Editor's Note: This is the first of four articles
observing Black History Month in Cherokee County.
As co-founder to a mentoring program for adolescent girls, local social worker Regina A. Brown knows the impact of being a role model who inspires others to strive for equality in every sense of the word.
“As leaders in our communities, it is our responsibility to encourage all children and young people to be all that they can be,” she said. “It is our responsibility to access these young people to positive opportunities.”
Brown, 41, is the first person to be featured as part of the Jacksonville Daily Progress's “Black History Month” weekly profiles, in which men and women in Jacksonville and the surrounding area share their thoughts about the strides made since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the charge for civil rights improvements in America.
Although 50 years have passed since that historic era, the need remains the same, Brown said: “It is important to continue to work towards equality for not just people of all races, but genders.
“Personally, I feel that society has taken some strides in racial equality, considering that we can work and live in the same neighborhoods, but we still have areas to grow such as equal employment opportunities,” she added.
Citing Sarah Breedlove – considered the country's first female self-made millionaire who made her fortune by successfully developing and marketing beauty and hair products for black women through her company, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company – as her role model, Brown
described how “She developed herself as a business woman (yet) she remained connected to the needs of the community at the time.”
And as Breedlove gained her wealth, she gave back to her community.
“She was a community advocate,” something that strikes a chord in her, Brown admitted. “Like Sarah, I have a passion to succeed in my own right but not at the risk of forgetting my needs of my community.”
The director of Social Services/Admissions Cherokee Trails Rehab & Healthcare in Rusk, Brown recalled how the idea of “In His Image Ministry” arose more than a year ago.
While attending a birthday party for a 13-year-old, she said she overheard a group of teenage girls using language and holding conversations she felt inappropriate for young ladies.
"Something had to be done to show them that kind of behavior is not okay," Brown said in an earlier interview with the Jacksonville paper. "It really weighed on me."
Consulting with her cousin, Dewanda Runnels, the women formed “In His Image” as a means of promoting "self-awareness of who we are in Christ … for adolescent girls to have a safe place to address difficult issues and for them to learn who God says they are as opposed to the world."
A group of young women, ages 12 to 17, meet monthly to discuss issues and to volunteer at two different Jacksonville nursing homes. This month, they will recognize Black History Month during their visits with the seniors.
Brown also is a member of I am a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, Zeta Kappa Zeta Chapter Tyler, Texas.
The sorority “was the first organization under the National Pan-Hellenic Council to have a national headquarters for all operations and the first to charter a chapter in Africa (Monrovia, Liberia),” she said.
“Zeta Phi Beta Sorority also had the first chapter of any black sorority to organize a collegiate chapter in Texas right here in East Texas at Wiley College,”