On her 98th birthday, only hours after distinguished members of Congress, celebrities, and dignitaries had gathered to celebrate her birthday, Dr. Dorothy Height was rushed to Howard University Hospital where she still remains in intensive care. I found the news shocking, despite the fact that she is 98 years old.
As a publicist for the Smithsonian Institution, I've had the privilege of working on a most interesting exhibition called Freedom’s Sisters, a nationwide traveling presentation that celebrates 20 African-American women who played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement.
Through my work on this project, I have come to know Dr. Height. But I met her much earlier, in 1999, while participating in the first National Council of Negro Women’s National Oratorical Contest held in Washington, DC. What I remember most about the conference was simply her presence.
Speaking without notes, Dr. Height was able to recall and recount the details of meetings and encounters with Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many other national leaders. This unique historical perspective is what makes her legacy so important. Throughout her lifetime, Dr. Height has worked tirelessly fighting for both civil rights and rights for women in a number of organizations like the National Council of Negro Women and the Young Women’s Christian Association. I feel honored (both then and now) to be a part of anything Dr. Dorothy Height was associated with. Consequently, the day I delivered my speech, I managed to win 1st place.
--Chistin Chism, public relations.
>>Learn about Freedom's Sisters on YouTube!
Image: Dorothy Height at center and Martin Luther King, Jr., at far right. National Park Service; Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site