Jul 15, 2020
Dr. Dorthy Israel, our good friend "Deeh" agreed to share with Carter and me the real inside truth she's experienced throughout her long life, regarding the often misrepresented, or fragmented history of what it's like "Being Black in Modern America." Her story spans almost an entire century! Deeh met Eleanor Roosevelt when she was a young woman when the First Lady came to visit her Harlem school, a remarkable event that Deeh likens to "unbelievable" for the times. Deeh lived in the same neighborhood as the jazz great, Duke Ellington. Selected for her regal bearing and eloquence, she represented the United States as an ambassador to the governments of Caribbean nations. In the U.S. she crossed paths with influential Blacks as well as Whites: Harlem Renaissance writers, national and state politicians like Nelson Rockefeller, and rubbed shoulders with entertainers such as Billy Holiday. Always looking for ways to help her fellow human, Deeh's life was, and is still, about serving others no matter what color their skin, creed, or culture.
Deeh is retired here in St. Augustine, but spent her entire professional career in New York City after getting her formal education. Born and raised and working mostly as a social worker in Harlem, she also was a counselor and then manager of an innovative mental health clinic in Bed-Sty, both predominantly Black communities that face every challenge imaginable to humanity. Deeh knew that knowing "others" was important to know herself better, so she traveled extensively throughout America, Europe, Africa, and the West Indies, and many other places.
Currently Carter works with Deeh (both as volunteers) on a project to commemorate the first all-Black community in the New World, named Fort Mose. Today, a modern, high-tech museum stands on the site of the former wooden Fort, which is now in ruins. A campaign is underway to rebuild the original Fort that was given entirely to Blacks in 1738 by the Spanish, who owned Florida at the time. During those hard slave-years, any Black who could make it through the almost impenetrable terrain were granted freedom and given a safe place to live at Fort Mose. Deeh and Carter and I, teZa, agree this historical site could be the most important symbol of Freedom and Hope in the U.S. today.
Deeh will return to share with ZLORD as many times as she wishes, so we can document her incredible story for all the world to hear. Besides being a published author, she's a wonderful speaker. This feisty woman is a force to be reckoned with, and, as Carter says, "She's pretty cute, too!"