By C. Ron Allen
BOYNTON BEACH – Passengers in passing cars and guests in the hotel lobby were amused by the veritable “parade of hats” as more than 100 women and young ladies strolled by them on Saturday.
The well dressed women were arriving at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1601 N. Congress Ave., for the National Coalition of 100 Black Women South Palm Beach County Chapter’s 6th Annual Hat and Tea luncheon. They came from cities and towns across Palm Beach County.
“This is a sight to see,” Dee Riley of Delray Beach said. “Imagine more than 100 women in one room with all these beautiful hats!”
The elegant affair, reminiscent of the old South, featured a sea of colorful hats in every style – from a grandly plumed chapeau to beribboned straw garden hats to a demure velvet cloche.
The women came wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something every color imaginable.
Cynthia Westbrook’s wide-brimmed, veiled hat was black and borrowed from her girlfriend’s collection in Lake Clarke Shores.
“I wanted something different so she offered me one of hers,” said the 62-year-old West Palm Beach resident. “This is perfect because there is nothing even close to this.”
Mistress of ceremonies Rochelle Richie’s hat served a dual purpose.
“I’m from Kentucky and today is the Kentucky Derby so I got it going on,” Ritche, a WPTV Channel 5 reporter, said as she tipped her hat.
Katrina Granger, 1st lady at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, enlightened, at times entertained and empowered the audience on the essence of a woman.
The organization honored the Frances J. Bright Women’s Organization in the category of mentoring, Elaine Alvin in the field of education, and attorney Salesia Smith-Gordon in the category of entrepreneurship.
The National Coalition of Black Women has its roots in the civil rights and women’s movements. In 1970, 100 successful African-American professional women in New York got together to help African-Americans in the areas of health, education and economics. By 1981, news of the coalition’s work had spread, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women was formed in Washington, D.C.
Today, the coalition includes more than 8,000 women from 63 U.S. chapters, as well as chapters in London, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Chapters range in size from 32 to more than 100. The “100” in the title pays homage to the original New York coalition.
With nine chapters, including groups in Greater Palm Beach, Greater Fort Lauderdale and Greater Miami, Doris Robinson founded the South Palm Beach Chapter in August 2002.
The South Palm Beach Chapter mirrors the national coalition and focuses on education, health and economics in the African-American community. The group has been working with local agencies, businesses and schools to improve the lives of minority women and families.
The 36 charter members include educators, attorneys, medical professionals and corporate businesswomen who represent a cross section of women in all age groups and economic backgrounds.