The Nashville Chapter is the Mother chapter of the Sweet, Sweet, Southeastern Region of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated. It was the first chapter chartered in the Southeastern Region in April of 1947 and the twelfth chapter of Jack and Jill.
The birth of the Nashville Chapter coincided with the nascent African American culture in the Music City. Pearl Creswell, who served as the first curator of the Stieglitz Collection at the Van Vechten Art Collection at Fisk University, was a woman who appreciated beauty, art, and culture. Geraldine Fort also appreciated the finer things that life had to offer and understood the importance of social and cultural awareness for children. Creswell and Fort invited a group of like-minded mothers who felt that their children were indeed their common bonds to meet and organize the Mother’s Study Group in February of 1939. These pioneering women orchestrated the Mother’s Study Group to arrange an ambitious program of culture, service, and learning for the betterment of their children and the community. An appropriate and inspiring motto that reflected that cadence of the times was chosen for the group from the writings of the renowned theologian, Phillips Brooks: “The future of the race marches forward on the feet of little children.”
Just one year earlier in January 1938, the first chapter of Jack and Jill was founded in Philadelphia. Both organizations showed a marked harmony of purpose and precept. In 1947, soon after the national organization was incorporated, Phoebe Layton, the sister-in-law of Jeanette Forrester and a former member of the Mother’s Study Group became a member of the Jack and Jill chapter in Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Chapter sponsored the Nashville Mothers’ Study Group, which would become known as the Nashville Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated.
The Nashville Chapter’s charter members were Dorothy Beasley, Della Hill, Geraldine B. Fort, Hale Laverne Holland, Lucile Patton Blakemore, Elise Hope, Ethel Boswell Hunger-Spalding, Mamie Bugg, Kathryn Johnson, Pearl Creswell, Minnie D. Johnson, Flora Crowder, Ida Jeanette Layton Forrester, Delores Crump, Anne Odem, Lois Dummett, Elizabeth Petway-Lowe, Ruth Epps, Benita Scott, Louise Foster, Alice Walker, Lettie Galloway, and Eleanor Gardner.
In addition to serving locally, the following mothers have served in national and regional capacities:
LaTandra Collins Regional Sergeant- at- Arms
Karan Howard – National Programming Director
Anita Jenious – Regional Legislative Chair
Latrecia Jordan- Regional Member at Large
Courtney Woods Regional Editor
The fruit does not fall far from the tree and Nashville’s fruit is ripe with power and potential. Just as the mothers have served the organization with pride and humility, the youth of the chapter have done so as well. Several Nashville chapter teens have been elected to serve the Southeastern region:
Anica Howard Teen President
Allyson L. Young Teen Vice President
Bria Harris Teen Vice President
Piper Fleming Teen Foundation Chair
Stefen K. Jordan Teen Nominating Chair
Jarel Dillard Teen Chaplain
As is fitting for the Southeastern Region’s Mother chapter, Nashville has been honored to host many of the region’s conferences. The chapter hosted the first Southeastern Teen Conference on the campus of Fisk University and did so again for the next three years. The chapter was again honored to host Teen Conference in 2005 and 2014. Likewise, in 1969 Nashville welcomed the mothers to Music City as the host of the Southeastern Mother’s Regional Conference.
Sunday, May 13, 1998, marked the 50th anniversary of the Nashville chapter, which was a celebration of golden love, as we paid homage to our founders, first president and graduating seniors. It was a blessing that they were present and could share those precious moments of fifty years.
Through the years, The Nashville chapter has arranged a score of civic, cultural, and social activities as well as educational programs for all children. Our many speakers and panels have drawn upon the vast resources of the Nashville community, and have helped us to be celebrated as one of the most outstanding chapters of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. The chapter’s engaging programs reflect the regional, national, and foundation agendas. These programs have brought service to the community and enjoyment to the members. Chapter programming has included honoring local firefighters; providing birthday parties for foster children; feeding the homeless, planting trees and beautifying underserved areas of Nashville, Habitat for Humanity builds; book signings with nationally renowned authors, celebrating military families, and mock trial competitions.
On Saturday, December 2, 2006, the Nashville Chapter chartered an Associate
Group. The charter members were Ingrid Frazier Collier, Delores Davis Griffin, Marquetta Faulkner, Deborah Webster-Clair, Deborah Hudson Broadwater, Beverly McDonald-Robinson, Carletha McNeil, Reneta Adams, Lueatrice Green Lovett, Margaret McClain, Lula Brooks, Jacqueline Mitchell and Barbra Singh. The installing officers were Myrna Ford and Latrecia Jordan.
In 2008, under the chapter’s leadership and Foundation Co-Chairs Courtney Woolridge Woods and Tracy Kirk Hardin, the Chapter held its inaugural Pink and Blue Jazz Gala to benefit the Jack and Jill of America Inc., Foundation and several local charities. The Gala has become the chapter’s signature fundraiser. Since its inception, the Jazz Gala has allowed the chapter to contribute over $100,000 to our National Foundation and local charities. Our philanthropy has earned Nashville chapter the distinction of being consistently recognized as one of the nation’s highest contributing chapters to the Jack and Jill Foundation
The Nashville chapter established a technology team that created and launched the chapter’s revamped website in 2010 and in 2011, the first “Distinguished Mother’s Award” was given to Mother Benita Abernathy. Her contributions to the chapter as the Lead Teen Sponsor exemplified her commitment to and support of the aims and objectives of the organization and demonstrated the finest qualities of motherhood. Subsequent winners of Mother-of-the-Year have been Shay Howard (2012), Latrecia Jordan (2013), Michele Frazier and Anita Jenious (2014), Velicia Horton (2015), LaDonya Johnson (2016), and Courtney Woods (2017).
The chapter’s varied and vigorous programming for our teens led to a monumental year in 2011.
The Teens received first place in community service for renovating and furnishing a two-bedroom apartment for a family in recovery. They also took first place in their “Loose Change” contribution, but the most prized award was third place in the Step Show performance. This was a historical event because the teens participated for the first time ever and took third in the competition. That same year, our 1st -3rd grade group was featured in our local parenting magazine when they attended the stage adaptation of Christopher Paul Curtis’, “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham”.
The Nashville Chapter Teens established themselves as champions at each Teen Conference, taking home first place in Step Show, T-shirt, Scrapbook, Basketball, Soccer, and Volleyball competitions and consistently placing in the top three in Loose Change, foundation contributions, and other sporting events. In 2013 under the leadership of Teen Sponsors Anita Jenious, Velicia Horton, and Tammy Fleming, the chapter established an Annual Teen Summit to address issues of concern for local youth. Themes of the summit have included safe interactions with law enforcement, college preparedness, social media awareness, and healthy relationships. Gordon Memorial Methodist Church has been an engaging partner in this initiative since its inception. During this timeframe, the teens began annual trips to HBCUs, and initiated the use of the social media as a means of communicating. The chapter has also benefitted from the gifted oratory of several of our Jacks and Jills on a state and regional level. Jack and Jill chapter teens who have competed and won at the state and/or regional level are Matthew Clair, Nicholas Woolridge, Tierra Horton, Sydney Brown, Kelton Young, and Morgan Harvell.
Mothers LaDonya Johnson and Andrea Maple Tyler received and implemented a grant which allowed the chapter to provide education and mentoring to 4thand 5th graders in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. Chapter mothers, fathers, and community leaders provided workshops and resources to expose the children to STEAM careers. The training culminated with Father Steven (Andrea) Clancy’s company donating laptops to each of the children enrolled in the program.
We have grown to 78 wonderful families in our chapter and are committed to fulfilling the goals of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.