By Nicole S. Daniel
Nearly 200 women from Birmingham and surrounding areas gathered Thursday at B&A Warehouse in downtown for the Inaugural Juneteenth Empowerment Luncheon hosted by Jefferson County District Judge Ruby Davis.
“Juneteenth is a celebratory occasion. It marks the end of the ugliest part of America’s history. So today we are going to honor our ancestors and celebrate their freedom,” said Davis.
The event included a panel of distinguished community leaders that included Jefferson County Circuit Judge Carole Smitherman, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute President DeJuana Thompson and Lori Croom Bush, a Doctor of Optometry of Now Vision Eye Care.
Attendees were welcomed by Attorney Starr Culpepper who opened the event with Traci Ellis Ross’s poem “Juneteenth.”
The event was held in a room filled with politicians, doctors, lawyers, students and others. Juneteenth National Independence Day falls on Sunday June 19.
Davis spoke about a trip that she and her daughter Diamond took to Africa that “changed my life,” she said. “It was there when I realized I needed to do my part for those that sacrificed for me to live the life that I live.”
After returning home Davis used her political campaign slogan — “Run with Ruby” – to create Run With Ruby LLC, an organization designed to educate, empower and inspire individuals to push themselves beyond what’s comfortable. Her mission statement is an acronym “T.O.R.C.H.” — Transcending Obstacles and Rejection Can Create Heroes.
“We’re here today because we are passing the T.O.R.C.H.,” Davis said during the gathering. “The panelists are here because they are going to share the obstacles and rejections they’ve faced over the years to get where they are.”
Smitherman, the first Black women to serve as a Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge and the first African American female Mayor in Birmingham, said she was motivated in her career because “there was no lane when I started.”
Thompson said her high school principal told her to work hard and “you can make it happen — and I did that.”
Bush said she wore really thick glasses in first grade and what some saw was a disability propelled her become a doctor.
Davis said the panelists “are powerful dynamic women born and raised in Birmingham . . . They are very important because they have dedicated their life and craft to this community.”