Evelyn Rising, second vice president for the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, speaks on Saturday about adults being role models for children during the New Mexico Association of Colored Women’s Clubs Conference. Photo by Eric Kluth.
While she was a child growing up in New Mexico, Evelyn Rising’s family didn’t have much money, but she said hard work and strong faith made it possible for her to get an education.
“This is a different world from what we had growing up. Yesterday I could run and play in the streets because my mother didn’t have to worry about me getting run over or being a victim of a drive-by shooting,” Rising told Saturday’s statewide meeting of the New Mexico Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. “We didn’t have a lot growing up in material things, but we didn’t know it because we had an abundance of love.”
Now an academic advisor at Texas Tech, Rising headlined the 65th annual state convention of an organization dedicated to promoting fellowship and cooperation among black women. She told the audience at Clovis’ La Quinta Inn that having more material possessions hasn’t helped today’s youth.
Rising also said crime is more frequent and much more violent, even though children today have more money than she had growing up.
“They kill for joy, they kill for fun, they kill for tennis shoes and anything else,” Rising said.
Rising said that even though society has changed, the solution hasn’t.
“You have an impact on some child’s life,” Rising said. “Children need our help because they are emotionally, mentally and physically fragile.”
Rising warned the assembled women that even if their children are grown, they need to seek out opportunities to become mentors for people their grandchildren’s age.
“Our children need standards,” Rising said. “Our daughters and granddaughters wear skirts shorter than the fuse on a firecracker. Our sons wear pants big enough for three or four of us, with their dirty underwear hanging out.”
But clothes aren’t the problem, Rising said, just a symptom of young people who have decided to look for love and stimulation in the wrong places.
“Our children need drugs,” Rising said ... but not the kind many are taking.
“I was drug to church Sunday morning, I was drug to church Sunday night, I was drug to church Wednesday night, to Sunday school, to vacation Bible school, and to the woodshed when I needed it,” she said. “If more children in this world had that drug problem, we’d be in a lot better world.”
Rising said older women need to become mentors for young people to model specific types of responsibility that were once learned at home, combined with an understanding of how hard their black parents and grandparents had to fight to get the right to an education.
“Our kids need to learn to manage a dollar; our kids need to have an allowance and learn to save for a rainy day,” Rising said. “The doors of education gotta be pushed wide open; our children must never lose their zeal for a better future.”
Helen Miles, a retired nurse at Plains Regional Medical Center and president of the organization’s Clovis chapter, said she loved the opportunity to have Rising speak about helping young people.
“The guest speaker was just wonderful,” Miles said. “I said to her before she came, our theme is passing on our heritage, building through our youths. She said she was already writing her speech on that.”
Miles said the Clovis chapter focuses on raising scholarship money for students who might otherwise be unable to afford higher education, along with helping nursing home residents and needy families at Thanksgiving.
“We do raffles, we sell dinners, we do mentoring in school, we do whatever we can,” Miles said.
While small, the Clovis chapter of 11 members currently helps provide scholarships for two graduates of Clovis High School attending New Mexico colleges. Miles said the group is looking for new members and is specifically interested in attracting younger women.
“It’s mostly anything we do, we do for the children,” Miles said.