A Message From The President

November 2022

As the holidays approach, I find myself reflecting on the year and again realizing Thanksgiving is one of the best days of the year because it reminds us to give thanks and acknowledge our blessings.  So, here’s what I’m thankful for.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch putting aside city rivalries for the benefit of the Tampa Bay Area.  They demonstrate a willingness to respect, listen, learn, and act with purpose, which shouldn’t be taken for granted given today’s political landscape.  It is most gratifying that they are servant-leaders working for the growth and well-being of our local communities.

Helping others during a time of need by giving of our time, talent, and treasure.  Hurricane Ian, one of the deadliest hurricanes to strike Florida, resulted in catastrophic damage and mass displacement for so many.  After breathing a sigh of relief that we were spared, Tampa Bay has helped by responding to the needs of the communities in Southwest Florida.  Even though my out-of-state family and friends insist all the weird and crazy stories in the news happen in Florida, I am proud that we do unite in a time of need.  We are Florida strong.

Athena Society’s commitment to promoting equality and opportunity for women through our programs, especially our Phyllis P. Marshall Career Assistance Grants.  Since 2014, we have awarded grants totaling almost $109,000 to 63 women during their enrollment in post high school educational institutions.  Our efforts have directly helped deserving recipients reach their educational and career goals.  We are making a difference.

November 8 is election day!  Although Black men were allowed to vote in 1869 when the 15th Amendment was passed, most would-be voters faced measures such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and Jim Crow laws over the years which stopped them from exercising that right.  Women were denied the right to vote until 1920, when the efforts of the women’s suffrage movement finally resulted in passage of the 19th Amendment.  Later, in 1971, the voting age was lowered to 18, recognizing if a person was old enough to serve their country in the military, they should be allowed to vote.

It has taken the loss of many lives and years of marching, protesting, and fighting for all of us to have the right to vote.  I honor those sacrifices by using my right and exerting my voting power.  We all know and understand elections have consequences.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court in its 233-year history, is making her voice heard now that she has a seat at the table.  Her addition helps the court look more like our nation with four women and 3 people of color on the bench.  Justice Brown Jackson’s impact as a role model cannot be overstated for all the girls of color who can believe it because they can see it — representation does matter.

Family and friends, who love and provide needed support, and feedback even when I don’t ask.  The number of texts, calls, and emails received from loved ones far and near started increasing as Hurricane Ian was approaching the Gulf.  Everyone was checking in, seeking my reassurance that all was well, offering shelter, and asking for the latest on the hurricane’s path.  It feels good knowing someone cares and having tangible proof through their act of reaching out and checking in.

For all the joy and happiness during the holidays, we know the holidays can also be lonely for some; so, please reach out to others because such a simple gesture may have a profound impact.

Undivided attention because we all like, need, and deserve to be seen and heard.  I know it’s really easy to lose sight of what’s important and where to focus our attention, given our COVID isolation hangover, personal responsibilities, social media obsessions, political uncertainty, and work demands, but it is so satisfying and empowering when we put away our cell phones and computers and truly interact with partners, kids, friends, and colleagues, even for a short period of time.  Although the deliberate act of giving your full attention to someone is a small act, it sends a powerful message to the recipient.  So, let’s all practice the act of giving our undivided attention during the holidays.  It may become habit forming.

Laughter and the retelling of family stories that have been embellished and taken on a life of their own over the years. There are always guests or new additions to the family and circle of friends at the dinner table who haven’t heard the stories, so they never get old.  The stories such as how I got my “Firebug” nickname by accidentally setting fire to my mom’s bed and my brother slipping in the shower after a night out with his buddies are still as embarrassing and funny as ever and the laughter is always loud and contagious.  Laughter, the delicious southern cooked meals, love for one another, and our shared memories of those still with us and those passed on are our bond.

I hope you will take time out to reflect as well and give thanks for all of your past, present and future blessings as you spend time with family and friends.

Wishing each of you a blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving!