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Steve Smith

Education administrator Steve Smith was born in 1964 in Albany, Georgia. After graduating from high school, he attended several institutions of higher education. Smith received both his B.A degree in English education and M.A. degree in education administration from the University of Georgia. He also holds an Ed.S. degree in education management from Troy State University. In 2010, Smith earned his M.B.A. degree after completing the executive format of the University of Georgia’s M.B.A. program at Terry College. The program included an international residency to Vietnam and China. In addition, Smith is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta and Leadership Georgia

Smith has over twenty-five years of business leadership experience, ranging from education, marketing and communications to business development and fiscal management. From 1991 to 1997, Smith served as a principal in the Fulton County School System, and was director of administrative services for Georgia Public Broadcasting. Smith served as vice president of corporate responsibility for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS), where he directed the review, selection and funding of community non-profit organizations through TBS, Inc.’s corporate philanthropy program. In 2009, Smith founded and served as principal of Steve Smith Consulting, LLC, and became a founding investor and board member of Atlantic Capital Bank – an $850 million community bank based in Buckhead, Georgia. In 2011, Smith was appointed as the deputy superintendent and chief of staff for Atlanta Public Schools, where he has executive control and direct oversight responsibility for all aspects of the day to day operations of the district.

Smith has also served on the board of directors of numerous organizations, including the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Georgia Chamber of Commerce 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, University of Georgia Trustees, University of Georgia Alumni Association, Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition, Metro Atlanta YMCA, 191 Club and the Atlanta Business League. He has served as a gubernatorial appointment to the Independent Redistricting Task Force, and was a mayoral appointment to the Atlanta Arts & Cultural Funding Task Force.

Steve and his wife, Dr. Debra Smith, lived in Atlanta with their son, Steven, Jr.

Steve Smith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 17, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.250

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/17/2012

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Schools

Lee County Elementary School

Lee County High School

Lee County Upper Elementary School

Darton State College

University of Georgia

Troy University

University of Georgia Terry College of Business

First Name

Steve

Birth City, State, Country

Albany

HM ID

SMI26

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California

Favorite Quote

Stay Flexible So You Don't Get Bent Out Of Shape.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/19/1964

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Biscuits

Short Description

Education administrator Steve Smith (1964 - ) was appointed deputy superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools in 2011.

Employment

Fulton County School System

Georgia Public Broadcasting

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Steve Smith Consulting, LLC.

Atlanta Public Schools

Barrow County School System

Lee County Ledger

Albany Herald

WGPC Radio

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1185,31:2123,51:3329,72:5004,104:5607,115:6478,134:12090,197:13190,213:14290,225:17930,240:18400,246:18870,252:19528,260:21690,288:22160,294:22630,300:25544,342:26954,371:27706,381:28364,389:28928,400:29304,405:35895,496:36805,517:39353,571:39808,577:40445,585:41901,642:43175,657:43630,663:47286,677:49934,707:52710,736:53700,749:54060,754:55140,768:58100,783:58905,791:62210,831:63170,836:63490,841:63810,846:64610,858:65650,876:66130,903:66850,916:67730,936:69090,962:69490,968:69970,975:79146,1075:80238,1108:81512,1130:82058,1137:89762,1201:92419,1215:102042,1340:105818,1400:106290,1405:110214,1429:110904,1442:111801,1459:112077,1464:116414,1505:117050,1513:118428,1528:118958,1534:119700,1542:122668,1582:126355,1599:126830,1605:127400,1612:136344,1684:137135,1692:139650,1717:140338,1727:141628,1747:142230,1755:142574,1760:142918,1765:143262,1770:143692,1776:145670,1809:146014,1814:146530,1821:147562,1837:147992,1843:150964,1857:151532,1866:152029,1874:152313,1879:154060,1887:154756,1896:156931,1934:157714,1950:158410,1959:159019,1967:159367,1972:159976,1980:160933,1991:162064,2008:162586,2015:167325,2060:168495,2090:168885,2097:169580,2109$0,0:1826,13:6173,85:9056,124:11474,154:12125,165:12497,170:14171,193:15101,206:20280,293:20945,301:22670,310:23270,319:23570,324:24020,331:25370,358:25745,364:27320,393:28520,410:28970,417:29570,426:30020,433:32950,447:33661,457:34767,473:35952,494:36505,505:40820,598:41260,604:41788,611:42404,619:43020,630:43900,644:44692,655:45220,662:46364,680:47684,701:48212,708:54104,790:54656,797:57860,817:58156,822:58674,830:60302,859:61412,878:62004,892:63188,910:64668,945:65038,951:65852,961:66740,977:67110,983:70772,1003:71592,1015:72166,1023:74298,1048:74872,1057:75610,1070:76184,1077:76512,1082:77086,1091:77414,1098:77988,1106:88180,1201:102048,1265:104032,1355:121880,1449:124850,1475:125276,1482:127193,1549:128940,1578:134924,1678:140580,1727:143268,1737:146098,1761:146722,1768:147450,1780:148074,1787:153211,1852:155059,1884:156291,1902:163170,1985:163650,1992:165560,1998:166144,2003:167290,2010:167800,2017:169160,2037:170690,2059:171625,2072:175068,2112:177580,2146:179080,2172:179480,2177:180180,2185:182330,2197:183050,2209:183450,2215:184010,2224:184410,2230:185050,2239:189290,2315:192570,2375:193050,2382:193610,2393:194010,2399:194650,2408:199926,2434:200880,2445:204105,2462:205260,2472:205785,2480:223550,2711:224030,2725:224894,2735:234862,2893:235186,2898:235591,2915:235915,2920:242258,3027:259789,3178:264690,3244
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Steve Smith's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Steve Smith lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Steve Smith describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Steve Smith describes his mother's education and career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Steve Smith talks about his mother's experiences of racial discrimination in Albany, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Steve Smith describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Steve Smith recalls the start of his aspiration to attend college

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Steve Smith describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Steve Smith remembers his mother's honesty about his father's identity

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Steve Smith describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Steve Smith describes his stepfamily

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Steve Smith describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Steve Smith lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Steve Smith describes the sights and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Steve Smith describes his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Steve Smith remembers his athletic role models

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Steve Smith remembers Lee County Elementary School in Leesburg, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Steve Smith recalls his influential teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Steve Smith remembers the New Piney Grove Baptist Church in Leesburg, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Steve Smith describes his experiences of academic tracking

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Steve Smith recalls his early work experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Steve Smith talks about his athletic involvement at Lee County High School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Steve Smith describes his extracurricular activities at Lee County High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Steve Smith recalls his start at Albany Junior College in Albany, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Steve Smith describes his decision to attend Albany Junior College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Steve Smith talks about the racial demographics of the faculty at Lee County High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Steve Smith describes his community in Lee County, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Steve Smith recalls his time at Albany Junior College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Steve Smith describes his early work in the communications industry

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Steve Smith recalls his transition to the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Steve Smith talks about the integration of the University of Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Steve Smith talks about the development of his racial identity during college

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Steve Smith recalls studying under Michael Lomax

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Steve Smith remembers his activities at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Steve Smith recalls the start of his career as an educator

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Steve Smith remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Steve Smith talks about his graduate education

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Steve Smith recalls serving as the principal of A. Philip Randolph Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Steve Smith remembers his transition to Georgia Public Broadcasting

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Steve Smith describes his time at Georgia Public Broadcasting

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Steve Smith describes his work at the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Steve Smith talks about Leadership Atlanta

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Steve Smith remembers his experiences at Leadership Atlanta and Leadership Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Steve Smith talks about his organizational involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Steve Smith remembers earning his M.B.A. degree

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Steve Smith talks about his return to the Atlanta Public Schools

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Steve Smith describes the cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Steve Smith talks about the carbon monoxide leak at Finch Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Steve Smith describes his professional goals

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Steve Smith describes his advice to aspiring community leaders

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Steve Smith talks about Steve Smith Consulting, LLC.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Steve Smith talks about his family and community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Steve Smith describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Steve Smith reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Steve Smith reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Steve Smith describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Steve Smith narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

11$4

DATitle
Steve Smith remembers the New Piney Grove Baptist Church in Leesburg, Georgia
Steve Smith recalls the start of his career as an educator
Transcript
In your grade school days, now when you were a kid growing up, was, was church very important?$$Oh yes, church was very central to my upbringing. We, we had, you know, we had the, I don't know, I guess you would call it the quintessential small black Baptist church located in the rural South where most of my uncles were the deacons in the church, and you know, out of maybe one hundred people who were members, I, you know, I'd had to say ninety of them were related to me in some way. So we went to that kind of church.$$What was the name of your church?$$New Piney Grove Baptist Church [Leesburg, Georgia].$$New Piney Grove.$$Yeah, the quintessential small church in the country. And grew up and was raised Baptist and you know, religion was very central to my upbringing and remains very central to me in adulthood. But I have very fond memories of growing up and my mother [Lois Smith Rushin] taking us to church and being in church with my uncles and other family members. Yeah, I have very fond memories of growing up and being a part of New Piney Grove Baptist Church.$$Did the church--did the reverend or the other church leaders identify you as a youth as a leader?$$Yes, they did and specifically, specifically my Uncle Buddy, now we sh- his name was Tom Smith. But my Uncle Buddy was the head of the deacon board. And I remember that Uncle Buddy would always call on me to either read scripture or to take up money in the church and or to make announcements. So he and others, in the church, recognized and quite frankly encouraged and helped to, I think, as I reflect on it, I think really empower me to be a leader and to be not only a leader, but I, I got the message from them whether it was direct or indirect, I got the message from them that being smart was okay. They were--they were always proud of me for being smart. And I remember getting that message probably indirectly and they may have meant it directly, but I remember getting that message indirectly from my--from my church family and my, my extended family that being smart was okay, and they were pretty proud of me.$When did you graduate? In--?$$Graduated 1986--$$Okay.$$--and one of the--one of the things that, that led me to a track of administration right away was that I was very fortunate to get a job right out of college [University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia]. And the job that I got right out of college involved teaching high school English part time, and the other half of the day I was at the superintendent's office handling public relations and community relations for a small district right outside of Athens [Georgia], it was Barrow County [Barrow County School System] in Winder, Georgia just about thirty minutes outside of Athens. So I started my career teaching half day English and then the second half I was handling public relations for the small district. And in handling the public relations, I got to work closely alongside the superintendent because in a small district, the superintendent is involved in, you know, essentially every aspect of operations of a small district. So I was involved in working alongside Dr. Hight, who became a friend and a mentor from that job that I started back in 1986.$$Okay, how do you spell the Hight?$$H-I-G-H-T.$$Okay.$$Don Hight. He was quite, quite a little pistol.$$Okay. So you were, so this is the--what school district is this, this is the?$$Barrow County, B-A-R-R-O-W. Barrow County and the county seat is Winder, W-I-N-D-E-R.$$Um-hm, so, Winder, Georgia.$$Um-hm.$$So, I know you went over to the Fulton County school system [Fulton County Schools] at one point and became a principal before you left education--$$Correct.$$--I mean in your early days. So what was going on in Barrow County and how, what was the transition to Fulton?$$To Fulton, yeah. I spent from 1986 until 1991 in Winder in Barrow County, and during that timeframe I was teaching English half time, handling public relations, the other half of my responsibilities, working out of the superintendent's office. And during that timeframe, one of the things that, that became pretty prevalent for me is that I knew I enjoyed being in the community. I enjoyed being--having the flexibility of going to different events and being involved with elected officials. That was my first taste of being involved with the mayor of the city. You know, again in a small town like that, the superintendent is, you know, a bigwig in town. So I got to travel around the small district with him a lot. And as a result, he encouraged me to start, to start a program, if I were going to be in education, he said, "You should go to graduate school and get an educational administration degree." Because if you're gonna be in education you want to be a leader and you should--in order to do that to be an assistant principal and to move to a principalship you gotta have a master's [degree] in educational administration, which is what I--what I subsequently pursued. But that time period, the five years that I spent in Winder were very--it was very--I guess it was an enjoyable time in my life and was a very successful time for me professionally. I got married in 1989, and my wife [Debra Smith] and I worked in Winder for those next two years or three years I guess, before we moved to Atlanta [Georgia]. And I have--

Sonjia W. Young

Founder of Eventions, Inc., one of the first minority and female owned full-service communications companies, Sonjia Waller Young was born Sonjia Amar on October 6, 1941, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents, Bernadette Louise Honore Amar and Apollonare Germain Amar, were both of Creole heritage. Young attended St. Francis Xavier School and McKinley High School. When her parents passed away, she moved in with her sister at Southern University. She graduated from Southern High School in 1959 and went on to earn her B.A., B.S. and Masters degrees in educational counseling from Southern University.

When she was seventeen years old, Young was asked to join the Ebony Fashion Fair as a model when it came to Baton Rouge. After touring with the Ebony Fashion Fair, Young married the late Walton Waller, a United States Air Force pilot, and lived for a while in Germany. In 1970, she married Dr. Walter Young and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked as a teacher and counselor at Atlanta Junior College, Clark Atlanta University, and Georgia State University. During these years, Young also worked as an interior designer. In 1982, she founded Eventions, Inc., which has become one of the top event planning/communications companies in the Southeast. Eventions’ clients include: The Coca Cola Company, Georgia Pacific Corporation, AME Conferences, Coors Brewing Company, DeKalb International Training Center and the Pan African Conference. Young has also worked with Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, Andrew Young, Muhammad Ali, and others. Eventions renovated the Wachovia Bank Building in East Point, Georgia, as the company’s headquarters.

Young is the recipient of numerous awards. Among these are: “One Hundred Top Business Owners in Georgia,” Women Looking Ahead Magazine’s “Blue Print Award,” the Atlanta Business League’s “Diamond Award,” the Atlanta Tribune’s “Salute to Black Business Owners Award,” ITC’s “James Costen Award,” and the Atlanta Media Women’s “Public Relations Award.” Frequently appearing as an inspirational speaker in the Atlanta area schools, Young, who has four grown children, is an avid supporter of educational efforts for youth. A member of Atlanta’s First Congregational Church, Young enjoys golf and yoga in her spare time.

Accession Number

A2006.117

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/13/2006

Last Name

Young

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

W.

Occupation
Schools

Southern University Laboratory School

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School

McKinley Senior High School

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days, Evenings

First Name

Sonjia

Birth City, State, Country

Baton Rouge

HM ID

YOU06

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

All

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: All

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Let's Think Positively

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/6/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Community leader Sonjia W. Young (1941 - ) founded Eventions, Inc., one of the top event planning and communications companies in the southeast United States.

Employment

Samuel Whiteman and Associates

Eventions, Inc.

Ebony Fashion Fair

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:224,3:693,12:1095,20:1363,25:1899,102:3909,151:4311,159:4713,166:13680,351:14360,360:14870,367:19290,422:24470,476:29318,515:30631,527:37316,602:39038,628:44696,709:52158,908:54372,948:63000,955:151517,2231:153365,2260:179074,2609:179778,2621:181506,2664:187426,2717:197420,2942:223619,3287:224045,3301:224329,3306:248129,3585:250611,3637:252582,3681:258641,3789:264846,3909:277122,4054:278972,4085:280526,4114:296695,4357:298907,4405:305543,4510:307992,4546:309414,4568:315591,4598:324716,4774:331050,4870$0,0:204,15:816,27:1904,46:2380,55:2652,61:6732,168:9044,231:9452,240:9792,247:17034,376:28611,520:29016,526:29583,535:29988,541:31284,575:32823,590:37278,673:42760,696:48920,817:50537,885:58462,1019:62382,1057:65142,1115:65510,1120:66062,1127:70730,1172:76022,1268:76694,1280:79046,1323:81482,1363:81986,1373:92440,1476:93040,1498:103096,1597:107350,1657:107770,1666:108330,1676:110780,1721:111060,1726:111340,1731:111620,1736:112250,1747:112530,1752:118200,1881:122210,1886:129154,1953:129756,1961:138939,2046:139304,2052:143757,2231:146166,2289:146677,2297:150765,2381:157666,2438:158230,2445:175620,2742:175996,2747:176842,2759:177218,2764:188005,2918:189790,2952:190385,3010:190725,3015:194380,3082:197695,3140:199480,3180:199820,3185:226490,3540:227840,3566:228380,3574:249870,3912
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sonjia W. Young's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sonjia W. Young lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sonjia W. Young describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sonjia W. Young remembers picking cotton

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sonjia W. Young describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sonjia W. Young remembers picnics with her family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sonjia W. Young recalls her first experience of racial discrimination

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sonjia W. Young describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sonjia W. Young remembers her uncle who passed for white

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sonjia W. Young describes her childhood home

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sonjia W. Young lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Sonjia W. Young describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Sonjia W. Young describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sonjia W. Young describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sonjia W. Young recalls the St. Francis Xavier Church in Baton Rouge, Louisisana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sonjia W. Young describes the St. Francis Xavier School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sonjia W. Young remembers the deaths of her parents

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sonjia W. Young remembers the Southern University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sonjia W. Young talks about being bullied as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sonjia W. Young remembers adopting her name

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sonjia W. Young recalls joining the Ebony Fashion Fair

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sonjia W. Young remembers Freda DeKnight

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Sonjia W. Young remembers meeting Dinah Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Sonjia W. Young recalls touring with the Ebony Fashion Fair

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Sonjia W. Young remembers her marriage to Walton Waller, Sr.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sonjia W. Young remembers meeting her husband, Dr. Walter Young

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sonjia W. Young remembers moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sonjia W. Young describes her early career in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sonjia W. Young remembers founding Eventions, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sonjia W. Young remembers guiding a tour for Eventions, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sonjia W. Young recalls the events organized by Eventions, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sonjia W. Young describes the services offered by Eventions, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sonjia W. Young describes the challenges facing minority businesses

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sonjia W. Young remembers the 1996 Summer Olympics

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Sonjia W. Young explains her preference for corporate clients

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Sonjia W. Young talks about event planning technology

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sonjia W. Young recalls Joseph Lowery's tribute roast

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sonjia W. Young remembers planning Coretta Scott King's funeral

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sonjia W. Young recalls the speakers at Coretta Scott King's funeral

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sonjia W. Young recalls working with the U.S. Secret Service

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sonjia W. Young describes her work at the Andrew and Walter Young Family YMCA in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sonjia W. Young talks about golfing

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sonjia W. Young describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sonjia W. Young reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sonjia W. Young reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Sonjia W. Young talks about her family

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Sonjia W. Young describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Sonjia W. Young talks about the First Congregational Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sonjia W. Young narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sonjia W. Young narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Sonjia W. Young recalls joining the Ebony Fashion Fair
Sonjia W. Young remembers guiding a tour for Eventions, Inc.
Transcript
So when you were in high school [Southern University Laboratory School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana], like what did you, what were you thinking in terms of career, future career? What did you see yourself becoming, or did you have those kind of (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, when I was in high school I wanted to be a model, or a dancer, all the creative things that, you know, you want to be when you're involved in that, an actress, you name it, and actually I had the opportunity of going--let's see, where were we--we were at a friend's home and one of our neighbors had a tennis court in the yard and a pool and so we used to play tennis and swim and stuff, and, I forget, he was a professor at the university [Southern University; Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana] and the Ebony Fashion Fair came to town, and there, at Dr. Bernard's [ph.] home, which was around the corner--friends of ours. They had a reception or a dinner or something for the Lottos [ph.] and for Freda DeKnight, who was running that years ago. And so I went to the dinner, had been playing tennis with my girlfriend, who wanted to be with the Fashion Fair, but I did not and had no desire to necessarily do that and I knew my sister would not let me go anywhere out of Louisiana, so we went over and she was trying to talk to them about being in the show and Freda says, "Well, you really, you know, you don't--."-- I was really tiny at the time and she wasn't--and she says, "You, Sonjia [HistoryMaker Sonjia W. Young] is the one that I'd like to have in the show." And I'm like, "Oh," She says, "There's a young woman who is leaving who looks like you." I've forgotten her name now, but she was, it was like the first or second show they've done for Ebony. And, I can't remember the young lady's name but she was on my (unclear) and so she said, "I'd really like to have her in the show," and I'm like, "Oh, that'd be great." My sister said, "Oh, no. You're not going anywhere. You've gotta finish school. You can't do anything, finish school, finish school." Because, you know, my mother [Bernadette Honore Amar] said that we all had to get an education and so it left her to take that responsibility for me and my sisters. So, you know, I just figured I couldn't go. Then I started thinking. I'd really like to go on that, you know, I'm seventeen years old, I can go to New York [New York] and you say like, "Oh no, you're a--."-- So Freda kept calling and finally she said, I convinced her that I should go. Only if you come back and you go directly and you finish your education.$$So, this would take you out of school for a year or something?$$Yeah, um-hm.$$For a better part of the year, or? When did you go?$$Well, I had to go, you had to go to be fitted by all the designers and trained and everything. So, that's when I, I convinced her and, of course, all of my uncles thought that that was a horrible thing to do, for any young girl to go to be model (laughter).$$How old were you then?$$Seventeen.$$Seventeen, okay. So, were you a senior in high school?$$Um-hm. I had just finished.$$All right.$$It was in '59 [1959].$$Okay. Okay, so you hadn't, you had just finished high school.$$Um-hm.$$Okay, all right.$$Um-hm. I had just finished high school. I was in love with, actually the guy [Walton Waller, Sr.] I would wind up marrying, and so I was like really torn between should I go, should I stay, should I go on to school, and finally I thought, if I don't go I will never know that, you know, what I missed. So, my sister agreed that I could go. I was the youngest, actually, on the tour. There was one other girl who was a couple months younger than me but she didn't last. They put you on a trial and so you go to Boston [Massachusetts] and, at that time, you would go to Boston and some other smaller shows and if you didn't make it through, I don't know how they judged you, by audience participation or something when you came out or something, and so she didn't make it, but actually that young lady is an anchorwoman somewhere in New York. It's funny, because I saw her one day and I know her, I know her, you know, like, it's been a long time. You know, she was with the Fashion Fair for a couple months. I'm like, that's who it was. So, you know, things go around. What comes around, goes around, they say, so you see people that were involved in your previous life (laughter) but, yeah, I know, I made it through and so I lasted and I, I was really a little country bumpkin, hair down to my back and scared of everything, you know, thought that everybody in New York--first day I got there we were up at Ebony's office and I looked down and the cop, a policeman shot somebody robbing a bank right in front of me and I'm like, "(Makes sound) I want to go home, it's time to go home."$What have been some of the highlights, n- now when you were, when you started Eventions [Eventions, Inc.], Atlanta [Georgia], was really, well, it had been booming for about ten years, I guess?$$Yeah, Maynard [Maynard Jackson] was mayor. I have a picture of us, I mean I really don't know what those pictures are, but it's so cute. We were like, (laughter) we used to dress, some of my friends that are still my friends now that had started off with me, so we'd get these good-looking women who were hostesses and we'd dress alike at every event and so it got to be a thing that you could have the Eventions staff or hostesses working for you. So, they were all gorgeous girls, young women and some of them, one of them, actually, my friend, worked with me for a long time and she's doing this too and the other is married to Nate Goldston [HistoryMaker Nathaniel R. Goldston, III], Valerie Goldston [Valerie Hampton Montague Goldston], and she is, they had a surprise birthday party for me the other day and we were reminiscing and just enjoying talking about how far we've come and how long we've been friends, like thirty years, I mean, so it's all good.$$Okay. So, what are some of the events, I mean, when you started out did you, was there a, who was getting most of the convention business then? Was it somebody else?$$Well, nobody, I don't think they really, I think they did a lot of in-house, but they weren't any minorities doing it. There were general market people, a few of them that were doing some, not a lot of them but, tour gals and stuff like that, were, had just started business too and planning a lot of the convention stuff. I would- I would not ever do another tour in life (laughter). We have some real stories to tell about this.$$From tours, really?$$Yeah. Because I thought, well, we're gonna do the tours, and we're going to do, you know, the city with the conventions, and I took on this big tour as a part of the meeting planning part, and we (laughter) the people, the tour gals didn't show up. The tour women that we hired, two of them didn't show up, so they said, "Oh, my god, Sonjia [HistoryMaker Sonjia W. Young], you're going to have to do this." I'm like, "I can't do it. I don't know all those dates or anything." So Michelle [ph.] was working with me, another one of my friends was here working with us. "Oh, yeah. We can do this. We can really do this." So, I said, "Okay." The people were librarians. They wanted dates for everything, so we get on the bus and it was a tour from hell (laughter).$$Was it the American Library Association?$$Yeah, something like that. I mean, you know, sticklers for dates and times. So, we get on the bus and I'm going, oh, my god; you know, "To your left is the High Museum [High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia] and--." You know, "Well, what year was it built?" "Um, well, around--," (laughter). So, we get to, so I'm going, "Okay, now how many of you here are from California?" And they go, "Yeah, yeah, I'm from California." "How many from Chicago [Illinois]?" "Yeah, I'm from Chicago." Then, they go, "Okay now, what was the date of that again," I'm trying to distract 'em from asking me these questions. (Laughter) So, I'm like okay, when we get to the Carter Center [Atlanta, Georgia], we go to the bathroom and we get in the stall and we get this book, and we start reading it and writing down notes. Then the bus breaks down. I'm like, that's--the bus broke down? I can't even believe that (laughter). So, it was like, no. This is not going to be a part of what I do. It was really funny. One lady says, "We want our money back." And I said, "Is that right? Well, why do you want your money back?" She says, "That tour guide we had was terrible." And I said, "Really? Who was your tour guide?" And they said, "You." (Laughter) I'm like, "Here's your money." It was terrible (laughter).