Blogs Najee's Notes Opinion

NAJEE’S NOTES: Alene Brown Harris releases autobiography

Alene Brown Harris, president of the National Congress of Black Women Los Angeles Chapter, has released her autobiography. Harris is a long-time community advocate whose face and name isn’t seen frequently in the media but the work she has done for our community and in her personal life is just as important as other South Los Angeles leaders.

Harris was Chevron’s first African-American scientist and a trailblazer in her own right. She opened the door for other African Americans to follow behind her in an industry that was traditionally dominated by white males.

Harris will celebrate the book release from noon to 2 p.m. Nov. 9 at the South Bay Pavilion, Carson Mall Food Court, 20700 Avalon Blvd., in Carson.

I was so anxious to read about Harris I bought her book on Amazon and read it immediately. It’s more that a memoir. It’s a motivational book of encouragement, hardship and never giving up, following your dreams.

Harris’ life experiences, both exhilarating and challenging, gave her the courage to rise and work hard.

She kept believing that miracles are possible and success is sure to comply with a strong will, determination and a belief in the divine.

The book is an emotional journey that ultimately led Harris to stand among our boldest and bravest African-American trailblazers. Her story begins in 1948 in the small country town of Jayess, Mississippi, one of the most economically poor and racist states in the U.S. It also is a place one might not expect to birth a phenom. 

Harris’ life experiences could have easily broken her will to live. Instead it fed her desire to rise and capture an unbelievably victorious life.  She leads her readers toward the belief that miracles are possible and success is eminent with hard work,

Picking cotton as a young child in unbearable heat, going to bed hungry many a night, delivering moonshine by foot from one county to another with her siblings to help her family make ends meet. These are a few of the challenges fueling her youthful dreams to one day rise above limitations and move to California to pursue a purpose-filled life.

With unwavering parental support, Harris jumped a great hurdle and graduated from Alcorn State College.  With diploma in hand, she secured a teaching/administrative position and was on her way to developing a career in the field of education, until a surprising series of events lured her in a most improbable direction.

She became a scientist working in a laboratory with life-threatening chemicals for one of the most prestigious oil companies in the world, Chevron Texaco.

Extreme racism and sexism greeted her entrance into a male-dominated fraternity of scientists and egos, causing her to wonder if she had indeed made the greatest mistake of her life. Instead she discovered that a call to a higher purpose was placed before her to accept or dismiss.

By accepting she paved the way for women and men from all ethnic groups to cross the unjust divide Chevron Texaco was compelled to remove.

I loved reading this book but will not tell her entire story. I encourage everyone to buy it online as I did or attend her book signing. This is a true story of making history during the 1960s and ’70s civil rights era, conquering the odds and became Chevron Texaco’s first African-American female scientist.

•••

The film “Harriet,” based on the life of freedom fighter and human rights champion Harriet Tubman, continues to be the talk of the African-American community nationwide and a major box office success despite its handful of critics and naysayers. I saw the movie with my family opening weekend. My daughter Jurnee, 11, loved it and we all did.

This is not a white savior movie. It’s the movie to see if you want to see a heroic black woman and our people with guns and not afraid to use them.

The only saviors Harriet Tubman had in the movie were her God and pistol. This film depicts a rare portrait of the courage and bravery, of a black woman who was at the forefront of the human rights struggle. Tubman’s commitment to humanity, in risking her own life several times is one of the most incredible acts of courage in world history.

Tubman made 19 trips to the South, freed 300 slaves and never lost one. She is the best known “conductor” on the Underground Railroad and after the Civil War, she died surrounded by her family at the age of 91.

African Americans have complained for decades we don’t have movies like this, and then some from our community get angry and calls for boycotts of the very issue we have fought tooth and nail for.

It was 3 years ago that I organized a national coalition of civil rights organizations and activists which included Rev Al Sharpton and Earl Ofari Hutchinson and we demanded a change in the Oscar nominations voting procedures by then Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

Black talent from director Ava DuVernay to actors Will Smith and Idris Elba had previously been shut out with no Oscar nominations for their respective work. In fact, the Academy had no black Oscar nominees for two consecutive years, which sparked a national backlash culminating in protests and a boycott of the Oscars.

Boone Isaacs complied with our demands. She changed the voting procedures to include more racial diversity and women, which without question has led to more blacks being nominated. 

That fight wasn’t just for more Oscar nominations, it was for more black talent and artists to have an increased platform to tell our stories. The film “Harriet” does just that with dignity and honor, which is a fitting tribute to our ancestors.

For news tips, email Brothernajeeali@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter@Najeeali.