Helena Lopez: The Latest in a Long Line of Determined Women

March 8, 2024

Guest Post by A Greater Hope CEO, Helena Lopez

Photo from Ebony Magazine, October 1971 issue that includes Helena Lope's great grandmother, Berdie Miller, and three others in 1965.
Photo courtesy of Ebony Magazine, October 1971 issue, "Southern Justice for Blacks" story :Ranging in age from 79 to 101, these New Orleans citizens (l. to r.), Mrs. Berdie Miller, Harrison B. Guy, Mrs. Rose Breaux, Mrs. Christine Holden, voted for the first time in 1965, wielding power which can be used to better conditions in the South.

"Helena, it's like life and business.  You have to start at the bottom, work your way up and hold tight. You never start at the top." For hours upon hours, I would sit as my mom parted, combed, washed, conditioned and braided my thick, curly hair.  While she meticulously worked on my hair, my mom taught me many things. It certainly wasn't just about my hair.  It was a sacred time of closeness and connection that I now hold dear. I sure didn't then!  In my years working with foster youth, I often see Black and Bi-racial youth whose hair is crying out for care and attention- as are they. As my mom taught me, you don't just see, you act.

To commemorate Black History month in 2024, I worked alongside Riverside County to host a series of workshops to empower and educate child welfare staff, resource/foster parents and caregivers to nurture the unique hair care needs of foster children. Our three Healthy Crownz Hair Care Resource Fairs were a resounding success. They featured educational workshops, free food, hair care items and, perhaps most importantly, fostered a sense of community.  I wrote a hair and skin care guide for Black and Bi-racial youth as well, and I am thrilled San Bernardino County's Foster and Kinship Care Education Program has used it for years.

I come from a long line of determined women. Women whose talents and intelligence are doubted by others. But nevertheless, we persist.  And we succeed. My mom tells me the story of my great grandmother, Berdie Miller, who stood in line all night for her chance to vote. She was the first in line and the first to vote that day. She was 79 years old. She was so nervous, but determined. She tried to vote before, but was unsuccessful due to discriminatory literacy testing designed to keep us from voting. A photo of her on that historic day in American history was published in Ebony magazine. Her resolve shines through on her face in that photo. My life, my career, my independence are my great grandmother's dream, realized.  I am immeasurably proud to be my mother's daughter.  This is my Black Women's History.

A Greater Hope logo

A Greater Hope is a nationally accredited, community-based organization serving hundreds of at-risk adults, vulnerable children and individuals each year.  A Greater Hope provides a continuum of care that includes Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment, Therapeutic Foster Care, Intensive Services Foster Care, Adoption Services, Probation Services and a full scope of Counseling and Behavioral Health Services. Our goal is that every client, from a 38-year-old single man to 3-day-old twin baby girls, finds a Greater Hope.

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