― Paul the Apostle
Over the past few months we have weathered the storms of various legal battles, wars, civil unrest, extreme acts of violence, hate and racism, in addition to our daily stressors and challenges. It has been a lot to process. And in the midst of it all, we are somehow expected to conduct ourselves as if it’s business as usual. The reality is that we’re human, and this level of trauma, whether we’re experiencing it on a primary or secondary basis, is a lot to bear.
I just want to leave a few words with you that get me through challenging times: “Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6-7) This sage advice from Paul the Apostle reminds me that many of the things that make me anxious are outside of my control and that remaining in a place of anxiety and worry doesn’t help me resolve them. The best thing that I can do is to make my requests known to God and leave them there. There is no quick fix for the tumultuous terrain that we are navigating these days, but I want to remind you that you are not walking through this season alone.
Many of the things taking place these days are difficult to stomach and to witness. We often can’t fix them, which makes them all the more disturbing. However, not being able to fix them is OK; that’s not your job. Give yourself the liberty of leaving these worries and anxieties at the feet of someone who can.
― Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune
Growing up, my hero, apart from my mother and grandmother, was Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. She was a trailblazer in the field of educational advocacy for Black children in her era. She understood the power of education and committed her life to creating academic opportunity and civic empowerment for Black youth. She used her vision to change countless lives. I think what impressed me the most about her was that she was undeterred by the views or prejudices of others.
She was an educator, civil rights pioneer, political strategist, college president, hospital administrator, social activist, presidential cabinet member, philanthropist, and missionary, among other things. Despite growing up in abject poverty, having her education withheld from her because of the color of her skin, being rejected by potential employers because of her ethnicity and countless other hurdles, she refused to be limited by others or placed in a box. And she refused to accept the limitations others tried to place on her community and what they could achieve.
Ultimately, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune had faith--an unrelenting, unchanging, supernatural faith, even when things were bleak. Today, we need to look to women of faith like Dr. McLeod Bethune for guidance and inspiration. She believed that no matter how desolate the night, joy would come in the morning. And it did for her and the scores of lives she changed. And it will for us.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was born in 1875 in a small log cabin on a rice and cotton farm in South Carolina. She was the fifteenth of seventeen children born to Sam and Patsy (McIntosh) McLeod, both former slaves.
Her parents wanted to be independent, so they sacrificed to buy a farm for the family. As a child, Dr. McLeod Bethune observed that the only difference between herself and white children was the ability to read and write. She set out to change that by learning as much as she could.
When Dr. McLeod Bethune began attending her town’s one-room schoolhouse for Black children; she was the only child in her family to attend school. She would go home from school each day and teach her family what she had learned each day.
Dr. McLeod Bethune attended Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) and later Dwight L. Moody's Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago (now the Moody Bible Institute), hoping to become a missionary in Africa. However, she was told that Black missionaries were not needed.
Dr. McLeod Bethune and her husband Albertus Bethune married in 1898. Together they had a son named Albert.
Dr. Bethune started the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training Institute for Negro Girls in 1904 with $1.50, vision, an entrepreneurial mindset, resilience, and faith in God. She created “pencils” from charred wood, ink from elderberries, and mattresses from moss-stuffed corn sacks. Her first students were five little girls and her five-year-old son, Albert Jr. In less than two years, the school grew to 250 students. Recognizing the health disparities and lack of medical treatment available to African Americans in Daytona Beach, she also founded the Mary McLeod Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which at the time was the only school of its kind that served African American women on the East coast.
Daytona Institute would continue to increase in popularity, and merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida in 1923 and became Bethune-Cookman College.
Tireless, talented and committed to service, Dr. Bethune held leadership positions in several prominent organizations even while also leading her school. In 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women, which would become a highly influential organization with a clear civil rights agenda.
She was appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the National Youth Administration in 1936. By 1939 she was the organization’s Director of Negro Affairs, which oversaw the training of tens of thousands of Black youth. She was the only female member of President Roosevelt’s influential “Black Cabinet.” She leveraged her close friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to lobby for integrating the Civilian Pilot Training Program and to bring the Program to the campuses of historically Black colleges and universities, which became the alma maters of some of the first Black pilots in the country.
This text is excerpted from: https://www.cookman.edu/history/our-founder.html and
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_McLeod_Bethune. To read more about Dr. McLeod Bethune’s life and legacy, visit those websites, as well as: https://www.biola.edu/talbot/ce20/database/mary-mcleod-bethune. To view footage and hear one of her most notable speeches, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npy6NFFahes and