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In Honor of Sarah M. Stevenson

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 16, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. ADAMS. Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to speak in honor of the first Black woman to serve on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board.

One of the cofounders and conveners of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, not only a queen of the Queen City, but one of the crown jewels, Miss Sarah Stevenson.

Sarah Belle Mingo was born in Heath Springs, South Carolina, in 1925, the first of 14 children.

Her life quickly led her to Charlotte where, like many African- American women of her time, she worked as a housekeeper and did domestic work so that she and her family could achieve a brighter future.

In Charlotte, she successfully integrated the school district's parent-teacher associations, and as an activist and mother of four, helped lay the foundation for one of the most integrated school districts in the Nation.

You could have found her across the street from us on October 12, 1970, when she attended oral arguments at the Supreme Court for the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case.

In 1980, she won election to the board of education, which she served for 8 years.

Equity in education was always at the forefront of what she did, because even though the courts declared separate but equal was unequal, too many schools in Charlotte were still both separate and unequal.

What she did made a difference. In 1984, halfway through Miss Sarah's tenure on the school board, President Ronald Reagan made a campaign stop in Charlotte at the height of his popularity. President Reagan had a line in his stump speech that won thunderous applause in cities across the country, and in Charlotte, he repeated it, saying that school busing was a failed social experiment that nobody wants.

The crowd went silent. There was, at best, scattered applause. That is because in Charlotte, activists like Sarah Stevenson worked hard so that Black and White parents could come together in support of Charlotte's ``finest achievement''--school integration.

She lost reelection to the school board in 1988 because she continued to value equity and integration even as the political winds changed. Her values were more important to her than winning votes. And that is an example that we can all learn from.

While on the school board, she cofounded the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, a group she continues to convene to this day. The Forum can best be described as the pulse of the community in Charlotte. The Forum has met on most Tuesdays for the past 40 years and is a required stop for candidates for public office in Charlotte and those running statewide.

For these and many other achievements, it goes without saying that Sarah Stevenson has earned numerous awards and commendations over the course of her life. I was honored to be with her in 2007 as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership opened the 130-unit Stevenson Apartments in her honor.

But perhaps the greatest honor she continues to bestow on us, the entire Charlotte community, is her wisdom. Not only her wisdom, but the wisdom of the Forum and its 40 years of guest speakers and attendees.

As is said in a Fourfold Franciscan blessing that often starts the Forum:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half- truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war so that we may reach our hands to them to comfort them and turn their path pain into joy.

May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

I thank Miss Sarah, for working for justice, freedom, and peace, and for blessing so many people with enough foolishness to believe that we can make the impossible possible.