Those are the words of one of my sheroes — Dr. Dorothy I. Height, civil rights icon, chairperson and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., based in Washington, D.C. The only black organization to own a building on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capitol, I might add (and to owe not a dime on it, I might add!). That building of course is named after Dr. Dorothy Irene Height…
These are the words she spoke from the cover of her autobiography that chronicles her incredible life…
These are the words that at 93 years of age, she still lives by! Jena Roscoe, my government relations chief in D.C. (that is Jena’s mom, Dr. Roscoe, there in the photo with us at the event), and I attended Dr. Height’s 93rd birthday gala dinner — with more than 600 of her closest friends (smile), on Thursday, March 24th, 2005.
I was proud to come in town just for the occasion. Dr. Height is worth that, and more.
They honored famed singer Nancy Wilson on this evening, and deservingly so, …but there was no doubt — Dr. Height was the star of this show!
I have spoken about her on these pages before, but let me now say more…
Dr. Height is a graduate of New York University, just like my sweetie, and later Columbia University. While working for the New York Welfare Department, she was the first black named to deal with the Harlem riots of 1935 (that’s 1935 folks!!!), and became one of the young leaders of the National Youth Movement of the New Deal era. But it was November 7th, 1937, that was the turning point in the life of Dorothy Height. Dr. Height was serving as the assistant director of the Harlem YWCA. Mary McLeod Bethune, founder and president of the National Council of Negro Women, noticed Height who was escorting Eleanor Roosevelt into a NCNW meeting. Dr. Height answered Mrs. Bethune’s call for help and joined Bethune in her quest for women’s rights to full and equal employment, pay and education. Well, the rest is history — literally.
My favorite story about Dr. Height is a little known one. During the famed March on Washington in 1963, the organizers of the march had not made a determination that Dr. King would speak. After the event had almost concluded Dr. Height stood up and suggested in strong but loving terms to the organizer’s that Dr. King had an authentic and important voice…and he should speak. "The young people listen to him, " I understood she said… Well, Dr. King did speak. He was the last to speak, and no one will ever be the same.
Thank you Dr. Height for always doing the right thing, without seeking personal credit for it. We love you. ….I love you. See you April 12th, 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia Dr. Dorothy Irene Height. You are one bad sista (smile)!
Amongst her many, many awards and citations, on March 24th, 2004, Dr. Height, on her 92nd birthday, was presented the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian and most distinguished award presented by the United States Congress to any citizen.
Onward, with HOPE