Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vera Mulkey - Super Hero & Living Legend

Vera Mulkey 

Vera Mulkey, living Long Beach Legend, is also a real live Super Hero, having won the honor by that name--Super Community Hero Award.

  • 13-Year Member, Long Beach Unified School District Personnel Commission
  • First African American Female City of Long Beach Chief of Staff

Vera Mulkey was the first African American Chief of Staff. In the service of Long Beach City Council Member, Clarence Smith, the second black council member in Long Beach history (1986-1992), Vera won the Super Community Hero Award. She began her climb to the top at the City of Long Beach as an administrative analysis and then as a legislative assistant.

Long Beach City Council Member, Clarence Smith
Vera Mulkey, First Black Long Beach Chief of Staff
My motto is: "The joy in living is giving." I adopted that philosophy from my late mother.

"I think we are here to be in service to one another. I believe in giving. I think service to others, not only helps others, but it helps us as human beings. When we are able to reach out to other people, we make a difference in their lives and our own."

Vera Mulkey, an award-winning citizen ofLong Beach and public speaker, is part of the BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way project, sponsored by Leadership Long Beach, because she was a first to break a glass ceiling in her career and light the way for other women coming after her. Without acts of courage like being a first black woman to go to work at City Hall when Vera did and setting such an exemplary example of professionalism, the path would have been more difficult others to follow.  

"Long Beach was not without its racial problems back then," Vera said.

Vera Mulkey 
Acceptance Speech, CCEJ Huamitarian Award
In 2009, Vera Mulkey won the Humanitarian Award from California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ), a human relations organization dedicated to confronting bias, bigotry and racism through education, conflict resolution and advocacy.

“CCEJ delivers human relations and diversity training in the education, health, law-enforcement, corporate, and government sectors. Participants engage in open and honest dialogue and learn skills to improve effectiveness in a multicultural environment. They discover how perceptions, attitudes and behaviors impact the workplace and the community. Programs are designed to meet the needs of each client and to improve the community as a whole. This program is how CCEJ originated in the community – as a voice for inclusion and non-violence,” according to the CCEJ Human Relations Program.

"Human Relations is giving," said Vera Mulkey, winner of the prestigious 2009 CCEJ Humanitarian Award. "And giving was passed down to me when I was a  little girl by the women in my family--my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. My mother sat me down and told me about the importance of giving. She thought this would be important because I was an only child and she did not want me to grow to be a selfish person. And I saw examples of her own generosity. We didn't have much, but my mother believed in sharing with those who had less. This is how I grew up. I was taught to recognize people's importance and their pride not matter how much or how little material possessions they may have."

Vera Mulkey
Anderson High School
Austin, Texas 1952
In 1952, Vera's parents, Lorene and Luis Smith,  arrived in Long Beach from Austin, Texas, to establish a home before they sent for their teen-age daughter, who remained with her aunt in Austin, where Vera was a happy Anderson High School sophomore, a majorette and an "A" student. 

"I hadn't wanted to move," Vera said. "But I was just a child and my parents wanted to relocate for reasons that are obvious to me now. They wanted a better for our family. As an adult, I understand that, though when I was a young girl, I was missing my friends and my old life. I was looking forward to graduating with my classmates that I had gone all the way through school with

In 1953, Vera moved to Long Beach with her parents , "...being an only child," Vera said, "I didn’t know anyone in town (Long Beach), except my parents. I was very lonely."

Vera Mulkey is part of the project, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way.

"I think there needs to be a real strong focus on service to other people," said Vera Mulkey, "because I think service to others, not only helps others, but it helps us as human beings. When we are able to reach out to other people, we make a difference in their lives and our own.

Pioneering project about 12 African American women who made a difference in the cultural history of Long Beach, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way, began when Long Beach humanitarian, Carolyn Smith Watts, honored the 12 women, who were firsts in their professions, with a photograph, which won publication in the Tuttle Cameras book, One Camera, and was displayed along with other winners at the Long Beach Historical Society. At Watts' invitation, photojournalist and author, Sunny Nash joined BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way as managing editor, photo restoration artist and documentary filmmaker.

BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way will be a two-week-long exhibition that will dynamically add to the understanding of the roles of African American female leaders and their individual triumphs within the racial and cultural history of Long Beach, California, and demonstrate the difference they made in the lives of all residents of the City of Long Beach, regardless of age, education, race, ethnic background, nationality, gender, profession, physical condition, economic level or mental challenges or other factors that tend to affect people’s acceptance or rejection of a subject.

Cover Photo by Carolyn Smiths Watts, Shoreline Village, 
Published in Tuttle Cameras One Camera Project, Exhibited at the Historical Society of Long Beach. 
(Standing left to right): Evelyn Knight marched with Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery; Patricia Lofland, first black member of Long Beach City College Board of Trustees; Bobbie Smith, first black LB woman elected to public office and has a school named for her; Alta Cooke, first black high school principal; Carrie Bryant, city’s first black private school operator; Vera Mulkey, the City’s first black Chief of Staff; Wilma Powell, the nation’s first female Chief Wharfinger; Doris Topsy-Elvord, first African American Long Beach Harbor Commissioner & first black female LB Vice Mayor; (Seated left to right): Autrilla Scott, city’s first black LB citizen with street named for her; Maycie Herrington, recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal; Dale Clinton’s letter to President Johnson is archived at the Library of Congress; and (not present): Lillie Mae Wesley, neighborhood parent for 30 years with LB Parks & Recreation.

Grand Opening
Long Beach Public Library
(101 Pacific Ave.)
3:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 
Atrium Center & Theater, 
2:00 p.m. Press Conference
Loraine & Earl Burns Miller Special Collections Room
2:00 p.m. Reception 
Atrium Garden

The multifaceted signature project, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way Exhibition, is comprised of archival portraiture, ancestral photographic restorations, artifacts, historic papers, archaic document reproductions, memorabilia, and newspaper and magazine clippings collected, organized by award-winning humanitarian Carolyn Smith Watts, and award-winning author and photojournalist Sunny Nash, on 12 African American Women who made a Difference in the Cultural History of Long Beach, California.


The Port of Long Beach demonstrated its commitment to equal employment access and professional opportunity over the years by appointing the first female Chief Wharfinger in the nation, one of the Legends of this project; and continues that commitment with its support of this project.

Sponsors, donors, partners and contributors committed to date are listed here. Others will be joining the list in the near future. All are welcome to LIKE the Legends on FaceBook.

In 2015, after Nash won a 2015 Arts Council for Long Beach Professional Artist Fellowship to design a Museum Catalogue and restore photographs, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way became a Signature Project of photo restorations, artifacts, document reproductions, ancestral papers and online resources.

Molina Healthcare

For more than 30 years, Molina has been providing quality, affordable health care to individuals and families covered by government programs. 


Andy Street 
Community Association

BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way Exhibition previewed at the Andy Street Community Association's Bixby Knolls EXPO Event in February. Hundreds of spectators were able to get a glimpse of the coming exhibition, scheduled to open in September. 

At the June 5th First Friday Event in Bixby Knolls, there will be an exhibit preview at the Historical Society of Long Beach featuring 230 collective years of educational accomplishments of the 12 Legends of BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way.

Tuttle Cameras Long Beach
Based on the collection of historical profiles, published in 2007, edited by Sunny Nash, and foreword by Carolyn Smith Wattswhose award-winning photograph of the Long Beach Living Legends was published in the Tuttle Cameras book, One Camera Long Beach.

Chick-fil-A Towne Center, Long Beach

John Howard of the Chick-fil-A Towne Center Long Beach was present that crisp sunny day in September at the Shoreline Village photo session when the historic picture of the Legends was taken.

International Realty & Investments

The project also includes oral history, new photo/video capture and recently discovered images and artifacts that will also be included in a series of television programs on LBTV, the Television Station owned and operated by the City of Long Beach.


City of Long Beach

Long Beach dignitaries will attend and participate in The Grand Opening. Southern California Media organizations will be invited to a Press Conference at 2:00 p.m. in the Loraine & Earl Burns Miller Special Collections Room of the Long Beach Public Library.

Long Beach Public Library, Main Branch
The Long Beach Public Library will host the event in its Atrium Center & Theater off of City Hall Public Plaza, 101 Pacific Ave., Long Beach, California. There will a VIP Reception in the Atrium Garden prior to the program and the screening of a film and online resources.


Long Beach City College
Long Beach Unified 
School District

Long Beach City College (LBCC) and Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) will play equally significant roles in as education partners in advertising the event to their respective constituents. Both have student bodies and faculty to which they will provide electronic announcements on their Internet and broadcast communication systems. Both LBCC and LBUSD can lay claim to several Legends, who either taught, served as officials or attended both LBCC and LBUSD

Los Angeles County 
Sheriff's Department
Los Angeles Sheriff's Department in collaboration with the Long Beach Unified School District will participate in a mini-exhibit and event at Jordan High School, where student government officers will also be present to participate in a seminar involving one of the Legends who was an official of the school.

This event commemorates the historical relationship between Long Beach Unified School District and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

Content © Copyright 2015 BREAKING THROUGH  Lighting the WayAll Rights Reserved Worldwide.

~Thank You~

Breaking Through Lighting the Way


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