Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Eighties - Part I

"It's time to start living the life you've imagined" - Henry James 

We are without children.  We have an empty nest.  We have three children in college and no children at home.  Did I mention that we have an empty nest?  How quickly it came.

Now, we could get about living the life we've imagined.

Us in the late '80s

The '80s were frantic because our careers were in high gear. Writing about the '80s and '90s is going to be difficult because there was so much going on.  Perhaps I'll just do tidbits.

At the beginning of the '80s I was working as Coordinator of Staff Development and Multicultural Education for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.  In the middle of the decade I left the Ann Arbor Schools and was working at Eastern Michigan University in the Student Teaching Office.

My husband was Director of the Program for Educational Opportunity at the University of Michigan. In the late '80s, he was promoted to Vice Provost at the University and our lives and experiences would soar. (More about that later.)

Our hours were long because most workshops took place after school.  We downgraded to one car, (couldn't afford two with those college bills) didn't take any vacations, and bought very little for ourselves.

Both of us also traveled as consultants so we did stay on the road.  NABSE (The National Alliance of Black School Educators) was growing and we were active, he as Founder, (NABSE was an outgrowth of his dissertation) and me as Historian.  This meant traveling not only to the National meetings but also to local meetings as there were now over 100 affiliate chapters all over the USA, Canada, several Caribbean Islands, and in Germany.

The Past Presidents of NABSE with the Founder, Charles D. Moody, Sr.
The lady in the middle, Dr. Deborah Wolfe, was one of the most dynamic women I've ever met.  She knew George Washington Carver.  I don't know why that fascinates me.

NABSE took up a great deal of our time.   We had such high hopes with a membership of over 6,000.  From 1970 until the middle 1990s it was flourishing and the possibilities were endless.  Our mission to improve education was the most important reason for the organization. Our national convention was the highlight of the year where we greeted old friends, enjoyed dinners, workshops, and deep conversations. We met and mingled with the "stars" and worked hard to improve education for African Americans.

Earline and Dr. Jerome Harris, (He is a former Superintendent of the Atlanta Public School.) The Moodys, and Dr. and Mrs. Thomas (He is a former Superintendent in Illinois.)

However, in the 2000s, many factors contributed to the decline of what should have been a stellar organization.  I won't go into the reasons, but NABSE was important because it was the biggest focus of our life during the '80s and now it is our biggest disappointment.

And what a ride it was.  We thought we would change the world and help all of the "diamonds in the rough."  The friendships we made and the ones we did help made it all worthwhile.  We, and the early members (those who are still living for we have lost so many) who really wanted to make contributions, are now all old, tired, and frail.  We're tired of fighting, but we still try to help others.

Us with Andrew Young at a NABSE meeting

Our life has been full.  We've soared with the eagles and fought with the chickens.


  1. Love that last line: "...soared with the eagles and fought with the chickens." Ha! Hope the eye is better.

  2. I love that painting and would love to know more about the woman who knew George Washington Carver.
    It is disappointing to work so hard for a cause you believe in and then have personalities and inner politics undermine your cherished dreams. I'm sure your efforts were more helpful than you realize. I'm with Janie - I love that last line.

  3. I find it interesting and inspiring that you and your husband were involved in such worthy causes Christella.

    That last line really hits a chord!

    All the best,