Author Robert McClory writes about the sole Catholic high-school open to Black students in the segregated south of Alabama and Mississippi during the 1940’s through the 60’s. From the Back of the Pews to the Head of the Class highlights through research and extensive interviews, how the Most Pure Heart of Mary High School worked to enable and empower all of their students even with their limited resources and while working against the laws that would keep the community divided along racial lines.  Despite the challenges, many students went on to become leaders in the church, the government, medicine and business.

One of these students was Dr. Alexis Herman.  For those unfamiliar, she has quite the resume.  Youngest Director of the Women’s Bureau in the history of the Labor Department serving under Jimmy Carter.  CEO of the Democratic National Committee by 1992.  The first African-American to head the U.S. Department of Labor where she served under Bill Clinton. Under her leadership, the nations’ unemployment rate reached a thirty year low of 3.9% by mid 2000.  She continues to advise corporations on the best practices for bringing diversity to the workplace as the Chair and CEO of New Ventures, LLC., in addition to serving on the board of several multi-national companies.

The great people at Dominican University in River Forest recently invited Dr. Herman to speak on campus, both about the book in which she wrote the foreword as well to illustrate the need for a new generation of leaders to further civil rights and they asked me to be their event photographer.

Dr. Herman remembered the time she spent with Coretta Scott King and Dr. King’s father whom she called “Daddy King.”

“When I asked ‘Daddy King’ what he wanted his son to be remembered by, he said ‘as an ‘A’ student of the world.’ He cared about the power of education,” Herman said. “Martin leaves a timeless legacy. He did not live to see social media, did not see television broadcast world events but he had a sense that advanced technology made for a smaller world. This is what happens when we harness the power of young people.”

She was fabulous.  Empowering.  Engaging.  Humble.  As I  photograph events regularly, I have myself trained to focus on my camera as opposed to the conversation.  In this case, I could not help but do both.