By BARBARA HOWARD
These past few weeks have been very emotional for me as I have personally experienced the passing of three (they say they come in threes) very well-known icons.
First, there was businessman Sonny Wright, the first Black millionaire in Miami- Dade who made his money in real estate and in the restaurant business. Sonny bought Peoples National Bank of Commerce in Liberty City and (according to the Miami Herald) made it the first (and only) black-owned bank in Miami-Dade.
Sonny also owned and published the South Florida Newsweek newspaper and convinced me to write an opinion piece for him. We would hold long political conversations in the bank or in his real estate office.
When Sonny was forced out of the bank, he was heart-broken and wanted to re-start the paper, which had floundered for years. He often called me to talk about going into business with him. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), I had so many clients and business opportunities of my own that I had little time to help Sonny. But I always made time to meet with him and listen to his concerns.
He and I ended up attending the same wonderful church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, so I got a chance to spend time with him and his lovely wife, Mrs. Veronise Strong-Wright, again.
It made my heart smile when, at the funeral on December 28, 2016, she hugged me and said how often he spoke of me.
Miami-Dade has lost a pioneer and wonderful visionary. I will truly miss him. May the Lord heal his family.
The next service was for Marsha Jackman (January 7, 2017). Marsha Gwenette Evans Jackman was the consummate government bureaucrat who retired from Miami-Dade County and became a businesswoman.
When I met Marsha, she was the Agenda Coordinator for the Miami-Dade County Commission and was invaluable to the politicians on the Commission. She increased her value when she was put in charge of the Minority Business Development Office.
When the Congressional focus went from minority business legislation to small business legislation, Marsha developed a small business program for the County which she built into a formidable department of over 100 employees.
There she and her staff ensured that small businesses of all races, creeds and colors built a participation rate that surpassed all expectations and increased the bottom line of these businesses making them very successful.
As someone who worked with developing small and minority business programs for governmental entities and educational institutions and assisting major corporations in utilizing small and minority businesses, I salute her.
But it was her friendship that I will miss the most. Although we had not seen each other in years, Marsha and her husband, Frank, were instrumental in helping me find my dream house and for that I am forever grateful.I spent 10 wonderful years on the lake (some with my youngest daughter and grandchildren) and sold it for a fantastic profit allowing me to move to Miami Beach and live on the Ocean for a while.
May the Lord continue to bless her beloved daughter and grandson.
Finally, the passing which hurt me the most was the passing of the soul of the great Roy Innis, National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, otherwise known as C.O.R.E.
Mr. Innis was an icon in the Civil Rights movement. C.O.R.E. is one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. And I feel honored that he chose me to be the Florida State Chair for C.O.R.E. He was my leader.
While many of the people who represent other civil rights organizations are constantly agitating, focusing on the negative and defining every little “slight” as racism, sexism, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, etc. , Mr. Innis has had C.O.R.E. focus on creating positive opportunities for people of color, much in the image of Dr. Martin Luther King.
C.O.R.E. is about bringing people together. Our National Spokesperson Niger Innis, is Mr. Innis’ son and when he speaks, you hear Mr. Innis, the soft spoken angel who was finally called home by God. I can hear God say, “Servant, well done”. Mr. Innis was truly a servant of God and I am proud to be part of the family.
All three were icons in their own right. Sonny Wright came into my life for a season, Marsha Jackman came for a reason, and Mr. Roy Innis came for a lifetime. Thank you, God, for all three.