A Message From The President

February 2021

When day comes, we ask ourselves,
Where can we find the light in this never-ending shade? …
The new dawn blooms as we free it –
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it;
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Obviously, not my own words – if only I could be so eloquent!  But these words are illustrative of the point of my comments this month.  First, January turned out to be a little different than expected – a bright, shiny new month in a hopeful new year tarnished on day 6 by the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol.  Yet it ended on a much higher note with the peaceful and emotional inauguration of our 46th President and record-shattering FEMALE Vice President – and the recitation of Amanda Gorman’s unbelievably moving poem.

To me, her call to be the light comes at a pivotal moment within Athena.  I have had several members tell me recently that this is the time for Athena to become more proactive, and I agree.  The three speakers in our January program provided some bigger ideas on how to do that, with Lorna Taylor describing actions she’s taken within her business, Jan Roberts talking about steps taken towards reparations in various locales, and our guest speaker, Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, describing the inclusion efforts of USF.  Additionally, just this weekend, Linda Saul-Sena arranged for various members to take one of two walking tours of University Area CDC, with its executive director, Sarah Combs, where we saw the challenges as well as CDC’s accomplishments in this sometimes forgotten area in Tampa, and learned of a number of ways we might be able to assist them.

This theme continues with what’s scheduled in February.  We are thrilled to have Gilbert King, author of Devil in the Grove and Beneath a Ruthless Sun, speaking at our February meeting.  King attended USF, and both of these non-fiction books deal with racial injustices in Florida.  This history is important to understand because it illustrates so well the systemic racism in our state, and so informs us about what we face, a critically important part of moving forward.  Later, on February 11, as part of Athena Shares, Pat Frank will speak to us about her long and storied career.  I’ve asked Pat to share with us some of her proactive moves as Clerk of the Court, including creating a $15/hour minimum wage in her office and forming a majority minority work force.  These are ideas that Athena members can push to implement in their own workplaces.

There is good news on the ERA front as well –  bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate to remove the time limitations on ratification.  This is a huge and promising step forward on one of Athena’s founding goals.  So there is good news and there are good ideas for moving forward.  We want to focus on proactive steps and could use additional ideas from our members.  I know many Athena members are already taking steps in both their personal and professional lives, and I’d like to see these shared and highlighted.  This might be something personal, like mentoring and serving as a support system for a disadvantaged child (looking at you, Julia Gorzka Freeman!), or as involved as what Lorna and Pat have done in their workplaces – and everything in between!  Let’s make sure we see the light, but let’s go further and make every effort to BE the light.

Celebrate Black History Month and Happy Valentine’s Day to all –