Friday, November 30, 2012

My Mother & The Thinkers

Fine art appreciation, classical music and reading neutralize the sting of Jim Crow discrimination.

Rodin the Thinker Statue
Rodin the Thinker Statue

When I was nine, my mother brought home a book on the French sculptor, François-Auguste-René Rodin (1840-1917). 

My mother loved art, any art--books, literature, paintings, sculpture, music, film, dance, photography, architecture, history, philosophy and intelligent conversation. But I was as confused about her handing this book over to me after she had read it  as I was about her making me take ballet and piano lessons, which I am now convinced she insisted upon so that I could notate music to songs she wrote.

I remember the cover was Rodin's The Thinker, a bronze and marble sculpture, which is now in the Musée Rodin in Paris"Why do I have to read this book about Rodin?" I asked, mispronouncing his name in my childish innocence and ignorance.

Rodin Museum in Paris, France
Rodin Museum in Paris, France
When Rodin was 76 years old, he donated his own works of art and his art collection by other artists to the French government. My mother told me about his donation, which is now in the Rodin Museum.

"Because I said so," my mother said. "And so that you will learn to say his name correctly. Rodin," she pronounced it for me and made me repeat it. "You can't go to college mispronouncing famous names." I knew I did not dare argue with her or just pretend I read the book because she would quiz me on it like she did everything else. So, I read it as part of my general education outside of regular school.

Rodin Museum: Le Baiser
Rodin Museum: Le Baiser

Littie said people who create, participate in and appreciate art are better thinkers than those who do not. 

"Those interested in literature, music and art can handle conversation," she said. "It has to do with the way their brains work and how they decide to live; maybe because they use their minds in a different way."

Auguste Rodin by Mayo Roos
Auguste Rodin
by Mayo Roos
Contrary to what I thought before starting the book about Rodin, I did find it interesting. Rodin's early education was not considered good enough to gain him entrance into the elite art academy and still he went on to be a foremost figure in the development of modern sculpture. His piece, The Thinker, became my favorite work of art, representing a superior intellectual quality like my mother's that I wished to possess. 

Could Littie have known this book and sculpture would have that impact on me? Or was she teaching me something about my own intellect, also considered inferior because I was attending a Jim Crow school at the time? And my mother knew the book about Rodin was not the type of reading material our school library offered. She wanted me to know about people and places far away from my Jim Crow world, one of the reasons we traveled to other states where I could see what the rest of the world had to offer me. "Do not be afraid to explore ideas through art, film, books and traditions of other cultures," she always said. "That's how you learn." My mother believed in a global education.

While reading the book on Rodin, I learned that he was born in 1840 in Paris, France, while on this side of the Atlantic, slavery in America was at its height. Even as the Civil Rights Movement was in progress, it was unlikely that a little black girl would have been able to discover this genius Rodin or others without someone like my mother to make the suggestion. At my mother's insistence on exposing me to higher concepts, I was reading about Rodin during the civil rights movement when a Jim Crow education would have completely prevented my introduction to them. . 

There were people whom Littie admired in the world who were not directly associated with the sciences or the arts, but she believed if she could get inside their homes, she would find art hanging on the walls, many shelves of books and the music of the master playing. "Most people do not know Albert Einstein was also a musician," she said.

The Musical Mind of Albert Einstein:  Great Physicist, Amateur Violinist  and Devotee of Mozart
The Spring before I started first grade, Albert Einstein died. My mother was anxious to have me understand not only what the world had lost when this genius died, but also what the world had with him. "He played violin, you know," she said. "He loved Mozart and used his music to help him develop his theories." There she goes again, I thought. I didn't understand what all of it meant. I was only five years old. 

And my mother's intellectual admiration did not stop at theoretical physicists. "I'll bet Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King have books, art and fine in their homes," my mother said. "It shows in the way they carry themselves."

Rosa Parks ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the end of 1955. My mother kept up with all that news the same way she had kept up with the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v the Board of Education. She bought magazines and newspapers on her way home from work.

I knew who Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were. My mother took periodicals to keep up with current events. 

Rosa Parks Booking Photo, Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks Booking Photo, Montgomery Bus Boycott
"You can hear that culture in their voices and in the way they use the language. Reserve and elegance are always present in them. Those people are the thinkers among us and the thinkers become the doers." As history records, both Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote books about their lives and experiences during the Civil Rights Movement, documenting those thoughts and the resulting actions.

I saw television news broadcasts covering the social activism of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. However, Littie restricted my television viewing to her approved list of programming--news and information shows; and radio was restricted by the local radio stations available in our area, mostly country music with little national news coverage of such topics as Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King booking photos
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King

My mother received this news through delivery of national black publications to our home on a weekly basis. She required me to read the articles and then discuss them with her afterwards. These topics were confusing to me and not always a pleasant experience. I always enjoyed our discussions of art history more, perhaps because, as a child, I understood art history better than civil rights

When my mother made me read articles she had selected about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, I read them to be ready for her quizzes about the Civil Rights Movement.

I read books and articles, and examined art because my mother said a person could not be just a collector of books and art. Art hanging on walls or books on shelves did not pass Littie's sniff test. The person who possessed the books and art had to know something about what was in the books, know about art or know how to produce art. She was an amateur artist herself. She painted animals, birds and landscapes and wanted me to be interested in some form of art. 

Brownie Hawkeye Camera 1950s
Brownie Camera
My grandmother bought me a Brownie camera when I was nine in exchange for not bothering her gun again. Everybody got really upset when I sneaked the gun out of the house and tried to buy bullets at the corner store. But the storekeeper called the house on me. I tried to explain that I had a good reason, but no one would listen. My grandmother said my punishment was to use the camera to shoot what I needed to shoot but not without getting people's permission first. 

Littie told me not to photograph people; she felt I would not be sufficiently respectful of their privacy and she was probably right, although I wouldn't call what I was doing photography. It was awful is what it was. But my mother was delighted that I was interested in photography. "It's kind of a fine art," she said. 

I wrote a story, Shooting Without A Gun, in my book, Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's, about Bigmama's gun and the camera. Take a look and join my channel.

My mother didn't say much about the incident with me and Bigmama's gun, but I am certain she had all to do with my grandmother giving me that camera.

Ansel Adams: Moon and Half Dome,  Yosemite National Park,  California, 1960
Littie was particularly fond of sunsets, water, night skies, old buildings and sand. When I was about 11 years old, my mother bought postcards with Ansel Adams photography, saying I should model my own style of photography on his style, which she thought was magnificent. 

I had no photographic style. "Aim high!" She scolded. "And be sure and pack your camera when we go to the beach next weekend." My mother had a friend in Houston who was from a wealthy mortuary family with property in Galveston and one son my age. During the season, we often met her and her son at their beach cottage for weekends. My mother was always happy when her friend's older son, who was a professional photographer, joined us at the beach and let me tag along while he photographed nature scenes and explained lighting and photo composition. 

Reflections in Black: A History of Black  Photographers  1840 to the Present
Reflections in Black:
A History of Black 

 1840 to the Present
The summer of my 15th birthday, Aunt Clara took me to the mountains, where I wasted rolls of film trying to take shots as my mother had instructed, only to find out after the photographs were developed that I was no Ansel Adams, nor was I even close. When I got home from vacation, my mother and I reviewed my shots and I realized the photography exercise was for my benefit. She was trying to help me develop an eye for art. 

I did eventually develop an eye for photography. My images were published in a significant reference book on the history of  photography. 

My photography has been collected by a number of prestigious museums and libraries, published in books, newspapers and magazines, and exhibited around the world with a Smithsonian Exhibition, Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present. I credit Littie for my success by insisting that I take all those terrible pictures when I was a kid.

My mother was totally absorbed in art--the art of others in galleries, her own art creations, my crude and amateur photography or pictures in books. And she liked volumes, not just for the quantity, but for the matching binding. "Sets of books make you feel like you're in a library. The feel of art history books and the smell of them make me want to paint or get knee-deep in some clay," she would say. "You can't pretend to love art or know what's in books. Love and knowledge of these subjects come out in your conversation, and if you're pretending, you will soon look the fool. Anybody with money can be advised on what art pieces to buy," she said. "The real test is finding a way to surround yourself with art if you are on a tight budget.And a tight budget was something my mother knew all about. "But we can't let the lack of money keep us from enjoying the finer things," she said. "People need art in their lives, all people--rich and poor!" 

When I was a little girl, our small Jim Crow town did not allow African Americans to use the segregated public library in the 1950s. Instead, the city's Jim Crow laws ordered the library to send a bookmobile into certain neighborhoods to discourage African Americans from using the downtown library. But times do change. A bookmobile was a converted bus with rows of shelves with books, mostly outdated and tattered. The bookmobile was most active in summer and parked in public places where African Americans were allowed to gather. Today, things have really changed. My hometown library has hosted celebrations of my career and is an active collector of my work. 

However, back then, until we were allowed to use the facility, my mother and I took a Greyhound Bus 100 miles away to Houston to use the Houston Public Library. The trip to Houston was an all day affair, but worth it, even if we didn't qualify for library cards because we were from out of town and not because we were black. We sat among all those art books on the shelves and read until it was time for us to catch our bus back home. At the time, we concentrated on art because there wasn't a great deal written in books about African Americans or pictures of people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in books and magazines, unless they were black publications. At that time, my mother and I never imagined that I would write books and take photographs chronicling African Americans that would be collected by the Houston Public Library or my hometown library; or maybe Littie did imagine that.

My mother used those books in the library to imagine places we had never been, to see images from faraway places that one day we might see and to teach me to see myself as the Jim Crow south could not. My mother took me to the movies often, starting when I was four years old. We would lose ourselves in the beautiful clothes and exotic locations. 

From those movies and books, she imagined scenes, learned to paint oil landscapes and restored damaged art she bought in second-hand stores. She collected art, museum, gallery and exhibition books and often dragged me to out-of-town galleries and museums that allowed African Americans to enter and we could afford to attend. Afterwards, she bought the greeting cards and exhibition books that were not too expensive and she required me to make detailed critiques of shows we had seen.

Littie collected interior design,  architecture and art magazines, too. "Be careful with those," she told me. "They're not cheap." Sketching out plans for our home improvement projects was a favorite past-time that my mother loved. Using her architecture and art magazines, and Vogue pattern decorating book, she measured and made multiple drawings before presenting them to my father to see if he could build whatever it was she wanted. 

Usually, he couldn't or wouldn't  produce her final design or, if he did, she wasn't satisfied with the shortcuts he took. So, she went on to construct whatever small project she wanted to create, like her dressing table, another story in my book. She got her idea for the dressing table, bench and window curtain from a McCall Magazine. Later, after making her own lavish vanity table, she made a small one for my room, similar to the one in the picture below. It was a month-long project of planning, locating and cleaning cheap pieces and, finally,  painting, which Littie closely supervised.

Here is an excerpt from my story, The Dressing Table: Before the old rough wooden sideboard became my mother's dressing table, it sank with every rain into the dirt of the backyard of our new home. One day she cleaned the weather-worn table, knocked its legs back into place, and took it into her bedroom. The table and a bench, rescued from the garage, waited for weeks while she embroidered a crisp white pillowcase and sheet to create a seat and matching table cover. Pink roses and green stems swirled into lush bouquets and spilled to the hems of the floor-length bench and table skirts. I looked into the mirror, retrieved from an old dresser whose drawers no longer fit. Though the glass had a few spots around the edges, my mother had repainted its chipped frame. 

Art, music and literature were my mother's weapons against excuses, which she refused to accept. "Most often," she said, "You get what you give."

Auguste Rodin:  Master of Sculpture
Auguste Rodin: 
Master of Sculpture

I searched the Internet and could not find a copy of the Rodin book my mother gave me all those years ago. Perhaps the book about this master of sculpture is out of print. But I found some other interesting selections devoted to Rodin and others that trace art history from the Renaissance to Rodin and the birth of modern art.

Over the years, my mother's interests and book collection changed and I do not know what happened to the book about Rodin that she made me read. The book was probably not responsible in itself for getting me a college scholarship or even getting me through Texas A&M University's Department of Journalism and Broadcast Communications. But my mother knew Rodin would have an influence on me at a time when I needed it most. 

© 2012 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
~Thank You~

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Sunny Nash is a writer, producer, photographer and leading author on race relations in America. 

Sunny Nash produces blogs, media, books, articles and images on history and contemporary topics, from slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and civil rights to post racism, social media, entertainment and technology using her book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, as a basis for commentary and research.

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by Sunny Nash
Sunny Nash's book was selected by the Association of American University Press as a resource for understanding U.S. race relations and recommended for Native American Collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System.

"My book, 'Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's,' began in the 1990s. I was writing for Hearst and Knight-Ridder newspapers. The stories are about my childhood with my part-Comanche grandmother, Bigmama, my parents, relatives, friends, and others; and my interpretation of the events surrounding the Jim Crow South before and during the Civil Rights Movement.

Robin Fruble of Southern California said, "Every white person in America should read this book! Sunny Nash writes the story of her childhood without preaching or ranting but she made me realize for the first time just how much skin color changes how one experiences the world. But if your skin color is brown, it matters a great deal to a great number of people. I needed to learn that. Sunny Nash is a great teacher," Fruble said.

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Sunny Nash – Race Relations in America

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Flo Jo Helped Change Jim Crow Beauty Standards

Flo Jo, winner of three gold medals in Olympics track and field, helped to bring down Jim Crow attitudes toward the beauty of black women.

Florence "Flo Jo" Griffith-Joyner

Flo Jo may not have set out to use her glamorous style, natural beauty and sex appeal to combat Jim Crow, but her tactics worked.

In my research for a new book, I did not discover substantiation of an elaborate plan created and implemented by Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner to mount an all-out attack on long-held racist American beauty standards, just that she began to develop her unique way when she was still young and living at home with her mother. 

Flo Jo's style set her apart in the athletic world and the rest of the universe, as well. 

Her daring flash followed her into an athletic career and Olympic stardom in track and field, effectively bringing emphatic and immediate world attention to the allure of the black woman, which until her time, had been completely ignored the general public and mass media and, at best, given a back seat in the United States. The Olympic star used track and field events to launch her iconic image that would stage an assault on Jim Crow's regard for and treatment of African American women.

No female track and field star had ever come out of the blocks looking like Flo Jo and the world took notice of this woman as stunning as any film actress in young black Hollywood or young white Hollywood for that matter. 

Flo Jo
Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner did something comparable to what Rosa Parks did in leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott. What I am saying is that Joyner's contribution to social justice and civil rights pushed equality forward on a different front. Her bold use of glamour in track and field to change the perception of black female beauty gained a certain justice that was as real, although not as significant many may argue, as the victory Rosa Parks won. 

Remember, Flo Jo came along 30 years after Rosa Parks led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-56. In the 1980s, many laws had changed the legal footing on which discrimination had stood. The new racism, tainted with traces of the old, still lurked in employment opportunities, higher education, business ownership, political elections and beauty pageants.  

Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King Montgomery Bus Boycott Mugshot
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King
Montgomery Bus Boycott Mugshot
Rosa Parks nor Florence Joyner could hide from media coverage and both were beautiful women. However, Rosa Parks became part of a strategic plan devised by the NAACP to organize a movement against Jim Crow laws in the Deep South. Older and of a different era than Flo Jo, Rosa Parks was chosen by the NAACP for her conservative appearance and dressed by those standards to avoid discrediting the Civil Rights Movement and leaders of the movement, namely, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Fashion Model,  Beauty Consultant & Fitness Expert
Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner
Fashion Model, 
Beauty Consultant & Fitness Expert
Joyner, having been born after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, had no direct experience with the blatant legal racism and oppression that occurred during the era of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther king. However, Jim Crow racism continued to exist in different forms and had to be met with different tools like education, voting and, yes, beauty. 

One reason for the television camera's romance with track and field star, Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner, was the fact that she was articulate and educated, and looked so good no matter what! Whether she was warming up, coming out of the block, running on the track or winning at the finish line in a stream of steam, Flo Jo looked glamorous. Every woman in the world--young, old, black, white and everything in between--wanted to look so good working so hard while making the job look so easy.

Florence Flo Jo Joyner, 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea
Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner
1988 Olympics Gold
Seoul, South Korea

After Jim Crow met Flo Jo, everything about the beauty game changed.

Flo Jo splashed onto international television and changed Jim Crow traditions regarding the acknowledgement of and acceptance of black female beauty. 

After the meeting of Flo Jo and Jim Crow, beauty stereotypes began to crumble. She not only changed the way track and field females participated in their game, she changed the way American women of all colors looked at themselves in the mirror preparing to meet their world every day. 

Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner 1988 Summer Olympics Seoul, Korea
Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner
1988 Summer Olympics
Seoul, South Korea
Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner knew the principles and psychology of beauty, which she applied.

That's it--the beauty of it all! I know that's how I felt when I saw Flo Jo on a television screen or a magazine cover during her moment at the finish line. She always looked as great finishing a race as she did when the race began. The controlled image she portrayed was part of her mystic, the brand she was developing that was intended to take her into a different career after her running days were over. 

Flo Jo helped change the stereotype of America beauty.

Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner
Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner
So completely aware of herself, Flo Jo began preparing for her finish line face before she warmed up or lined up in the blocks. That brand building required self control over every aspect of her own being. She knew the cameras were on her and she was prepared to give them what they wanted at all times. The legacy of Flo Jo's beauty, equal to that of any beauty queen, goes deeper than a woman wanting to look her best, which caused many to judge her as vain. 

During the Jim Crow era, black women were not allowed to be considered beautiful outside their black communities, which was part of the negative racial conditioning, one more method to keep a people looking down on their own kind as not good enough to be deemed fully human. Being considered beautiful would have bestowed value upon black women. The reasoning being: if black women were considered beautiful, it placed them on equal footing with white women, which was against all Jim Crow principles of racial inequality. However, African Americans developed their own standards of beauty, albeit, multiracial women or women of lighter complexion being preferred to represent that standard of beauty, an infiltration of Jim Crow beauty standards in the black community.

Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa First Black Miss America Contestant
Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa
First Black Miss America Contestant
Vanessa Williams First Black Miss America 1984
Vanessa Williams
First Black Miss America
American society, in general, reserved the title of beautiful for white women. This sentiment was expressed from the beginning of the Miss America competition in 1921 until 1970 when the first black woman, Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa, was a contestant. It was 14 years later in 1984 that a black woman first reigned as Miss America. A sizable segment of the American population either objected or was confused and displeased by this development.

The Jim Crow American society still had a long way to go.

The same year, 1984, that Vanessa Williams won the Miss America crown and garnered media attention, Flo Jo entered the scene when she debuted in the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where she won a silver medal for the 200-meter run. There Joyner introduced glamour for the first time to track and field and captured the imagination of the world in a way that Miss America had not. Not only was Joyner beautiful enough in in her own right to be a beauty queen, she had physical gifts that would propel her to her title--fastest woman on earth--with beauty, brains and body to justify her claim. 

Flo Jo Elevated the Image of Black Women
Flo Jo Elevated the Image of Black Feminity

Flo Jo's legacy was like a knife in the heart of Jim Crow. 

Flo Jo worked as hard as any man on the docks. But she made her job look easy by maintaining her poise and extreme beauty at the same time that she was winning gold at the Olympics. Flo Jo learned to keep a flattering expression on her face because she knew newspaper, magazine and television cameras would capture her every nostril flare and eye twitch. She knew how to hold her face as indicated by her file photos.

Flo Jo’s speed at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, won her the title of the fastest female in the world and most glamorous woman in the history of track and field.

Florence Joyner on Cover of Sports Illustrated
Florence Joyner
Track & Field Olympic Star
Glamor Runner
Flo Jo's victories in the 1988 Olympics earned her the title Fastest Woman in the World and landed her on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She had set a world record at the U.S. Olympics quarterfinals trials, caused a sensation in female athletics with records still unbroken, and won three gold medals at the 1988 Seoul, Korea, Olympics, all while creating that Flo Jo image.

Florence Flo Jo Griffith-Joyner - 1988 Olympics, Seoul, South Korea--Fastest Woman in the World

Perfect makeup--glossy lips, alluring eyelashes, flowing hair and manicured fingernails put a glamorous face on track and field, rivaled only by beauty pageants and Hollywood movies. Florence Flo Jo Joyner became a star track and field athlete, television actor, fashion model, designer, makeup and fitness professional, and writer.

Mojave, California 1950s - Mojave Virtual Museum
Mojave, California 1950s - Mojave Virtual Museum
Born Delorez Florence Griffith on December 21, 1959, Flo Jo was the seventh of eleven children born to Florence and Robert Griffith in the small town of Mojave, California, in the southwestern region of the Mojave Desert, ninety miles north of Los Angeles. According to the 2010 Census, the town reported 4.238 residents, which in 1959, would have offered few opportunities for a budding national athlete or aspiring Olympian like Florence.

When she was four years old, her parents separated and her mother moved the family to the Jordan Downs Public Housing Project in the Los Angeles Watts area. However, spending time with her father, who had a job as an electrical technician in Mojave, young Florence began running when she was seven years old, chasing jackrabbits in the Mojave Desert. Her father had no idea he was beginning the training for an Olympic  star, let alone the fastest woman in the world.

Jordan Downs Public Housing Project Housing Authority City of Los Angeles
Jordan Downs Public Housing Project
Housing Authority City of Los Angeles
After summers in the Mojave Desert with her father, Flo Jo returned home to her family at Jordan Downs Public Housing Project in Watts. Determined to get an education, Flo Jo graduated from Jordan High School in Los Angeles where she continued to run on the track and field team. 

Then Florance Joyner enrolled at California State University, Northridge, and continued running, but had to drop out of school and get a job in banking to help support her family. She re-enrolled in school when she found financial aid, changing colleges, transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to join her track coach, Bob Kersee. 

Flo Jo

In fact, Flo Jo was forced to drop out of school several times due to financial difficulties. In the meanwhile, she made money at a banking job and additional money on the side with jobs as hairstylist and manicurist, skills she would use later to reinvent herself as the glamorous Flo Jo. 

"[Florence Griffith Joyner] was someone who wanted to make a fashion statement, as well as do it while running so fast you could barely see the fashion," says Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune on ESPN Classic's Sports Century series. Going to school on financial aid and loans, Flo Jo continued her track training. In 1983, she won the NCAA 400 and then graduated from UCLA with her bachelor's degree in psychology. In 1987, Joyner married 1984 Olympic triple jump gold medalist, Al Joyner, brother of heptathlon Olympian, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In 1990, their daughter, Mary Ruth, was born. 

Flo Jo did not take off her running shoes until she had won three gold medals in the Olympics and an assortment of silver medals and other running distinctions. Although her 1988 records still stand, Flo Jo was accused by other athletes of using performance-enhancement drugs in order to win gold medals. However, Flo Jo never failed a drug test.

Add caption
After her 1988 triple gold-medal Olympics, Joyner was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame, named by The Associated Press 1988 Female Athlete of the Year, won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur star athlete and served as co-chair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. There were other black female  Olympic medalists, like Wilma Rudolph, who dismantled Jim Crow in athletics and created the path for Florence Joyner to run without overt racism and to exude the beauty and confidence that gave her so much more than gold medals in the Olympics.

President Ronald Reagan
& Florence Griffith-Joyner
After an illustrious career, Flo Jo  retired and established a foundation for underprivileged children, remembering her own childhood in Watts. She also began her own clothing line of sports athletic uniforms, using sewing skills she learned from her seamstress mother. When she was a youngster, she designed and made her own wardrobes for school and made clothes for her dolls, so the new profession came natural to her.

We watched Joyner on television gracing the track like a fashion model on a runway or an film actress on the red carpet for her latest role in the movies. And as fate would have it, Flo Jo acted in several television shows

She began having seizures in 1996. Two years later, on September 21, 1998, at age 38, Flo Jo suffered an epileptic seizure in her sleep and died. That was just ten years after she became famous as the fastest woman in the world and captured the attention of television cameras around the world for her glamour on and off the track. Flo Jo's Olympic record still stands. She is still the fastest woman in the world.

Sunny Nash is a writer, producer, photographer and leading author on race relations in America. 

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Sunny Nash
Sunny Nash is an author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations. She writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking. Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement.

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Sunny Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations. Nash's book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide for black studies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life--from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women's issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements--past and present—to today's post-racism. homepage
© 2014 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. 
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