100 Black Women share legacy of Madam C.J. Walker

It was 10 years ago when Sandra Mack and Rose Crowder decided to start a chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in Las Vegas.

Founding members were Beverly Dabney, Hannah Brown, Jackie Caffey, Denise Ogletree McGuinn, Teddy Osantowsky, Diane Stith, Betty Thomas Orr and Billie Knight Rayford. Their goal was to recognize and honor women of color who owned their own businesses.

The women held their first luncheon and named it after Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made American millionaire. Walker, an African-American, generated jobs for more than a thousand women who sold her hair products and worked in her factory.

The National Coalition of 100 Black Women partners with other organizations to increase knowledge in the community on health, economic development and education issues. There are 60 chapters in 25 states and the Virgin Islands.

The organization’s latest luncheon, May 18 at the Rio, attracted more than 400 attendees, mainly businesswomen.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Karen Bennett Haron swore in new inductees: Tanisha Bridgers, Daysha Catchings, Minnie Daniel, Sylvia Joiner Greene, Thyra Griffin, Joyce Schuler, Toni Terrell and Onyaka Tiggart.

“We welcome our new members and share their excitement of participating in this journey,” said Sylvia Allen, president of 100 Black Women in Las Vegas.

The organization has launched the Pearls project, a mentoring program for middle-school girls. “It’s our way of making a difference,” Allen said.

Media personality Amie Jo Greer was the mistress of ceremonies. Vocalists were Cherekia Hall, Phil Flowers and 14-year-old KaelaV.

It was only fitting that Madam C.J. Walker’s great-great granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles of Washington, D.C., a former journalist and network television executive for NBC and ABC, was the keynote speaker. The Emmy award-winner has been published in numerous publications such as The New York Times. She was also the keynote speaker when the organization had its first luncheon 10 years ago.

“My grandmother would be grateful to so many who are keeping her legacy alive,” Bundles said. She quoted Walker when she said, “I got my start by giving myself a start … not waiting for opportunities to happen, but to make them happen.” Bundles said Walker was the daughter of slaves from a Louisiana plantation and was left homeless at age 7 after her parents died. She gradually worked her way into her successful company.

Bundles did a book signing after the event. Her books focus on Walker and how she helped teachers, maids, sharecroppers and others become independent by making money selling her products. Walker’s New York mansion and Indianapolis factory are historical landmarks.

Bundles reunited with former classmate Phyllis James and National Coalition of 100 Black Women member Georgia Rucker, a former postal executive who generated the campaign to have a Madam C.J. Walker stamp.

Presenting sponsor of this year’s event was Caesars Entertainment. Additional sponsors were: the Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International, Wells Fargo, CBS Foods, M.R. Whitsett, NV Energy and Southern Nevada Children First.