A special event on Saturday in Downtown Los Angeles will celebrate the 197th birthday of Biddy Mason, the first Black woman to own real estate in the city, and a founding member of First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church. The birth celebration, called “A Call for Boldness,” will also honor Black women who have left their mark in the Los Angeles area.
Mason was born a slave in Hancock County, Ga., in 1818. She traveled west with her owner, and was able to win her freedom in a Los Angeles court, because California was a free state.
As a free woman, Mason worked as a nurse and midwife, carefully saved her money, and became one of the first African American women to purchase land in the city. She went on to amass a fortune worth nearly $300,000 in the 1880s.
“Biddy Mason serves as an excellent legacy role model for us in terms of being not only an entrepreneur, but someone who had the boldness to demand her freedom, and the boldness, and unselfishness to use her resources to help others,” said Diane Henry, coordinator of the event.
A number of notable women will be honored, including Synthia Saint James, a multicultural visual artist; Margret Prescod, a producer with 90.7 KPFK’s show “Sojourner Truth”; “Sweet” Alice Harris, community organizer and founder of Parents of Watts; Evelyn Reeves, social justice organizer for housing/employment and a co-founder of the Consolidated Realty Board; Susan Burton, founder, A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project; Juanita Devaughn, educator / civil rights organizer; Cassandra Chase and Joy Masha, co-founders, Read Lead Inc.; and Our Author Study Club, celebratinhg its 100th anniversary this year. The orgnization is the founder of the Black History Celebration in Los Angeles.
“We’re lifting up the boldness and the greatness of Black women,” Henry said.
The event, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., will feature music and dramatizations, as well as networking. It will be held at Biddy Mason Memorial Park, 333. S. Spring St., the site of Mason’s original house. Suggested donation for the event is $10, and guests are encouraged to wear California casual whites.