Follow Up to WATERtea
“Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement”
with Clarafrancie D. Cromer Sowers
Tuesday, November 7, 2023, 2 pm ET
WATER thanks our colleague Clarafrancie Cromer Sowers for sharing her information and insights into the women whose heroic work in the Civil Rights Movement has been obscured. The tea format, including Clarafrancie’s Power Point and the small group discussions, allowed us to realize how little most of us know about these women and how important their lives were and are for the doing of justice.
The video of this session can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-TttM0atv0
Clarafrancie Cromer Sowers is a Doctor in Ministry student at Wesley Theological Seminary in the Trauma, Moral Injury, and Christian Life program. She earned her Masters of Divinity from Wesley with a concentration in Urban Ministry and a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counselling from Capella University. She is ordained as a bi-vocational clergy at the Historic Metropolitan Baptist Church serving in the IAMA Counseling and ministry lead for HIV/AIDS.
She engages in mental health counseling with expertise in substance abuse and various mental health disorders, including trauma, anxiety, grief/loss, marital/family, and children’s ADHD and adult ADD.
Her day job is with the federal government in IT, so you begin to get the idea that this is a very busy and productive woman whose focus is on healing and service. She is a member of Chi Sigma Iota International and Professional Honor Society for counseling students, counselor educators, and professional counselors. Not to mention that Clarafrancie is a retired Senior Master Sergeant, U. S. Air Force veteran with twenty-five years of dedicated service in the field of Aerospace Medicine.
She came to work at WATER more than a decade ago as part of the Wesley Seminary Practice in Ministry and Mission. Happily for us, she has never left. She is the clergy companion for our current Wesley PMM student, Pamella Miller, and has been involved in the same capacity with other Wesley students.
Just imagine that when she was with us she had a fulltime government job, a monthly obligation as an Air Force reservist, multiple family and church commitments. I still do not know when she slept. But I do know that she embraced her work with a wonderful spirit and achieved success in her many endeavors. Her graduation from Wesley was a time of joy for all of us. We will rejoice at her D.Min. graduation when the time comes.
Today she brings a report of her pilgrimage to Alabama’s Civil Rights
sites where she explored the important women in that movement whose identities and deeds were often obscured. She will bring them alive for us with her own commitment to justice.
Welcome, Clarafrancie. We are all ears to learn from and with you.
Small groups reflected on two questions:
- How would the world be different if these women’s voices had been taken seriously in the Civil Rights Movement?
- Who else is forgotten in the work you do or are acquainted with such that human progress toward justice is slowed?
Here are a few of the many comments following the group discussions:
- Pauli Murray was an important figure in all of this. See the movie “My name is Pauli Murray”: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11092594/. Also see the Pauli Murray Center that celebrates her life: https://www.paulimurraycenter.com/
- Black Sisters who were in Selma can be seen in the film “Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness to Change”: https://www.avila.edu/avila-archives/sisters-of-selma/
- The music of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Aretha Franklin, and others convey the freedom songs of the era.
- Prathia Hall of SNCC spoke of her dreams, giving Dr. Martin Luther King an idea for his speech that has stood the test of time. Elizabeth Kate O’Neill of Silver Spring, MD transcribed King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” from small pieces of paper and newspaper that were all he had inside the jail. His lawyer gave her the scraps and she typed it into a twenty-two page document.
- We need to teach the children of today the stories of Barbara Jordan, Barbara Lee, Dorothy Height, bell hooks—the activists and the intellectuals including our own womanist colleagues like the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon of blessed memory, Emilie Townes, and so many more.
Many other comments included connections to people who were involved in these movements.
Conversation continued well after the hour with so many participants realizing how very little we knew of these women, how much we learned, and how much more we need to explore to have a real sense of the Civil Rights Movement in all of its voices.
Hearty thanks to Clarafrancie Cromer Sowers for her work that we hope is just beginning on this topic. We encourage her to make it available to a wide public.