By Ashley Benkarski
The Reverend Venita Lewis has a long list of lifetime accomplishments and accolades, and she’s hoping to add an NAACP Presidency position to her résumé.
Rev. Lewis has been involved with the historic organization for 50 years and joined her local chapter in 1983. She is a Silver Life Subscribing Member and 3rd Vice President of the organization.
Rev. Lewis’s uncle, Mr. Samuel Blythewood, was the President of her hometown chapter of the NAACP for nearly two decades.
Lewis said she’s ready to take on the responsibility, seeking assistance and guidance from past and current stakeholders. “In the interest of running an effective organization, I have reached out to Dr. Michael Grant, and Past President Steven Handy to serve as Advisors. I plan on reaching out to Mr. Neal Darby to seek his advice for a two-year plan. Additionally, Pastor Aaron Marble, a Life Member and Stakeholder, will also provide advice and guidance,” she said.
“I have read and studied the NAACP’s By-Laws and Constitution. I know the ins and outs of its purpose for being. I have a passionate love for the existence of such an organization,” she said. “I believe that, together, we can succeed in making the branch a model for true progress, both within the city, and for the country as whole.”
She has been a part of the NAACP’s grant-writing team, “where we have 3 grants we are presently working under,” and she is happy to report that more than 200 new members in the last few weeks.
Rev. Lewis was the first African American head cheerleader on her all-white squad in 1975 and was on the list of Who’s Who of American High School students. Rev. Lewis attended Wharton College on a Speech and Drama Scholarship, again breaking barriers during her college years when she became the first African American cheerleader on her college squad in 1976. She also served as President of the Young Americans Club at Wharton.
Rev. Lewis also excels at the written word, and has traveled the country for poetry competitions –many of which she won– throughout her high school and college years.
Rev. Lewis comes from a family of clergy, being one of seventeen in her family to answer the Lord’s call; this includes two brothers and four aunts who served as Pastors.
“The church in which I was raised, began in my grandmother’s home, and is a church that has remained and is maintained by the family today,” Rev. Lewis commented.
She is the current Executive Director of KEVA (Keeping Every Vision Alive), Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity located at 1106 Ed Temple Blvd., Ste. 204. Formerly the Save the Children Coalition, “the broad base focus of the organization is to build strong networks with organizations in Davidson County and around the country and to create dialogue and innovations to impact and address the child and the entire family,” the organization’s website states.
“We are currently in the middle of educational animations of my federally trademarked character, Happy Gappy the Clown. We are excited to be almost at completion of the associated children’s book and coloring book. The goal is to market this educational concept in schools across America,” Rev. Lewis explained.
“Youth and children are my passion … I plan to rebuild ‘ACT-SO,’ with the intention of making it one of the greatest in the country,” she added. ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) is a yearlong enrichment program for underserved high school students provided through the NAACP.
Rev. Lewis counts the following people among her inspirations: Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Calhoun, Rhea Tarleton, Mrs. Curlie McGruder, Dr. Dogan Williams, Drs. Jamye and McDonald Williams, Reverend James Thomas, Dr. Shelia Peters, Drs. Charles and Blondell Kimbrough, and Mr. Neal Darby.
Further, she has marched with legendary names such as: Coretta Scott-King, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Rev. Al Sharpton, Vernon Jordan, Andrew Young – Former Mayor of Atlanta, and Dr. Hosea Williams.
Rev. Lewis said she also had the honor to meet Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou.