- Black women have been praised for their strength and resilience in the face of adversity and they have continued to thrive and make significant contributions to society.
Today we meet four women who are blazing their own paths in North Carolina in politics, arts, and community impact.
Coming right up on "Black Issues Forum".
- [Announcer] "Black Issues Forum" is a production of PBS North Carolina with support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
Quality public television has made possible through the financial contributions of viewers like you who invite you to join them in supporting PBS NC.
[bright upbeat music] ♪ [bright upbeat music] ♪ - Welcome to "Black Issues Forum", I'm Kenia Thompson.
This week we have a special treat for you.
Today we get to sit down and talk with four amazing women who have impacted their communities with the work they do and the passion that they do it with.
Let's bring on our first guest.
This powerful woman is the Founder and Executive Director of the Sisters Inspiring Sisters Incorporated also known as SISI and a veteran publicist, Terry Spicer.
Welcome to the show, Terry.
- [Terry] Good morning and thank you for having me.
- Of course, the SISI celebrates 10 years this year and you were just awarded with the 2023 Women of Excellence Award for Health and Healing presented by the Capitol Area section of the National Council of Negro Women.
Tell us about the work that you do at SISI and highlight some of the accomplishments that you've been able to have.
- Thank you, I'm so grateful for all of the recognition because it gives me time to talk to different pockets of people about the incredible work that we are doing.
Transportation should not be a hindrance to getting to cancer treatment but it is, unfortunately.
So the SISI, we started it because again, the resource is very minimal but it's critical to life-saving treatment and survivorship.
So for the last 10 years , we've been able to help over 1,400 cancer patients in all 100 counties of North Carolina and 16 states.
But there's so much more work to do.
- Indeed, share with us the need that cancer patients have for transportation and how did you recognize that this was a gap in a cancer patients journey?
- My best friend, I drove her the last year of her life to UNC Leinberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
And it was there that I got to see that the needs were great but the gap of disparity was so wide.
And she was blessed to have a Terry Spicer to drive her but unfortunately, many people don't.
And one of the incredible things, for example, take rural North Carolina, when those people don't have the economic capacity to get to the treatment here in the triangle area, they resort to going to their local doctors who don't have the kind of care that they need and that directly attributes to the morbidity rates increasing.
So we've got lots of work to do.
- Now you also have a Lift Your Pearls Campaign and you've incorporated the Small Pearls into that.
Where did this love for the term pearls originate from and tell us a little bit about Lift Your Pearls campaign.
- Well, all of my life, my mom put me in pearls that I'm sure were very low cost when I was a little girl.
And I've worn pearls almost every day of my life and I never really thought about it until people started noticing it.
And the Lift Your Pearls, Check Your Girls' Campaign is for women and breast cancer.
Many women are not getting their annual mammograms.
And I was surprised when I spoke to a group of college educated women, they get physicals but they ignore their breast health.
So when you think about Black women who die at a 42% higher rate than any other race or ethnicity, this campaign is our clarion call to say, pay attention to your breast health because it does not have to be a death sentence.
- Yeah, so let's bring in your Small Pearls, I know that that's the joy of your heart.
So talk to us about these young girls and what you do with them.
- Yeah, I call them My Daughters Unbirthed.
PERLS is the acronym for Preparing Elegant and Ready Leaders for success.
These children are amazing.
They come to us age seven through high school.
This year we're graduating two which will put us at 21 but we have a leadership development curriculum and we teach them, I love to say, to walk into a room with their shoulders squared with beautiful confidence such that when they leave that room, they've left residue of excellence and people will utter their names forward for opportunities.
It's about giving them opportunities and access and that they belong at that table where they're sitting at the table or standing in the room.
Being present is what's important to know that they belong there.
- That's so beautiful.
And so what are the age ranges for the girls that are qualified to be part of this group?
- Beginning at age seven, we figured that these kids are so smart, we may have to rethink that age because five year olds are really brilliant now.
But age is seven through high school.
- That's beautiful, yes.
And we know that we leave impressions on a lot of these young girls.
And so how do you incorporate mentorship in other women, maybe even on this show later today, that can be impactful in these lives.
- Would love to have each and every one of you.
Each month, we meet from September to May of the academic year.
We have incredible dynamic women just like you and I want all of you to come and speak to our students.
We meet the first Saturday of each month and we allow women like yourselves to impart experience, life experiences and you come from so many different professional disciplines.
So these girls are exposed to incredible levels of excellence and we teach them that success looks just like them.
- That's beautiful.
Such good work.
- Thank you.
- So much going on in the world right now, unfortunately.
Some heavy topics, big societal concerns, how do you see yourself playing a role in some of the solutions that we need to provide for these problems?
- Well, again, it is important, I'll go to my Small Pearls because everything about these children is a part of the question that you just asked.
For example, abortion.
We have ownership of our bodies is really truly important.
They have a community requirement, a community service requirement.
We're teaching them that the world beyond them is, that they're accountable.
And all of these incredible issues that are going on now, we don't want them to roll out of this program into a world unknowledgeable.
So abortion is absolutely one of the, and then gun control.
You know all of the gun violence that we're having, these kids are growing up in a world.
- That we never imagined for our children.
We thought we'd gotten past all of this, but it's like it's recycling itself forward.
So we have to make them aware, and we do discuss these kinds of issues at their level, and I trust you, they are more aware than what we really truly sometimes think.
I have eight-year-olds in my program who talk about bullying in the classrooms, and we have all kinds of issues that these children are exposed to.
So having the opportunity to help them and others in the community, it's really truly important that they know, and be made aware.
- Yeah, it's so important.
As we round out our session together, what would you want to leave our viewers with?
The most important thing that they should take away, and know about the work that you do, and its importance.
- The cancer patients deserve assistance.
Transportation, again, should not be a hindrance, but it is.
So please consider donating, because the resources are minimal.
And again, I utter that breast health matters, please get your annual screenings.
Breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence.
It really positions you better to deal with the disease if diagnosed, be about your business, be an advocate for yourself, and again, take time to really truly think about our youth, and be a hand up for these children.
They need us more than ever.
Terry Spicer, you are definitely a pearl, and I'm grateful for you, and what you do for our community.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
Our next remarkable woman is a face that you've seen many times here before, if you've watched the show.
She's one of our resident panelists that not only weighs in on the political happenings in our state and nation, but also plays an active role, and as our District 20 North Carolina Senator we'd like to welcome to the show, Natalie Murdock.
- Thank you, Kenia.
- Thank you.
I know you're not a stranger to the seat, and so we're just gonna have a great conversation, I think.
- Thank you.
- You know, many that have come to know you know that you have a passion for politics, and justice, and it's real.
Tell us were you always passionate about this?
And who was a young Natalie?
What did she look like?
- Yes, I think for me it started years ago.
Thank you so much for the question.
And in your earlier segment shared someone that works in the schools a lot, and so always get this question, particularly from those in elementary, middle school, and that's really where it started.
I mean, all the way back to elementary school, I ran for office back then, and what I share is I didn't win.
And so I think it's an example of you just continue to run if politics is something that you're passionate about and ran because I was just passionate about the issues going on with my school, would always stand up for my fellow classmates at school.
So it started way back then, but would definitely fast forward to high school where our high school, a historically black high school, in Greensboro North Carolina, James B. Dudley High School, was at risk of being torn down, and so we organized students, we went to our local school board, and said we don't want you to do this, we were successful in doing that, and the public comments I provided, years later is now my colleague, Senator Gladys Robinson.
But I remember this woman saying, "I want your comments.
I wanna preserve them for the record," and now am thrilled to serve with her in the Senate.
So for me, it really, really did start years ago of just having something inside me that cannot take it when I see something that is wrong, when I see someone not being treated properly I just feel a duty and obligation to stand up and speak for them.
- Yeah, and it's evident.
I love the pictures that you shared with us, young Natalie, I looked at and I was like, oh, you seem so passionate even then, right, in your handwriting on those pictures.
So I know that your mom probably had a great time digging those up for you.
- She had a great time, and thank goodness she keeps them, because I don't.
- Right, right.
Well, you know, from the Momnibus Bill to the Crown Act, we've seen you advocate for so much, Roe v. Wade.
You've made sure to advocate for all, but especially women across the state of North Carolina.
[clears throat] Excuse me.
Talk about why that's been an important cause for you to be on the mantle for.
I always have been on the forefront of women's issues, and serve every single constituent of Senate District 20.
Even those that do not agree with me, as we deal with very controversial topics over the last few weeks, still listen to all of that feedback, but when it comes to women's issues, particularly women health, as a Woman of Color, when it comes to, you know, cancer issues, hair discrimination, being treated properly in the workplace, equal pay for equal work, there are so many issues where Black women, Women of Color, we are constantly getting the short end of the stick, and we can rectify that through legislation.
So I'm very intentional about calling out these racial disparities, these gender disparities, these disparities with sex, to make sure that we do something to try to equal that playing field, and to call it out, because you can address an issue if you don't at least say that that issue exists, or whether it be a health issue, whether it be in the economy.
I want women all over the state of North Carolina to know, and even nationally that there are women in North Carolina, particularly in the Senate, willing to stand up for them.
We have the first majority of women in my caucus, we all spoke up around current events going on with women's health, and that's why it's so important to do that, because of those disparities, and nothing will change if we don't have policy that truly, truly sheds a light on those issues, and even when we don't get those wins, getting that message out there with the platforms that we have, to me is a duty and an obligation.
I would be doing a disservice to my district if I didn't do that.
- Yeah, yeah.
Well one thing that I learned in preparing for this one-on-one with you is that you got your start by volunteering for a winning mayoral campaign in Asheville, and at the time, the winner was the first Black woman, and the youngest.
So what impact did that have on your outlook of what was possible for you?
- Yes, Terry Bellamy is a huge part of my political story, and I share it often.
No one gets in these places by themselves, someone lifted them up, someone mentored them, someone guided them, and for me it was Terry Bellamy.
I was a intern in Asheville.
I was an intern with the City of Asheville.
And I remember when I moved there, I was leaving Durham, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, actually was living in Durham at the time after undergrad.
And you know, went to Asheville, and I remember when I was Googling, and just learning more about the city, I said, "Oh my goodness, they have a Black female mayor.
This is so cool."
I didn't think Asheville, you know, would have a Black female mayor.
And so when I moved there, got to know her, said I wanna volunteer on your campaign when I was serving in another role.
- And she said, sure.
You know, absolutely reached out to her team, started volunteering in my off hours and then later on she went on to ran for Congress.
And so again, jumped up, reached out to her team, said I wanna work on this campaign, volunteered after work.
And that was my first major race that I worked on behind the scenes was her congressional race out in Western North Carolina.
We knew it would be difficult with her being a Black woman I think under 40 at the time but she jumped out there and ran.
And I learned so much from her.
And she has been a huge, huge factor in the early stages of my career as well.
- Yeah and that's so indicative to the impact that we can have on people in the early stages of their career, right?
You were just an intern budding into this space and she made an impact, obviously.
When we talk about your advocacy work we've talked about some of the things that you've gone strong for.
But as you look in the future what are some things that are top of mind for you?
- Yes, what is top of mind is just the crossroads that we're in this state.
I think of other phenomenal leaders that are no longer with us that I look up to, like Shirley Chisholm.
And I honestly think our political moment is very similar to everything that they fought.
When you look at the legislators that were expelled from office in Tennessee, luckily they were receded.
We have the same happen in Montana.
Politics and democracy is under assault.
And I believe that all of us that are leading at this time are uniquely qualified to stand up and lead at this time.
And so, it's something that all of us take very seriously.
There's a whole generation oof new leaders and we're going to rise to the occasion because our various areas that we represent deserve that.
I'm a North Carolina native, born and raised and thrilled to say that.
But I wanna be proud of the state that I represent.
And I know that North Carolina can do better.
I know that we will do better.
I have traveled the entire state, I've worked on statewide campaigns, and we deserve to give our very best to all of North Carolina, not just some of it.
- Well, Senator Natalie Murdoch, we're so grateful for how you advocate for us.
I'll say how you advocate for me as a woman.
- Thank you.
- And I'm just so happy to call you friend and to know you and to have you on the show.
So, thank you.
- Thank you.
Happy to do it.
Our last wanted to ensure that the remarkable women in her life are acknowledged while still here.
Our guests all too often understands that people wait sometimes till someone's gone to give them their flowers.
Courtney Napier, the curator of Give Black Raleigh Her Flowers pay tribute to over 20 women including our very own Deborah Holt Noel, executive producer and correspondent for Black Issues Forum, as well as the host of PBS North Carolina Weekend.
Let's welcome them both to the show.
- Thank you.
- Thank you so much.
- Excited to be here in the guest seat.
- I know.
- Thank you so much for having us, Kenia.
- Of course.
Courtney, I wanna start with you, share with us a little bit about Give Black Raleigh her Flowers campaign and what criteria went into picking the awarded women?
- Yes, absolutely.
So this is actually an art exhibition and I am the founder of a organization called Black Oak Society.
We are collective of Black creatives in the Greater Raleigh Area, and we also publish a literary magazine called BOS Magazine.
So it's like the acronym B-O-S. And I started out writing as a journalist and in that position I got to meet some incredible people some incredible Black women.
And over time, story after story of Ms. Francis Lynette Williams or Miss Octavia Rainey these are great women in Raleigh.
I realized Black women really had an outsized hand in shaping my hometown.
And we have not received the notice and the appreciation and gratitude that we deserve for doing these selfless, sometimes very difficult and challenging things to lift up our communities.
And so the fourth issue of magazine was dedicated to Raleigh's Black mothers and I used that term broadly, matriarchs, people who, women who rose up and guided and nurtured their community in a variety of ways from being a mother of their own physical children, to business owners, to community leaders.
And I really was passionate about this particular issue coming off of the page and into a space where people could really come and gather to honor these women.
I had this vision of a royal portrait hall.
- And so I carried that vision to some dear friends, Mike Williams, founder of Black on Black Project, and Shelly Smith, who's the manager at Anchor Light at gallery in downtown Raleigh.
And they actually supported me.
- [Kenia] Yeah.
- They thought it was a good idea too.
And over a year of working with some incredible local Black photographers and incredible stylists who worked with all the women, we were able to honor at this point 10 women with eight portraits.
But Kenia, I like where your mind is going.
I would love to add another 10.
I have- - My apologies.
- I have dozens.
No, I have dozens in my mind that I would love, love, love, to honor.
And we had the incredible opportunity to share that exhibition at Anchor Light in May of last year.
- [Kenia] That's beautiful.
It ran till the end of June.
And then we also got to go to Shaw University for their homecoming quarter and share that as well.
It was fantastic.
- And Deb was one of the ones you highlighted.
- She was, yes.
- She was.
- Yes, absolutely.
I am, so my background's in journalism.
I grew up in Raleigh and I grew up watching Miss Deborah Holt Noel on TV in Black Issues Forum.
And I was always, so, even before I knew exactly the way I wanted to present our stories, I really respected how Miss Deborah did it differently.
It wasn't your typical news media, like TV media show and it wasn't just a newspaper.
She really gathered people and issues that were pertinent to local Black North Carolinians.
- And I received that and I learned so much from her.
So the opportunity to honor her in this way was honestly easiest pie to choose and something that I will cherish forever.
- Yeah, I wanna bring Deborah lovingly known as Deb in, we've talked about it many times.
Natalie just mentioned it, Courtney's mentioning it.
We don't realize the impact that we may have on other people when we're doing the work that we do.
How do you see your work continuing to impact future generations?
- Well, it's just amazing to hear about your impact from people like Courtney because so often, you know, they say that you're entertaining angels unaware, and this is exactly what apparently I've been doing.
But in terms of impacting other people towards social justice, I feel like my role with the Black Issues Forum has been really a wonderful opportunity and also a great responsibility.
I will never forget when Trayvon Martin was killed.
That was a turning point for me.
The program Black Issues Forum had historically been a space where we examine issues that affect black Americans in North Carolina and we take a look at the disparities and the problems.
But after that incident, I felt it was so important to begin to look at our contributions, the positive things that we're doing to show African Americans in different roles of leadership, in education, as business people, as parents, and in every role.
And that was sort of a new mission for me.
So I am appreciative of the opportunity to use the Black Issues Forum program and platform to share the fact that black people are people and we walk in all, you know, forms of life in terms of, you know, society, and we're having impact and we're having joys and we're having issues as well, but we also are still concerned about these issues of disparities.
So I don't overlook that, I don't gloss over it, but our approach, the approach that I wanted to take was inclusive and well-rounded.
- And you have definitely done that, you've done that.
I wanna open the question to both of you.
When we look at women in our society that are making strides in social justice work, how important do you think women are in making changes that last?
Courtney, I'll start with you.
- I mean, I think something that's really unique about women is that we see life and nurture as the best choice and the best way to solve a problem.
We look for ways where everyone can get what they need.
Everyone is happy, everyone is well.
Full bellies, healthy bodies, those are the things that are always front of mind for women.
We're not, you know, we are warriors, absolutely, but our goal is always life and our goal is always fullness and wholeness.
And I think that just innate desire is what creates really, really powerful solutions.
- Deb, what you, what do you have to add to that?
- I would simply piggyback on that because, as I look at what women have done for the black community, for America in general, it is with the goal of surviving and of living that we do what we do.
And that's why so often we're considered the world's mothers.
You know, so we're taking care of everyone, and almost to a fault, taking care of everyone except ourselves in some cases.
But at the end of the day, if there is a job to be done, we're gonna get it done.
There's so many women who are single moms, but we're out there.
We're gonna make sure that the child is fed.
We're gonna make sure that the bills are paid, and we're gonna sacrifice self to do it.
We'll do it for our own children, we'll do it for other children, and throughout history, black women have been at the head of the vanguard and leading social justice movements.
Look at Black Lives Matter.
Look at the Civil Rights Movement itself.
It's women who had been at the forefront, not necessarily getting the visible recognition, but we've been there from before Civil Rights.
From the beginning, we're the original mothers, and this is what we do.
This is what our goal is, is that life, like Courtney said.
- Well, Courtney Napier, our very own Debra Holt Noel, thank you so much for the impact and the work that you do.
- Thank you so much.
- Thank you for having us.
- We invite you to engage with us on Instagram using the hashtag Black Issues Forum.
You can also find our full episodes on PBSNC.org/BlackIssuesForum and on the PBS video app.
Thank you for watching.
I'm Kenya Thompson, I'll see you next time.
[upbeat music] ♪ ♪ - [Narrator] Black Issues Forum is a production of PBS North Carolina with support from the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation.
Quality public television is made possible through the financial contributions of viewers like you who invite you to join them in supporting PBS NC.