Black History Month: Three Alameda leaders share their journeys

In recognition of Black History Month, FAL invited three outstanding leaders to share their journeys and challenges in making a difference in Alameda. A large, diverse, and rapt audience gathered on Feb. 24 to hear about the experiences of Christine Chilcott, CEO of Girls Inc. of the Island City, Ardella Dailey, Alameda Unified School District trustee, and Vickie Smith, long-time activist for diversity and equity in schools. Local journalist, editor and writer Akilah Monifa moderated the discussion, eliciting thoughtful and sometimes emotional responses from the panelists with carefully crafted questions about their achievements, mentors and inspirations.

Particularly poignant responses came with Monifa’s question about where the women get the courage to be a leader. Smith said: “I want to go to bed at night knowing I made some contributions.” She noted how painful it is that racism is still a reality in America. “Everybody has to get out and take a stand. I want better for my kids, I want better for my grandson, I don’t want him to go through what I went through. Yes, I have the courage to do it because I have the right to do it.” Chilcott cited her husband’s role in giving her courage when she doubts herself, as do the girls at Girls Inc. “When you’re stressed and go out and see 100 kids of all kinds of diversity…see them getting along together, or not getting along but figuring out ways to talk about it,” she said.

Dailey recalled a period of her life when she left the U.S. for three years to live with her husband and son in Nigeria because of their concerns about racism. “It took more courage on our part to [come back and] say we are Americans and we are entitled to things,” Dailey said. “We wanted to be part of the solution and make it true that there’s liberty and justice for all.”

At the end of the discussion Carole Robie, the FAL’s event chairperson, presented each of the panelists with certificates naming them as honorary board members of the Friends of the Alameda Free Library.

—David Beall and Jan Greene