TROY - A critically acclaimed actress and performer and a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement will highlight the Leadership Conference Celebrating Black History Month at Troy University in February.
The theme for this year's conference, which is Feb. 5-6 on the Troy Campus, is "Remembering our Origins, Opportunities, Truth and Spirituality." The conference was launched in 2002 by the University and the City of Troy to promote dialogue that fosters multicultural collaboration and equip diverse leaders with tools to better serve their organizations and communities.
Providing the keynote address for the opening session at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Sartain Hall will be Civil Rights pioneer Juanita Jones Abernathy. As the widow of the Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr.'s closest associate, she became pivotally involved in the Civil Rights Movement from the inception of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. For much of her life, her work has taken her worldwide working for justice and equality for all people.
A native of Uniontown, Ala., she earned a bachelor degree in business education from Tennessee State University and taught business education at Monroe County High School and Tuskegee Institute High School before marrying the Rev. Abernathy in 1952, who had become pastor of First Baptist Church of Montgomery, dean of men at Alabama State University, professor of sociology and the first black radio show host in Montgomery. Abernathy is credited with writing the business plan for the Bus Boycott.
Abernathy has been a top national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics, helping empower women by helping them gain financial independence, establish credit in their own names and secure business loans. She has served on the boards of Atlanta's Fulton County Development Authority, the Department of Children and Family Services, and for the past 15 years, on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
Providing the keynote speech at the conference's closing luncheon is actor-dancer-director Jasmine Guy, who has enjoyed a diverse career in television, theater and film. She launched her professional career at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, and starred in the original Broadway productions of "Beehive" and "Leader of the Pack." She has also starred in reprised hit productions of "Grease," "The Wiz," and "Chicago." She won six consecutive NAACP Image Awards for her portrayal of the pretentious and comical southern belle "Whitley Gilbert" on "The Cosby Show" spinoff "A Different World." She played "Roxy," the grim reaper meter maid on Showtime’s "Dead Like Me," and as "Grams" on the CW Network's "Vampire Diaries."
In 1991, she released her self-titled album on Warner Bros. Records, featuring the hit single "Try Me." The song shot up the R & B charts quickly to Gold status, and fueled the success of the album’s second and third chart singles “Another Like My Lover” and "I Just Wanna Hold You."
In 2004, Guy penned the biography "Evolution of a Revolutionary (Atria Books)," which chronicles the life and journey of Afeni Shakur - Black Panther, activist and mother of slain rapper Tupac Shakur.
A frequent motivational speaker, Guy shares her story openly with those who may benefit from her trials and triumphs, and credits her desire to blend balance and discipline with ambition and service to fuel her passion for the arts.
Registration for the conference is now under way, and may be completed online at http://www.troy.edu/leadershipconference/index.html. The cost of registration is $30 for adults and $15 for students until Jan. 30, when a $10 late registration fee applies. Additional information is also available by contacting Barbara Patterson at 334-670-3204 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sheila Jackson at 334-670-2283 or by email Sheila.email@example.com. Registrants who wish to pay by check should contact Patterson by phone.