A Salute to Elegance – Mrs. Eunice Johnson & Ebony Fashion Fair

Eunice Johnson, 1991, Ebony Fashion Fair via Ebony.com

Eunice Johnson, 1991, Ebony Fashion Fair via Ebony.com

Dear Readers,

I am pleased to join my friends and colleagues in honoring Black History Month. While everyday is a great moment in history, I must acknowledge our longstanding struggle for equality and justice against enormous odds. For every accomplishment there are several stories to tell and we are obligated to continue to write the narrative.

Today I am proud to salute Mrs. Eunice W. Johnson, creator of Ebony Fashion Fair, a highly celebrated fashion extravaganza that traveled to nearly 200 cities each year. This eagerly anticipated show featured haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion for a mostly African-American audience throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

Ebony Fashion Fair Ad via Flickr 1958

Ebony Fashion Fair Ad via Flickr

Ebony Fashion Fair started in 1958 when Mrs. Johnson responded to a friend’s request to raise money for a hospital in New Orleans.  For the next fifty years Ebony Fashion Fair would become an iconic fashion show that also served as a major fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund, several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), sickle-cell research and hospitals. Mrs. Johnson exposed audiences to the latest designs from major fashion houses including: Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Pierre Cardin, Valentino and Emanuel Ungaro.

Eunice Johnson, Yves Saint Laurent 1972 Johnson Publishing Co.

Eunice Johnson, Yves Saint Laurent 1972 Johnson Publishing Co.

Mrs. Johnson also used Ebony Fashion Fair as a platform to introduce emerging Black designers including: Lenora Levon, Quinton de’ Alexander, L’Amour, Patrick Kelly and Steven Burrows. African-American models Pat Cleveland, Judy Pace and Terri Springer were also featured in the show.

Ebony Fashion Fair, Pat Cleveland in Valentino - via splendidhabitat.com

Ebony Fashion Fair, Pat Cleveland in Valentino – via splendidhabitat.com

Ebony Fashion Fair Itinerary, Ebony Magazine, Tias.com

Ebony Fashion Fair Itinerary, Ebony Magazine, Tias.com

As a girl, I remember attending Ebony Fashion Fair at the Hilton New York Hotel (then the New York Hilton Hotel & Towers) and the Savannah Civic Center. I loved to see the models strut down the runway in their fabulous outfits. When I attended Audrey Smaltz was the commentator and she ran each show with great style and precision. For me, the highpoint of the evening was the wedding scene. Once I saw the bride walk down the runway in her trendy gown I was ecstatic.

Ebony Fashion Fair, Bob Mackie Wedding Gown, splendidhabitat.com

Ebony Fashion Fair, Bob Mackie Wedding Gown, via splendidhabitat.com

Ebony Fashion Fair - Guardianlv.com

Ebony Fashion Fair – Guardianlv.com

Ebony Fashion Fair - Museum of Design Atlanta - via splendidhabitat.com

Ebony Fashion Fair – Museum of Design Atlanta – via splendidhabitat.com

Mrs. Johnson died on January 3, 2010 in Chicago at the age of 93 years old. She was among the first business owners to create and market a line of cosmetics for women of color.  I still remember purchasing my first foundation from Fashion Fair Cosmetics.  When I opened the pretty pink case, I knew that I was on my way to becoming an adult.

Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Aretha Franklin, 55Secretstreettypepad.com

Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Aretha Franklin, 55Secretstreettypepad.com

In 2013, the Chicago History Museum curated a special exhibition, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, as a tribute to Mrs. Johnson’s life and accomplishments. Presently, the exhibition is on view at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester now through April 24, 2016. For further information, please access this link to the exhibition.

Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit via chicagohistorymuseum.org

Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit via chicagohistorymuseum.org

Brooklyn Legends is pleased to join the world in saluting Mrs. Eunice W. Johnson for breaking down barriers and creating opportunities in the fashion and cosmetics industry.

Fondly,
Monique

Credits:
New York Times – January 9, 2010 article by Dennis Hevesi
Huffington Post – May 29, 2012 article by Julee Wilson, Senior Fashion Editor
Ebony.com – Additional information regarding Mrs. Johnson and Ebony Fashion Fair

 

 

 

 

Commemorating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letters of Support

Dr. King in his study, Atlanta GA

Dr. King in his study at home in Atlanta, GA

Dear Readers,

Brooklyn Legends is proud to commemorate the life and accomplishments of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929 at his family home in Atlanta, Georgia.  This year he would celebrate his 87th birthday.

From December 1955 until April 4, 1968, Dr. King was the leader of America’s Civil Rights Movement. By all accounts this was among the most tumultuous periods in our history. Yet despite the many acts of hatred and violence,  Dr. King remained steadfast in his commitment to lead a non-violent campaign. He received support from men and women worldwide.

Here in the United States, there were many who stood with Dr. King and the architects of the Civil Rights Movement. These men and women gave their time, legal and professional services and money. They would join thousands of African-Americans in this fight for equal rights. While today many challenges persist, we cannot deny the progress that was achieved. These life-changing events have shaped my life and my ancestors.

As I was preparing for this post, I spent some time looking through the archives on The King Center’s website. In addition to extensive historical information, there are many photos, letters and telegrams for visitors to see. All information has been digitally preserved through the generosity of JP Morgan Chase. Today I would like to share few letters sent to Dr. King from children thought the world. I have also included a few condolence letters sent to Mrs. King shortly after Dr. King was assassinated.  When you have a moment, I encourage you to visit the site which can be found by following this link.

Fondly,
Monique

A student sends greetings on Mahatma Ghandi's birthday

A student in India sends greetings on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday

Students in France requesting an interview of Dr. King

Students in France requesting an interview of Dr. King

A student in Chicago requests information about Dr. King's Church

A student in Chicago requests information about Dr. King’s Church

A student who wants to be a Pediatrician references Dr. King's book "Strength to Love"

A student who wants to be a Pediatrician references Dr. King’s book “Strength to Love”

Via Bauman Rare Books

Via Bauman Rare Books – referenced in Gregory William’s letter to Dr. King.

Letter sent to Mrs. King after Dr. King was killed.

Letter sent to Mrs. King after Dr. King was killed.

Sent to Mrs. King from a student in NYC after Dr. King was killed.

Sent to Mrs. King from a student in NYC after Dr. King was killed.

Sent to Mrs. King from PS 32 in NYC after Dr. King was killed

Sent to Mrs. King from PS 32 in NYC after Dr. King was killed

Sent to the SCLC in Dr. King's honor with a donation from a high school in Beverly Hills, CA.

Sent to the SCLC in Dr. King’s honor with a donation from a high school in Beverly Hills, CA.

Credits:
All information obtained from The King Center’s website – Thekingcenter.org.

Commemorating A New Year’s Tradition – Watch Night Service

Dear Readers,

Watch Night, Dec. 31, 1862 - the Clayton Museum

Watch Night, Dec. 31, 1862 – the Clayton Museum

Soon we will bid adieu to 2015 and welcome 2016.  This year has been filled with many highs, but there have been some sad days too. Dear friends who started this journey with me have since made their transitions. I firmly believe they will always be with us as long as we love and honor them.

Each year on New Year’s Eve, I share this post commemorating Watch Night, a tradition that is deeply rooted in the history of people of African descent throughout the United States, in memory of my grandparents and the many elders who helped raise me.

As a child growing up in Savannah, Georgia, I remember my grandparents would make their way to church every New Year’s Eve.  This was a solemn time for them.  Looking back on those days, I also remember how their voice would change as they recounted the painful stories their parents and grandparents shared.  I would also grow to appreciate how they were able to quiet their spirits whenever they heard the song “How I Got Over”.  When I look at my life, I have so much to be thankful for.  There has never been a day when I have not said I’m grateful!

The summary below is reprinted from the African-American Registry.  This site is a wonderful resource for African-American history and culture.  I am including the link to the site for your reference.

Date: Wed, 1862-12-31*
* On this date in 1862 the first Watch Night Services were celebrated in Black communities in America.

The Watch Night service can be traced back to gatherings also known as “Freedom’s Eve.”  On that night, Black slaves and free Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law.  At the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863; all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free.  When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.

The article goes on to explain that Blacks have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since, praising God for bringing us safely through another year.  It’s been over a century since the first Freedom’s Eve and tradition still brings us together at this time every year to celebrate “how we got over.”  This celebration takes many African-American descendants of slaves into a New Year with praise and worship.  The service usually begins anywhere from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and ends at midnight with the entrance of the New Year.  Some people come to church first, before going out to celebrate, for others, church is the only New Year’s Eve event.

There have been instances where clergy in mainline denominations questioned the propriety of linking religious services with a secular holiday like New Year’s Eve. However, there is a reason for the importance of New Year’s Eve services in the black experience in America.

Wishing you peace and joy in 2016!

________________________________

Reference:
The African-American Desk Reference, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc The New York Public Library John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Publishing

Brooklyn Legends Serenity Sunday – “Finding My Voice”

Video

Dear Readers,

Wishing you a happy Serenity Sunday and a day filled with peace. As I was planning today’s post, I was drawn to this video by Maya Angelou in which she shares how she found her voice.

We all encounter challenges that force us to retreat from the world and the only thing that we can do is go within. However, when we find the courage to emerge, and give voice to our feelings, something wonderful and magical happens. Only then, can we begin our journey with peace and serenity as our companions.

Thank you for joining us for Brooklyn Legends Serenity Sunday. Have a great day.

Fondly,
Monique

 

Brooklyn Legends Brunch with the Arts – A Candid Conversation

Video

Dear Readers,

I hope that you are having a sensational day!  On Saturday October 10th we shared the exciting news of A Ballerina’s Tale the documentary chronicling Misty Copeland’s career as a ballet dancer. This eagerly anticipated movie, written and directed by Nelson George, made its public debut on Wednesday, October 14th. If you missed Brooklyn Legends Brunch with the Arts – A Ballerina’s Tale please follow this link.

I have seen the movie twice and I am in awe of Misty Copeland’s determination and the sensitive manner in which Nelson George shared her story with us. Misty’s career trajectory took many twists and turns and she paid a tremendous price for her achievements just as you and I have. I also remember a conversation with a good friend around the challenges we often face when shaping our careers and the misperceptions many have around “success” and it comes down to this –the world doesn’t see your struggle, they only see your shine. Perhaps we need to tell our stories more often.

On Monday, October 12th, two days before the movie’s public debut, the 92nd Street Y hosted a screening of A Ballerina’s Tale followed by a discussion with Misty Copeland, Nelson George and Gayle King. For today’s Brooklyn Legends Bruch With the Arts, I am pleased to share this conversation with you.

Have a sensational Saturday.

Fondly,
Monique

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Credits: The 92nd Street Y

Meet FDNY Firefighter Regina Wilson – ‘The Hero of My Own Story’

FDNY Firefighter Regina Wilson - NYDailynews.com

FDNY Firefighter Regina Wilson – NYDailynews.com

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Brooklyn Legends Tenacious Tuesday and thank you for spending time with us. We invite you to visit our Facebook page for today’s words of encouragement. Connecting with us is as simple as clicking on this link.  We want this to be an interactive process and we encourage you to let us know if a particular post inspires you along your journey.

Today we are excited to introduce FDNY Firefighter Regina Wilson, one of our newest generation of trailblazers.

Firefighter Wilson is a Brooklyn native and graduate of Samuel J. Tilden High School where she joins a list of distinguished alumni including: Nelson George, featured in our recent post Brooklyn Legends Brunch with the Arts – A Ballerina’s Tale, Lucille Roberts, the businesswoman and founder of health club chain bearing her name and the Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s weekly talk show PoliticsNation. When she joined the FDNY in 1999, she was only the 12th African-American woman to achieve this distinction. During the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, she was among the first responders at the scene. Tragically, seven members of her firehouse – Engine 219, Ladder 105 in Brooklyn, New York – died that day.

This is a career that Firefighter Wilson never imagined that she would have. After attending a job fair at New York City’s Javitz Convention Center members of the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of African-American firefighters with an exemplary 75-year history, spoke with her and presented the FDNY as an option. That was 16 years ago. Since that time she has created a distinguished career with a very promising future. In addition to serving with Engine 219, Ladder 105, she is also an instructor at the Fire Academy on Randalls Island. A high-point of her career occurred earlier this year when she was the 1st woman elected President of the Vulcan Society.

Recently Firefighter Wilson was featured as a part of Makers – Be The Hero Series. During the opening you will hear Firefighter Wilson’s strong voice clearly articulate why she is a hero. To view the video, please follow this link.

I became the hero of my own story when I graduated from the Academy.  No one could ever tell me that I couldn’t do something again.
Regina Wilson

Brooklyn Legends is proud to salute Firefighter Wilson’s tenacity, strength and commitment to the people of New York City.

Fondly,
Monique

_________________________________________

Credits:
Makers – Be the Hero Series – Meet Regina Wilson – Aug. 24, 2015 Makers.com
First Woman Picked to Lead Vulcan Society – New York Daily News – Jan. 16, 2015

 

 

Come and Meet Our New Trailblazers

Dear Readers,

Have you ever met a girl who aspired to be a model when she was ‘all grown up?’ Can you remember seeing her eyes and face light up as she sashayed across the living room floor; which had the distinction of serving as her runway. If you answered yes, then you are not alone. If asked, I believe many parents and guardians have a similar story to tell.

Many of these young ladies are among today’s leading models. However there are others who would not realize their dream owing to many roadblocks, including: financial constraints, height and weight challenges, mobility issues and age.

I am pleased to report the landscaping is shifting. Today I have the pleasure of presenting The Incredible Women Changing Fashion Week Forever whose stories were beautifully presented by Lauren Valenti for Marie Claire magazine. Each brave woman has her own unique set of challenges: Winne Harlow is a model who also has vitiligo, Karen Crispo is a model and a quadruple-amputee, Jillian Mercado is an aspiring model who has spastic muscular dystrophy, Madeline Stuart and Jamie Brewer are popular models who also have Down syndrome. We are proud to feature these beautiful Legends as a part of our Tenacious Tuesday series. To read the full story, please follow this link.

Come and meet our new trailblazers.

After reading this article I am so proud of these ladies for following their paths, and Ms. Valenti for bringing their story to life. Hopefully we will be seeing more beautiful women, whom we can relate to on a more personal level, grace the runway during New York Fashion Week.

Have a great day!

Fondly,

Monique

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Credits: Marie Claire Magazine