The Herald of Equal Rights

“At the time I graduated from high school, a black girl had three career choices,” recalls bright-eyed nonagenarian Marjorie Parham. “She could be a teacher, a social worker, or a nurse. If you had given me that list, ‘None of the above’ would have been my response.”

Instead, Marjorie was interested in business, and she found her calling in a thirty-three year career as the owner and publisher of the trailblazing black newspaper, the Cincinnati Herald. Along the way Marjorie says she had to overcome three obstacles: being female, black, and broke.

Although the white male business community tried to intimidate her, she didn’t scare easily and never held back from speaking her mind. These qualities earned her respect from her business associates and colleagues. In her ninetieth year, she remains interested in what’s going on around her and sees this attitude as the key to aging well.

“The trouble with living to be this old,” Marjorie reflects, “is that you lose everyone close to you.” Though many of her dearest friends were scattered all over the country, their loss has brought her intense loneliness. But though “not quite happy,” she makes the effort to be active with a new, often younger set of friends.

“I feel my age,” she admits, acknowledging that exercise would help deflect her arthritis. “I feel ninety per cent better if I can just get on the golf course with my friends,” she says. “I’m waiting for this cold, damp winter to let up so I can be on the green.”

The list of accolades she has received over her lifetime fills several pages, from 1970’s Business Woman of the Year awarded by Iota Phi Lambda, to Applause Magazine’s Lifetime Achiever Award in 1994 and recognition as a Great Living Cincinnatian in 2007 from the Cincinnati Regional Chamber.

“What I want to be remembered for is that I made a sincere effort to bring about change,” she insists. “The greatest things I have achieved are the young people I have been able to help,” such as the young man she mentored who later became city editor of a New York daily newspaper.

She wants young people not to take for granted the advantages they have, gains for which her generation and subsequent ones fought valiantly. When people ask her, “Just what is it you want?” she lets them know the obvious: African Americans want the same things as any human being expects for her/himself.

Many things in her life sustain her, but topping the list are her good physical health and her interest in her surroundings. She loves the symphony and opera, is an avid reader of genres from health journals to whodunits, and works two crossword puzzles daily with a close friend.

She belongs to bridge and poker clubs and to a senior group that gathers on Fridays for excursions and entertainment, including theater trips to the Cincinnati Playhouse. A role model for keeping engaged and not withdrawing, she strongly advises to “accept invitations when you get them.”

Rather than dwelling on the past, she thinks toward the future. She dreams about selling her condo and moving to a retirement facility where she has friends and where there are more levels of care to help with future needs. She is above all a businesswoman --the poor real estate market keeps any move at bay for the present.

Her personal solution to keeping vibrant and spurning senility is to “keep involved -- never lose interest in the people and things around you.”

Marjorie Parham