A Mother’s Day Tribute

photoAs we prepare to celebrate Mothers’ Day, I dedicate this post to my mother, Elizabeth Matthews, who made her transition 26 years ago. She has been gone for more than half my life, but the fond memories of our times together have always comforted me.  Her passing reminds me of a conversation between two close friends that stopped abruptly, before either could say good-bye.  It was February 1987, and my mother was admitted to a hospital in Brooklyn for a planned surgical procedure.  The television was on and we were watching All My Children, a popular soap opera.  During the commercial we discussed how to bake turkey wings.  She reminded me to cover them and warned me not to overcook them, as this would be her coming home meal.  Complications set in after her surgery, and she passed a few days later.  We had moved to Brooklyn a few months after her 45th birthday, and she passed one month before her 51st birthday.

Liz as a BabyMy mother’s journey began in Savannah, Georgia.  She was the oldest of three children born to Margaret and William Matthews in 1936.  This was the end of the depression and life was hard for all Americans.  For blacks in the south racism and segregation made daily living nearly intolerable.  My grandparents were Catholics, so my mother and her two brothers attended Catholic school, which protected them from the cruelty of segregated public schools.  By the time my mother was ready to attend high school, my grandparents agreed she would have a better life in the north, so she migrated to New York City.

She moved to Harlem where she lived with her Aunt Hortense, my grandmother’s oldest sister.  She attended Washington Irving High School and graduated in 1954.  At that point, she was finally in a position to pursue her life-long dream of becoming a nurse.  She enrolled in the Central School for Practical Nurses, on Welfare Island, and graduated in 1957.  The first leg of her journey was complete.  After leaving Central, she continued her studies to become a Registered Nurse.

Liz at nursing school

The years that followed were punctuated with “firsts”.  She secured her first job; working full-time at St. Luke’s Hospital and part-time at Bellevue Hospital on weekends when work was available.  She moved into her first apartment in Harlem.  She made many friends and they frequented the social clubs Harlem was known for.  She went on her first of several trips to the Bahamas and the Caribbean, before venturing to Europe.  She met my father, Herbert Brizz, and had me, her first, and only, child.

liz with friends

Like most mothers and daughters we had our challenging moments.  However, time has erased these minor skirmishes and replaced them with my fond memories of sharing my own “firsts” with her.  There is one particular first I hold close to my heart; she was my first girlfriend and really I miss those days.  I recently found the courage to look through some photos of my mother, and found many that I have never shared.  So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I am proud to submit this small tribute in her memory.  As time passes, I know that I will summon the courage to share more photos of her.

Liz as a young lady

In closing, I wish every lady a Happy Mother’s Day, whether you have children or not.  Over time, I have come to realize that mothering, and nurturing, manifests in many ways.


Photo – debenhamflowers.com

In Search Of A Cause? Try T.E.A.L. (revised May 7, 2013)

RibbonOn Sunday, April 14, 2013, I was privileged to attend the inaugural Tell Every Amazing Lady about Ovarian Cancer Brunch (T.E.A.L.) at El Caribe Country Club in Brooklyn, New York.  For me, this event had the feel of a family gathering, while maintaining the precision of a well-planned event that I appreciate in my role as a professional event fundraiser.  I was impressed as guests listened attentively as each speaker shared her personal journey with Ovarian Cancer.

Race Taylor, a popular DJ with WPLJ radio, served as Master of Ceremonies.  Despite the topic at hand, he instinctively knew when to lighten the mood.  Appropriately, there were tears when Jenn Sommerman, a highly regarded triathlete and Ovarian Cancer survivor, shared how this experience influenced her to commit to 50 triathlons, in 50 states, by the time she turns 50 years old.  Jenn’s goal is to raise $100,000 for Ovarian Cancer research.  To learn more about her progress, please click here.

Ivette Alecia, an elegant woman who is also an Ovarian Cancer survivor, shared her determination to triumph over this disease which attacked her, when she was pregnant with her daughter Amanda, more than twenty years ago.  The crowd shared Ivette’s pride when Amanda, a beautiful and poised young woman who was recently crowned Miss Staten Island, stood with her mother.  The only word that came to my mind was priceless!  I was equally proud of my sisters in Lionism, Lion Paula Spann and Lion Linda Scipio, who volunteered to help at this event.  Here are a few pictures for you to enjoy.

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A Brief History of T.E.A.L.

Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation has seen significant growth since its founding in 2007, which is the same year Louisa was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.  With the love and support of her sister Pamela Esposito-Amery, Louisa started T.E.A.L. to raise awareness around this disease.  As Louisa sought treatment options, she realized very little information was available and the tools required for early detection were just as scarce.  The goal of T.E.A.L. is to speed the process of research and understanding, while bringing a cure for Ovarian Cancer closer to the forefront, but there is much work to do.  In most instances, where there is a lack of knowledge, tools and treatment options, there is also a lack of funding.

Pamela and Louisa McGregor

Pamela Esposito-Amery and Louisa McGregor

Committed to making a difference, Louisa and Pamela designed various ways to enlist financial support; including the popular T.E.A.L Walk for Ovarian Cancer, which takes every September, which is also designated as Ovarian Cancer month.  This year’s walk is set for September 7, 2013 in beautiful Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY.  To learn more please click here.

T.E.A.L. Walk participant

T.E.A.L. Walk participant

Since 2009, T.E.A.L. has raised over $287,000 for Ovarian Cancer research.  This is truly an amazing accomplishment for T.E.A.L. does not receive support from the foundation or corporate community.  The organization does not have a public spokesperson, but it does have the love and dedication of Louisa’s family, friends and their circle of influence, survivors of Ovarian Cancer, volunteers and contributors from the Brooklyn community.  Within my circle, there is one organization committed to supporting the work of the Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer FoundationLions Club International.  For full disclosure, I am completing my second year as President of the Brooklyn Metropolis Lions Club, an exemplary group of women and men who have demonstrated their commitment to service.

Before succumbing to this disease in 2011, Louisa received numerous awards for her efforts.  She was sought after by many organizations and, even with her health challenges, Louisa made many public appearances for notable organizations including: Gilda’s Club, Stand Up To Cancer and The Today Show.  She was also featured in “The Whisper” a documentary that shared her battle with the disease.  She received many awards for the work she did while undergoing treatment including an honor by the New York State Senate for Women’s History Month, a Lions Club International Humanitarian Award and a Brooklyn Women of Distinction Award.  Here is a segment of Louisa on the Today Show. 

T.E.A.L. Contributions for Ovarian Cancer Research

I encourage you to learn more about the impressive contributions this organization has made toward Ovarian Cancer research.  Presently, T.E.A.L. is funding a grant, which began in 2012 and extends through 2013, totaling $40,000 to evaluate the effectiveness of a triple screen for Ovarian Cancer.  This two and a half-year study is headed by Dr. Barbara Goff at The University of Washington.  It is evident that T.E.A.L. is poised to change the conversation around this deadly disease.

What’s Next?

Please take the time to become more familiar with the symptoms of this disease.  At this year’s T.E.A.L. brunch, I met so many amazing women who all had a story to tell.  There was one point during the program when all of the survivors in the room were asked to stand, and there were many.  Several women have been affected and, this year, more cases will be discovered.  I truly hope there is a breakthrough in treatment options on the horizon.

As a woman, I am making a personal commitment to Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer and I hope that you will partner with Brooklyn Legends on September 7th for this year’s walk in Prospect Park.  Additionally, if there is a second annual T.E.A.L. Brunch, it is my dream that Brooklyn Legends will sponsor a table so that others may join in the conversation.  This is one secret we should not keep.  For additional information about T.E.A.L. and to read about survivors of Ovarian Cancer please see our blog roll.


Ovarian Cancer Ribbon – mdanderson.org
Background about Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation – http://www.tealwalk.org
Photos from the April 14, 2013 T.E.A.L. Bruch – Monique Brizz-Walker
Photo of Pamela Esposito-Amery and Louisa McGregor – http://www.tealwalk.org
Photo of T.E.A.L. Walk participant – http://www.tealwalk.org
Today Show Segment – youtube.com
Ovarian Cancer (September) Ribbon – googleimages.com