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Genois Brabson

Genois Brabson, the oldest of eight children, was born on August 15, 1949 in Phillips County, Arkansas. She was raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana and attended college there, graduating from Indiana University in 1974 with a B.A. in sociology and a desire to work with young people. Brabson then joined the Fort Wayne Fire Department, where she earned accolades for her work in fire safety education.

Brabson was the first woman to work as a fire dispatcher in Fort Wayne when she began in 1975. Then, in 1979, she became the first woman to attend the fire department's training academy. She worked as a fire educator and inspector until 1987, when she received a promotion to fire education director. Through her fire awareness seminars, Brabson taught both fire department employees and Fort Wayne residents, especially elementary school children. She sought and received block grants to provide smoke detectors to low-income families. When she realized the need for specialized training, she adapted her presentation for hearing-impaired children. She performed tests to determine whether smoke detectors could be designed to increase their effectiveness for hearing-impaired people and the tests showed that adjusting the pitch and location of detectors made a significant difference. Brabson also tailored her presentation for disabled people. Her fire awareness seminars are credited with saving the lives of at least two children.

Brabson has been the president of the Black Fire Fighters and a member of the Big Brothers-Big Sisters mentor program. In 1986, she was granted a Women of Achievement Award from the YWCA and a Philo T. Farnsworth Award for a children's fire safety video that aired on public television. The American Legion declared her the Indiana Fire Fighter of the Year in 1990. She was the first African American woman to receive such an award.

In 1995, Brabson moved on to new challenges and became a probation officer for Allen Superior Court Family Relations Division. She counsels juvenile offenders and their families, showing children and parents how to cope with anger, communicate and find solutions. She is married to James Brabson and has one son, Marlin.

Accession Number

A2002.139

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/30/2002

Last Name

Brabson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Hanna Elementary School

Harmar Elementary School

Central High School

University of Saint Francis

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Genois

Birth City, State, Country

Phillips Conty

HM ID

WIL07

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Only if travel is required

Favorite Season

Thanksgiving

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

This Is the Day That The Lord Has Made. We Will Rejoice And Be Glad In It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Indiana

Birth Date

8/15/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Fort Wayne

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Fire safety specialist Genois Brabson (1949 - ) was the first African American woman firefighter in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she is a fire safety specialist and parole officer.

Employment

Fort Wayne Fire Department

Allen County Superior Court, Family Relations Division

Favorite Color

Black

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Genois Wilson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Genois Wilson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Genois Wilson talks about her family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Genois Wilson talks about her grandmother losing her family to tuberculosis

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Genois Wilson talks about her parents' families

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Genois Wilson describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Genois Wilson talks about her parents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Genois Wilson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Genois Wilson describes her family's vacations and visits to her grandparents in Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Genois Wilson describes her family vacations to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Genois Wilson describes her childhood homes

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Genois Wilson describes her experience at Central High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Genois Wilson describes her experience with integration at Central High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Genois Wilson describes her interests in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Genois Wilson talks about her childhood curiosity

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Genois Wilson talks about her experience at Central High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Genois Wilson talks about her interests while at Central High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Genois Wilson talks about getting married and enrolling at University of Saint Francis and Indiana University- Purdue University in Fort Wayne

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Genois Wilson describes how she became a fire department dispatcher in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Genois Wilson describes her experience in the Fort Wayne Fire Department dispatch center and training academy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Genois Wilson describes her experience as the first black woman in the fire department training academy in Fort Wayne, Indiana, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Genois Wilson describes her experience as the first black woman in the fire department training academy in Fort Wayne, Indiana, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Genois Wilson describes the first fire she experienced while in the fire department in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Genois Wilson describes organizing a fire safety program in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Genois Wilson talks about Safety Village in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Genois Wilson describes how the Fort Wayne Fire Department adapted to female firefighters

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Genois Wilson talks about filing a complaint against the Fire Prevention Chief, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Genois Wilson talks about filing a complaint against the Fire Prevention Chief, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Genois Wilson talks about her decision to retire from the Fort Wayne Fire Department

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Genois Wilson talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Genois Wilson reflects upon what she would change about her career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Genois Wilson talks about the future of African Americans in fire prevention

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Genois Wilson recalls her older sister dying in a fire

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Genois Wilson describes how her parents reacted to her choice of career

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Genois Wilson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Genois Wilson talks about how she'd like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Genois Wilson narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Genois Wilson narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

8$1

DATitle
Genois Wilson describes her experience in the Fort Wayne Fire Department dispatch center and training academy
Genois Wilson talks about filing a complaint against the Fire Prevention Chief, pt. 1
Transcript
Somehow, they'd come up with that concept because the [Fort Wayne, Indiana] police paid the pension of the--of their dispatchers, and the fire paid the pension of their dispatchers even though we all had the same job; except they made a rule where only firefighters could dispatch fire equipment, which was, you know, kind of funny, 'cause then you always had to have the combination in the room. And it was really interesting. I mean, it really was, because when I went in there, at that time--I'm trying to think--it was just guys. I'm trying to think. The only woman there was his secretary. And, you know, and we worked Monday through Sunday, twenty-four hours; and that center was open all the time. And so I was on that shift of--every shift that they had for four years. I mean, it was like you get what nobody else wants. And one of the fire chiefs, [Thomas E.] Tom Loraine, was one of the people that was instrumental in starting women in the fire department, because he came down and he talked to me, or at least he talked to one of my supervisors and said, "Well, you know, ask her if she'd be interested in going through our fire academy. We really need some women go through this academy to see how they match up to the men." He said, "But, you know, they're doing it in Indianapolis [Indiana] and, you know, a lot of the other big cities. Fort Wayne needs to catch up." So I told my supervisor, I said, "Sure." (laughs) I said, "Yes." I said, "That would be exciting. I want to try that." I mean, you know, to me it's a learning experience. And he said, "Well, what if you don't make it?" He said, "You can always come back in dispatch." So I thought, "What do I have to lose? I go and try it, if I don't make it, I'll go back in dispatch." So I go through the fire academy, which is a--the group of twelve, the dirty dozen that I was with. And, you know, and they put us through all this rope training, and they start you out jogging. You got to jog, you know (simultaneous)--$$It's a real physical training.$$It's very physical.$$(Unclear).$$And I'm thinking, I haven't been physical in years, and I'm like (simultaneous)--$$(Unclear) at one time (simultaneous) (unclear)--$$--yeah, but how many years ago. I'm think, "I can't do this." I mean, I literally said, "I can't do it. I'm going to quit." And my son--let's see, old was he, Marlin [Adams]--at that time, he was probably about seven--seven or eight. And then my little brother was about maybe nine. And I took them and we went over to one of the school tracks. And so when I leave the fire academy school, I get my gym shoes and take those two boys and we'd run around the track, 'cause I knew--I said, the only way I'm going to get this, I have got to build up my muscle and my endurance, 'cause I am just spent. I mean, when I get to that academy and they say, "We want you to run down there and round there and back here," I was always the last one, you know. Everybody else was back, I'm the last one, and I'm still gasping for breath an hour later. So I thought, nah. But I actually did build up my strength, and I ended up with an injured ankle out of the ordeal, but, you know. I felt I had toughened up, you know. I was ready for whatever they, you know, challenged us with to do, you know, we were able to do.$$Okay.$$It was--it was good.$You were getting ready to tell us about one negative experience, I guess (simultaneous)--$$Mm-mm.$$Yeah. You were just (simultaneous) (unclear)--$$Yes.$$Tell us about that.$$Yeah. The most negative experience was the one female who came after me, and she came in the Fire Prevention Bureau, and she had become our--what they call them--Fire Prevention Chief. So she became director of that department. And she started making changes, and she had a lot of good ideas, but, you know, the fact that she just came in and just was kind of running roughshod over everybody, and then especially me, I mean, it just seemed--I felt so targeted. And I, you know, tried to talk to her about it. And she was just, you know, very closed and didn't want to talk about it. And it just seemed like she had a mission. But it didn't seem to be going, you know, where I was going to benefit from it, so I thought. I didn't know what else to do. So what I ended up doing is, I end up going to Metro, which is run also by the City [Fort Wayne, Indiana], and I didn't have a good feeling about them, 'cause I'm think, "Well, how would the City prosecute the City?" because she works for the City. But I thought I got to do something, because she's not going to stop. And I had talked to other coworkers about it, and they were all saying, "I don't think it's anything you can do unless you go to court." And I thought, "But I don't want to go to court. I don't have any money to go to court, I don't want to go to court, and I don't know if I trust the court." And they said, "Well, you got to start with Metro." So I go to Metro, you know, and they run me through all this paperwork, which, in the first place, was discouraging. I mean, three days' worth of paperwork to just file a complaint. And I, you know, I kept saying to them, you know, "Can't--is there a way that we can, you know, kind of work through some of this? Can you guys tell me what you think?" "No, no, no. We can't tell you what we think. We, you know, we can only take your application, and then we can have a hearing." I mean, just very cold. And I thought, "Oh, this is not good." And so it ended up, they had the hearing. They had Evelyn, the lady, and they had all the city attorneys, and they sat me over on one side; made me feel like I was this big. And all these people sat on the other side of the table; more or less like "You're on trial here." And I thought, "There's something wrong with this picture. This is not going to work."$$Did you have any attorney with you?$$They wouldn't let you have any attorney, 'cause that's supposed to be your--this is supposed to be your, you know, your application about your complaints. So you don't get an attorney. And (simultaneous)--$$So (unclear)--$$--you have to go through this step before you can go through the attorney route. So, in other words, that's to ice you out, you know. If you get cold feet enough, you're not going to go any further than that. And I think that's what that was all about. It was very posturing--they were posturing. And you could feel it.