Embracing Mentorship: A Tribute to Georgia Blackmon
As we begin to focus on the principle of rewarding and recognizing others, please join us for a special episode where Dr. Janet Pilcher shares four valuable life lessons from one of her most influential mentors and friends, Ms. Georgia Blackmon. Although Ms. Blackmon recently passed away, her legacy as a visionary, community leader, political activist, and strong advocate for both children and the Black community in Pensacola remains. Janet explains how Ms. Blackmon’s strong mentorship profoundly influenced her, leaving an enduring mark on her life and values. Not only did Ms. Blackmon and her husband found the Gathering Awareness Book Center, she also founded a nonprofit organization that spearheaded the restoration of the historic Ella Jordan home in downtown Pensacola, Florida. Listen as Janet honors her late friend, Georgia, and inspires us to carry on her legacy of love over hate.
Janet Pilcher: Hello everyone. Welcome to today’s Accelerate Your Performance podcast. I’m your host, Janet Pilcher.
From time to time, I offer to you, our listeners, a message that is personal to me hoping that some of my experiences will be meaningful to you. As we begin to focus on Principle 9, Rewarding and Recognizing Others. I’m honored to share a tribute to one of my community mentors and friends, someone who has made a tremendous difference in my life.
I hope by me sharing her with you it will make a difference in your life. Throughout my adult life I’ve had the opportunity to have a mentor and friend in our Pensacola community, Ms. Georgia Blackmon. On September 18th Ms. Blackmon passed away at 82 years old. Ms. Blackmon was without a question a visionary.
She was a staunch community leader, an entrepreneur, a political activist, and an advocate for children and the black community. She believed in transforming communities across what she would say race and gender. She founded Mother Wit Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on community outreach and education for children and historic preservation.
Ms. Blackmon and her husband of 59 years opened an African American bookstore called the Gathering Awareness Book Center. They opened it in their home in 1989 and then opened it later in a storefront.
As their business advanced, the book center served as a gathering place for people of diverse political, religious, and diverse viewpoints. There was a place for all.
She educated the Pensacola community on the true identity of black culture and history by highlighting the positive historical and cultural achievements and social progress. In addition, the Blackmon’s often invited and encouraged people from various walks of life to participate in healthy discussions concerning topics of concern. These conversations encourage positive changes in our mindsets.
She was a transformational icon in our community and beyond. She was a woman of wisdom. I was lucky to work alongside Ms. Blackmon on a major project in our Pensacola community that drew us closer and closer to each other.
A little more than a decade ago, I saw an article in the Pensacola News Journal, our local paper. It was an article about nonprofits that needed some assistance, and one of those areas for needing assistance was an item called save the Ella Jordan home and Ms. Blackmon’s name was beside that part of the article as the person to contact.
I knew it had to be something worthwhile, so I went to her bookstore and asked if there was a way I could help, and she said, “Janet, the first thing we’ve got to do is save the house from the city tearing it down. We’re on our last leg there.” So, I decided to ask our mayor at the time, Ashton Hayward, if he would meet with me, and I met with him to talk about my interest in the project and really wanting to provide support for Ms. Blackmon.
And of course, he knew Ms. Blackmon and thought very highly of her, and it wasn’t long after that that Ms. Blackmon and I had our time in court with the magistrate begging for, pleading for our case for the house not to be torn down. And a great citizen in our local community, Lou Ray, was the magistrate, and he ruled in our favor to give us a chance.
And that’s where the journey began. Ms. Blackmon and I worked diligently together to save the Ella Jordan house. Ms. Blackmon, she took on the project. She said she did this because her husband Johnny Blackmon asked her to. They worked alongside each other committing to this work, and Ms. Blackmon loved, loved, loved Johnny Blackmon.
She had a relentless focus to save the house, and for the house to become one of few African-American museums in our country. The home is a shining example of a middle-class African-American home at the dawn of the 20th century. It’s also the location of decades of meaningful social educational and cultural activities of Pensacola’s African American community.
There are many people who walk through that house and represent the history that we need to understand and come to know.
She led the grassroots effort to raise about $450,000 to save the home. It was a collective effort across communities, and as Ms. Blackmon would say, a collective effort across race and gender. It was people who believed in preserving the rich history of this house.
Today the Ella Jordan home is a place of hope and love. It is a place that will be marked by Ms. Georgia Blackmon’s legacy, that will continue to live in the home. It is open. It is alive. it’s a place where every person can walk through that door and be touched by its history and now be touched by Georgia Blackmon.
Throughout our friendship, Ms. Blackmon and I had breakfast or lunch together about every four to six weeks. Every time we were together, she would say these four statements to me, the words of wisdom that will influence me for the rest of my life, she would say, “Janet, you work too hard. You need to learn how to play more.” She’d also say, “People say Georgia you have a lot of friends.” She’d say, “No, I have a lot of acquaintances and few friends. Janet, you’re my friend.” And she’d say, “I’m not religious a smidgen, but I’m spiritual to the bone.”
And one of my favorites, she said, “Johnny told me a long time ago Georgia May you have a big mouth. If you would shut up some time and listen, you’d learn a lot about people.”
Here’s what she taught me and probably taught so many others: play more, love sincerely, be spiritual, and listen to people.
Our conversations over the past few years centered on Ms. Blackmon’s words of needing to do something about this hate. Building back the Ella Jordan home is an important movement that Ms. Blackmon led to give us a place to do something about this hate. Now through this home, it’s up to us to show how love is much more powerful than hate.
That’s how we continue to keep the legacy of Ms. Georgia Blackmon alive. Legacies like that, of Georgia Blackmon, don’t come around often, and when they do, we honor them and learn from them. Georgia Blackmon, your legacy is alive and well, and we serve you with gratitude and appreciation through your legacy.
I love you, Georgia Blackmon. I thank you for giving your time to me to make me a better person.