlanta and Emory. She could not understand how I could be content after giving up a position in marketing and sales with the Quaker Oats Company that included benefits like a company car and lots of travel to, in her words, “download data files and shuffle loads of papers all day.” I tried to explain that in addition to my love of computers, working at Emory provided intangible benefits.
On campus I was able to roam through multiple libraries and read numerous biographies. Quarterly, I was able to attend free lectures and wonderful concerts by some of the world’s most talented people. For the first time in years, I had found time to resume my practice of writing in my journals and attend church on a semi-regular basis. In addition, I felt wonderful residing in a city known for its successful black populations and multicultural entertainment. All in all working in academia and living in Atlanta was a kind of utopia for a woman like me.
Never could I have imagined that the best was yet to come. To my surprise, another completely unexpected benefit sprung from my association with Emory. After numerous discussions with a friend and solid advice from associates on campus, the seeds were planted for what has now become one of the most important projects I have ever undertaken.
In 1997, I co-founded the National Black Herstory Task Force, a nonprofit cultural and educational organization providing vehicles to celebrate and chronicle the lives of women of African descent and their alliances worldwide. The organization grew from seven good friends to 30 devoted volunteers within three months, and we found ourselves scrabbling for affordable space to meet. We would gather in the Quad, in the hospital cafeteria, staff offices after hours or our favorite place — the White Hall lobby sitting areas. Somehow, Ali Crown, the director of the Center for Women, learned about our group’s plight and invited us to start meeting at the center.
For many years most board meetings or fall receptions were held with welcoming arms at the center’s doublewide trailer. In 2000, the United States President’s Commission on the Celebration of Women in America presented a Presidential Commission Certificate of Recognition to the NBHTF for developing ways to best acknowledge and celebrate the roles and accomplishments of women in American history.
Another seven years have passed and the NBHTF is growing out of the incubation period. The NBHTF board and membership has grown, and the future looks very promising with plans for a research library and cultural center. A special thanks to the faculty and students of the Geographic Information System and Architecture
Program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who are busily designing the plans for a permanent home for the NBHTF.
Looking back, the odds of building such an organization on a shoestring budget would have been almost impossible. Thanks to the nurturing spirit of Emory and the advice and affirmation of people like Leroy Davis, Johnnetta Cole, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Reverend Susan Henry Crowe, Luther Felder, Frances Smith Foster, student volunteers and Emory administration and the belief and dedication of Shelia Worthy, the seeds we planted have grown strong roots.
One of my favorite quotes by Mary Engelbreit has provided me with a ready answer for anyone who asks why I am at Emory. She wrote: “Bloom where you are planted.” The NBHTF and I have done this and now the flowers are visible across the country.