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Celebrating Women History Month



 “I have asked for equality nothing more…Women are entirely unaware of their power. Like an elephant led by a string, they are subordinated by…just those who are most interested in holding them in slavery.”
                        -Victoria Woodhall, prophet of Women’s Power, 1872
The formidable sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennie C. Clafin published Woodhull and Chalfin’s Weekly, a paper that exposed the adultery of the famed Brooklyn preacher Henry Ward Beecher.
Their frank accounts of the scandal sent Victoria Woodhull to jail.
The charge  – ‘obscenity.’
The paper closed briefly but reopened – and published four more years. Today the site of its publication is a stop on Opening the Way, the women’s eNews history tour of downtown Manhattan.
Woodhull was also the first woman to run for president, nearly 50 years before women gained the right to vote.
She advocated for equal education for women, the right to vote, and women’s right to control their own health decisions.
Reprinted from Women eNews – DONATE TO Women’s eNews!)

Sonya SmithSonya Smith
by Jessica Jones

In the right place and the right time, dreams really do come true. At least that’s true for Sonya Smith, owner of Divine Hair Designs.
Prior to owing her own salon, she worked for different stylists in their salons, taking time to discover the workings of owning a business.
“That’s what enabled me to know what type of stylists I want working with me,” Smith said. “So I was working in different salons to be able to build a solid foundation for my salon.”
A few years before she became the owner of her salon, Smith had the chance to rent a building, to establish a business, but she had no equipment to operate a shop.
“I had the opportunity to get an establishment, but I didn’t have everything in it,” she said. “I told my husband the next time I save up some money, I’m going to buy everything for my salon, all the basics, so when that building comes I can move in. So I did that. I purchased all my salon equipment from Ensley Beauty Supply. I was walking by faith. I asked the store owner how long they could house it for me. They said six months. Three months after I got my salon equipment the opportunity came.”
Finally being able to own a salon was a childhood dream fulfilled for Smith, who graduated cosmetology school at Shelton State Community College in 1999.
“It’s something I’ve always had a passion for, she said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted. I worked in so many different salons with different atmospheres, different people and along with my growth, I realized that where I started, that wasn’t where I wanted to end up. And so I somehow knew this was something God put in me, it was divine revelation for me to have my own because I’m a leader and I feel like it was something that God had destined for me.”
Right before she met her destiny, Smith rented a booth from a shop owner, but two weeks after being hired at the salon, the owner decided to fire her. She was able to find work elsewhere, but the building had a power outage on a busy weekend, which left Smith unable to work for the next two days.
“I said ‘Lord, where can I go to service my clients in a nice soothing, professional environment,” she said. “Something told me to call the lady who had fired me. I still kept in touch with her and I didn’t hold a grudge. She said that I could come work the weekend at her salon, and I said, ‘well, what are you going to charge me?’ She said, ‘don’t worry about that. Just come on.’ I came that week and I never, ever left. Everything was switched over from her to me.”
The business was switched from its former owner over to her, and Smith obtained a license; a process that can be lengthy and complicated went off without a hitch, Smith said.
“I’d heard about how it’s hard to get licenses,” she said. “But for me, it was smooth sailing. When we transferred the business over from her name to my name everything went smoothly. That’s why I said that I know that God orchestrated this. I knew that this was for me even though I couldn’t believe it – sometimes I still pinch myself because it’s a dream that has finally come true.”
Smith has been operating her shop since 2009, and while she’s had a few stylists come and go, for the most part she’s been working the salon alone. She’s recently added a new stylist who rents a booth from her. When a tornado destroyed Center Point businesses in 2013, Smith allowed stylists to rent booths from her until they could find work. As part of an effort to give back to the community, she’s organized coat drives and has even held fundraisers to raise money for salon equipment. Along with managing her business, community service is important to Smith.
“I want to be able to give back no matter at what level I am,” she said. “And as I progress I’ll give more.”

Kelli SmithKelli Smith, Women on the Move
by Jessica Jones

Any college graduate will tell you school is hard. Any parent will tell you raising kids is hard, especially if they’re single. But going to school and raising two children as a single parent is doubly hard. Kelli Smith is a full-time graphic design major and a divorced, working mother of two boys, who decided to fulfil her dream of earning her degree despite the obstacles ahead of her.
“After my divorce I knew it was something I always wanted to do, get my degree and pretty much go after what my desire was, which was art, and I decided to go back to school,” Smith said. “I’ve been divorced now for three years and trying to jump back into that, being in school full time, working full time, providing for my two boys, making sure that I’m there for their school events and trying to juggle everything, it’s hard. But you know, I’m a woman of faith. I know where my help comes from and I know that God constantly and always gives me strength where I lack.”
She previously attended A&M University, but didn’t finish after she became pregnant with her first son.
“Of course I planned to graduate and become this career woman,” she said, “but God had other plans for me and His plans led me to being a wife and being a mother.”
Her marriage ended after seven years, which gave her the opportunity to finally go back to school and reach her goal –l not only for herself, but for her sons as well.
“It didn’t matter what it took,” Smith said. “I knew going in, ‘Kelli, you’re going to stick with this, whether it gets hard or not, you’re going to do it.’ And I knew my sons had me to look up to. If nothing else, even if I never use my degree, I’ve proven to my children that you can do it. Whether you’re my age, or you’re married and you feel like you’ve got something going against you, you can do it so. I think, if nothing else I’ve taught them a valuable lesson – when you do something, you go hard at it.”
Balancing home, school and work is difficult. Once she arrives home from school late in the evening, she has to make sure that her boys have completed their homework and get them ready for their next day of school. As a student, she then has her own assignments to complete. While she has her mother to occasionally help her, asking for help isn’t something she likes to do.
“It’s not that I don’t like asking for help, I just hate to be a burden on people,” she said. “I try not to be a burden on my mom, because I have two other siblings who take a lot of her time. We’ve had this conversation before, my mom and I, because I felt like I want her attention too. She tells me, ‘Kelli, you’re the child that’s going to be okay,’ but when I do need help, that’s my anchor.
After graduation this spring, she has her sights set on working for the government or working for a magazine and possibly returning to school for a masters for graphic design and business and marketing.
Although this wasn’t how she’d originally planned her life, Smith said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I embrace it,” she said. “I love it and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”

Cloritta ThomasCloritta Thomas Turning Misfortune into Greatness
By Jessica Jones

When faced with tragedy after being the target of a random shooting that left her paralyzed from the waist down, Cloritta Thomas became a living example of turning misfortune into greatness.
Thomas, native of Cleveland, Ohio, came to Birmingham in Oct. 2009 after researching facilities that could possibly help her walk again, after being paralyzed from the waist down for nearly 33 years.
“There was no potential of me walking again when I was diagnosed,” Thomas said.
But that didn’t stop her from living her life and providing for her family. After her injury and a divorce from her husband, Thomas continued raising her two boys, alone. Thomas attributes her ability to continue despite her disability to having to be her boys’ provider. “I wanted a better life for them and I didn’t want them to be with anybody else, she said.” “I was very motivated to make the best situation for them. They helped me and I helped them.”
“I couldn’t allow myself to be selfish,” she said. “I had a family. I had to keep things going and it really was only me. So I had nobody to lean on, which probably was a good thing, I had my family but they had their families and their responsibilities and I always wanted to be independent. If I felt bad [about my disability], it was just for that moment and I knew I had to keep on pushing.”
Despite the diagnosis, Thomas began noticing that a portion of her mobility had returned to her legs.
“I noticed I had some mobility coming back when I was going to physical therapy,” she said. But my insurance would only pay for it quarterly, then I would have to stop [attending physical therapy sessions]. I found out that Birmingham had a lot to offer a person with a disability such as mine.”
Since moving to Alabama, she’s been consistently utilizing the exercise equipment at Lakeshore Foundation and has seen a gradual progression in her mobility.
“Right now I’m at the point of moving my hips, and prior to coming here, I wasn’t able to visibly move my hips,” she said. “I can actually get on a machine and start propelling and you can see the activity in my hips. And since I’ve been here (at Lakeshore Foundation), I’ve been participating in a lot of trial researches that UAB has to offer, I’ve been a good candidate for that.”
A large portion of her support came from the people with whom she surrounded herself.
“I was with people who had a disability but did not let that disability hold them down,” she said. “I was with people who were teachers who were counselors. Their life was moving. They lived their lives productively. The only thing they had to do was use an aid. They had to use a wheelchair or a cane or some type of device and those were the type of people I mingled with that kept me going. It has a lot to do with your environment and your openness to know that this has happened to me but life goes on and that’s the type of person I was.”
As a peer counselor, before her incident, she witnessed people who had endured life-altering trauma and were unable to cope with their new reality, often turning to suicide or becoming depressed.
Thomas was in a rut of her own, but she eventually became motivated to continue despite her disability. The change of attitude didn’t happen overnight, she said.
“It did take me a little bit of transition when I first got injured, she said. “It took me about a year and a half to realize I was going to be wheelchair-bound. But after that period of time I was surrounded by so many people telling me what I could to as opposed to what I couldn’t do, so I had a lot of really good people around me.”
Since her recovery, Thomas found that her life after her injury was fuller than before. She’s a mentor for children with spinal cord injuries at the Spain Rehabilitation center at UAB. She also works with a leadership program at her church which mentors to students who live in the projects. She is affiliated with the MS Society, a stroke group, a senior group in Vestavia as well as Ollie, a life learning course that is offered through UAB.


Adriana GalueAdriana Galue to be Honored by the Birmingham International Center
by Jessica Jones
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The BIC’s annual International Women’s Day event will be held on May 22 at The Club from 6 to 9p.m. The event will feature dinner and entertainment while honoring women from the community and around the world.
Each year the BIC presents a Woman of Consequence award to an international woman and this year the BIC is pleased to announce its honoree as Colombian, Adriana Galue. Based in Boulder, Colo., Adriana Galue started working with web startups following a career in Neuroscience. She is truly passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. In addition to owning a consulting company, Adriana teaches seminars in entrepreneurship applied to technology in several South American universities. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Adriana worked for 10 years as research associate and scientist for both the academic and pharmaceutical sectors. During her scientific career, Adriana co-developed the pre-clinical studies of Kalydeco, the only treatment available up to date for patients suffering from Cystic Fibrosis. Adriana holds a Master’s in Neurology and Neurosurgery from McGill University and an MBA from the Leeds School of Business – University of Colorado at Boulder. Born in Colombia and educated in Canada, she is fluent in English, Spanish and French.
As a part of this event, the general public may nominate Motivating Women that reflect diversity, culture, and achievement. These women inspire and motivate others to live successfully and significantly by making differences, large and small, every day.
Any organization, club, corporation, group or family can purchase a table at which the Motivating Woman will be a special guest. The public can tell the BIC in 200 words why a motivating woman should be recognized, and they will share her story in the event program so that other women of various walks of life, unique backgrounds and experiences, can be inspired as well.
The public can complete the nomination form on the BIC website and return it to the Birmingham International Center no later than April 22. The Top 20 will be selected for recognition as Motivating Women at the International Women’s Day Awards Dinner.
The Birmingham International Center is the nation’s oldest cultural-education organization. Founded in 1951, the Birmingham International Center has grown into a resource for international business-education needs, including intercultural training, heritage and arts programming. For more information on the Birmingham International Center, visit www.bic-al.org, email bicstaff@bic-al.org or call (205) 252-7652.


Nyya Parson-Hudson is a judge on the Birmingham Municipal Court.
Parson-Hudson, the daughter of attorney Connie Parson, grew up in Wenonah and attended Ramsay High School before transferring to the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at Howard University in Washington D.C., a master of science in criminal justice from the University of Alabama, and her juris doctorate at Miles College, where she was valedictorian of the Class of 2000.  Married to John Hudson, vice president of public relations, Alabama Power Foundation,   and Exective Director of the Alabama Business Charitable Trust for the Alabama Power Company, they have one daughter, Jordyn.  She and her husband formed their own Hudson Law Firm in the Alamerica Bank building. Parson-Hudson is a member of the board of AIDS Alabama, the Birmingham-Jefferson American Red Cross, the Women’s Auxiliary of the A. G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club, and the executive committee of the Birmingham Business Alliance. Parson-Hudson is an alumnus of the 2009 class of Leadership Birmingham. In 2010 she received the Young Professional Award from the Metro Birmingham Chapter of the NAACP.

Betty Marshall
Having accomplished several firsts Betty Marshall became the first Black woman appointed to a management position at Arby’s, the first in management at Shoney’s then promoted to vice president and today, she is Regional Vice President of Sam’s Club. She could not have said it better when she said she learned firsthand the true meaning of not judging a book by its cover, because she was being judged every day. She also said that if you don’t know who you are, you will answer to anything.

Ann August_Ms. Ann Dawson August, CCTM

A woman with a passion for God and Country – from her family to public service.
She served 30 years in the United States Army JAG Corps. and insures that public transit services are on the streets, six days a week.  Ms. Dawson-August believes that
“The more you know, the more you grow” and “Where much is given, much is required.”



Betty MarshallBetty Marshall
Having accomplished several firsts Betty Marshall became the first Black woman appointed to a management position at Arby’s, the first in management at Shoney’s then promoted to vice president and today, she is Regional Vice President of Sam’s Club. She could not have said it better when she said she learned firsthand the true meaning of not judging a book by its cover, because she was being judged every day. She also said that if you don’t know who you are, you will answer to anything.


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