Friday, August 31, 2012

Women Rock: We Just do

At the second plenary session on Friday, August 31, 2012, Mrs. Bobbie Knight presented on the subject of "Women Rock: We Just Do" for the Phenomenal Women's Summit 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama.  Knight mentioned that as Black Women, even though we had "setbacks, we still achieve."  She first started by talking about her family, particularly her mother.  

"As a little girl in Zion City, I was really carved and changed as a result of events that happened."  Knight explained.  She lived near a Race Trac where the Ku Klux Klan often gathered, so there was danger but her family instilled in her solid religious ties and work ethics. Her mother always stressed the importance of education.  As a pastry chef, she was polished and pressed her chefs work outfits.  It was where Knight learned style her mother’s style -- hats, suits, gloves.  

One Sunday morning, 49 years ago, when the bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing the 4 little girls and deforming 1.  Knight was emotion in the memory as she understand the weight of knowledge that she was in a church basement in Sunday school at the time of the bombing and it could have been any other church, including her own.  Birmingham will start a year long commemoration of the bombing because it was one of the catalysts for the movement.  "A little black girl could not dream of being a major officer at a corporation in 1963," said Knight.

Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr's Eulogy for the girls, she says "God still has a way of wringing good out of evil….The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force (Yeah) that will bring new light to this dark city.”

Knight reiterated to the participants that each of them is a a jewel and can make some changes.  "Just be the precious jewels that you are, and that tomorrows diamonds will see us as a shining example."

Bishop Snorton allowed the audience to ask questions - the following is the dialogue that came out of that inquiry:

The question was posed how did she survive 34 years in a company.  She reflects on being one of five children, and is the only one of them still in residence.  Mrs. Knight mentioned that they often talk about how the Birmingham now is not the Birmingham from then.  When she arrived at Alabama Power, there were very few women in supervisory roles.  Mrs. Knight survived by learning.

Who were your mentors?
She said she had many mentors who had no clue who they were.  One was Brenda Fache – she admired her walk, her style and her work ethic. Mrs. Knight also mentored that there were also many men who helped because that’s who she was around the most.

She likes to take the best part of people and through away the ugly parts.  She would use the traits to help herself become better. Worked also in Tuscaluso and…Started in customer services, then went to Human Resources.  Steve Spencer (she was assigned to him), they grew up around the same place and she subsequently worked with with him in 4 other positions.

Knight was also asked about her parents and growing up as a child under such dangerous situations.
She mentioned her parents were very protective and as children, they never really understood the magnitude.  She mentioned how her brothers would throw rocks at the Klan even though they were warned not to.  They didn’t know they were without anything or that they were in a segregated neighborhood.

She was bused by “forced busing” in high school and the integration was difficult for the first two years.  While those persons at the school didn’t want them there and those being bussed didn’t want to go. Mrs. Knight mentioned some of those persons did become lifelong

She was finally asked if a young African American woman was new to the company and asked for advice, what would she give?  Knight responded.
1) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t know what you don’t know.
2) Life is about continuous learning.  Read everything.
She reads fiction but also Annual reports, the history of the company.  Educate yourself.
3) Keep it real and don’t lose you.  Don’t run away from you.
Knight replied, “People ask me how I survived 34 years [at Alabama Power], it’s because I’ve never been confused about who I was.”

Knight left us with one final thought, "Let the light amplify through you for, after all, you rock!"

Hear the full speech below:

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