Category Archives: Service / Advocacy

A Little of This, a Little of That…but Never Whatever

by ZontaDoris

I wanted to learn to make things that tasted good. So I asked for and received precise instruction from talented cooks in my family. (Yeah…right!) The reality is that I picked up tips from incredible culinary artists close to me, however, they were seldom exact. It was mainly “put in a little of this, a little of that.” That mixing formula has worked pretty well for me in life. So it is this week with the blog post–we’ll report on a little of this, a little of that…and hope it works to inform and intrigue.

Human Trafficking Meeting on March 20

Donna Lancaster and I went to the “Salon Talk” workshop arranged by staff at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and hosted at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center. The purpose of the meeting was to help salon and barbershop workers recognize potential human trafficking victims and learn how to build rapport with them without endangering themselves or the victim.

Bethany Gilot, Director, DJJ Human Trafficking Initiative, Tallahassee

Bethany Gilot, Director, DJJ Human Trafficking Initiative, Tallahassee

Attendees were coached on how to follow their intuition when a situation doesn’t seem right. Maybe the older person with the potential victim is very controlling. Or he/she (because the pimp can be a woman) is taking multiple calls on a cellphone and/or displaying expensive jewelry and tattoos. A concerned cosmetologist might ask a couple casual questions (“Oh, you have your dad, your uncle, your aunt…with you today?”), gather contact information (“Hey, what’s your phone #? My manager pushes us to get customer numbers…we are running a special next month–could save you a lot of money…”), or discreetly look outside to see the car model, color, and license plate as the customers leave. Salon workers are well situated to see sex trafficking victims because victims need regular cosmetic touch-ups to please their pimp and paying customers.

Bethany Gilot, Director of Human Trafficking at DJJ in Tallahassee, overviewed human trafficking, giving risk factors for exploitation starting with poverty, runaway and neglected youth, and those who might be homeless and suffer from other lacks–too little education, family support, and work opportunities. A wonderful panel of local anti-human trafficking practitioners from legal aid, St. Petersburg police legal advisor Sasha Lohn (featured here with Donna), and service providers, led by Dottie Groover-Skipper, also spoke to the group of about 80

Sasha Lohn, Legal Advisor, St. Petersburg Police, and Donna Lancaster

Sasha Lohn, Legal Advisor, St. Petersburg Police, and Donna Lancaster

folks. Sasha encouraged folks to use the Department’s Facebook page to make anonymous reports & see profiles of missing children, or call 411 to share tips anonymously on worrisome situations.

Domestic Violence Task Force on March 21

Zonta is in the house!

I am joining Donna at bi-monthly Pinellas County DVTF meetings to show that Zonta cares and wants to help DV survivors. We are getting involved in more activities such as the Advocacy Committee for me. Sherry Clester, Advocacy Committee Chair, is a remarkable advocate for elder victims of domestic violence and continues to lead initiatives for the DVTF. They are starting a bi-annual newsletter modeled after one in JAX for the Tampa Bay area-wide domestic violence community.

Donna, and our own Sandy Bricker, I was told, are helping the DVTF Primary Prevention Committee members do “Your Peaceful Place” discussions in the community and schools.

Bobbie Hodson, DVTF Chair, and Frieda Widera, long-time DVTF leader, welcome us as partner-advocates at every meeting. I asked several questions at the last meeting that they warmly responded to. One inquiry led to the TF Chair drafting a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times to remark on the recent Alisa Summers case. (I have read the draft and suggested edits.) Readers may recall that Summers was denied a protective order last Fall, only to be further abused and finally kidnapped by her estranged husband early in March. I like the open-mindedness of the TF members to pursue all avenues to educate and engage the community on behalf of DV victims and survivors.

CASA_Onsite_Pet_Sheltering_Cover_2017-03-23_1724The Word is Out

Donna, Paulette, and I joined the CASA Pet Shelter Committee on March 1. Since then we assisted the Committee by gathering information on how domestic violence centers in Florida are doing onsite pet sheltering. We spoke to terrific advocates around the state, all of them eager to help us and CASA enable DV victims to leave home sooner with their pets, rather than later.

The good news is that we quickly became very knowledgeable about pet sheltering onsite and are eager to advise the Committee on how to move forward. We want to decide new forms and protocols for CASA to get its pet shelter admitting canine and feline clients, and maybe other pet species, too.

Local People of Interest to Zonta

I admit it. I read junk magazines at the grocery check-out line. But I seldom buy any… except this time as I was riffling through the magazine, I saw “Violence Victim Marries Her First Responder.” Could it be? Yes, it was, Melissa Dohme, that is, marrying Cameron Hill earlier this month. You can get more information on the romance in numerous places online including “People” magazine. Melissa if you’ll recall was the headliner at East Lake High School for Zonta and the Haven in December.

Finally, Let’s Show What Women Do Routinely So Well

Have you all seen the video of the man who was an expert on North Korea being interviewed by the BBC when his two children padded into the room?  It is hilarious and has prompted a remake featuring a woman below. See how she handles not just one but many interruptions.

In closing, it’s been a little of this, a little of that, hope this blog post delivers on its promise to inform and intrigue and never defaults to whatever–the most annoying word in 2016 according to a NPR report.  The default use of “whatever” irritates me. What nettles me more is its meaning: indifference. Thankfully, Zonta members are not indifferent to empowering women, never have been, never will be!

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Featured image of spices in spoons from Pixabay

Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

Human Trafficking Brush-Up for Salon & Barbershop Owners & Community Advocates

by ZontaDoris

Something good is happening here…through outreach for Zonta, I found out about an educational event on human trafficking to be convened at St. Petersburg College on March 20, next Monday. It is intended to build awareness of human trafficking in our area and will feature both global and local experts, as well as human trafficking survivors making it very personal with their stories. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and St. Petersburg College are co-sponsors.

The four-hour session from 10 AM to 2 PM includes lunch. Please register online at as soon as possible. Please share this announcement with as many of your colleagues and friends as possible. 


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Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

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Billboard Picture by Mayor McGinn, Flicker,




by ZontaDoris

I believe that Evette Dionne, News and Identity Editor at Revelist, and Leslie Jones, actress and comedienne on Saturday Night Live got it right on Black History Month.

After Hidden Figures, the movie about black women mathematicians at NASA came out, (and the topic of our blog post last week), Leslie Jones did a Saturday Night Live skit where she said:

Here’s my issue: We cram all of Black history into just one month,” she said. “All we have time for is that George Washington Carver and all of his peanut stuff. We should learn all of Black history, all the year round, and teach it to everybody.

Jones humorously identified inventions by black talents including the inventors of one of the first tri-color traffic signals (Garrett Morgan who also invented the gas mask) and freestanding drop letter mailbox with hinged lid (Philip B. Downing, patented 1891), and caller ID and call waiting.

Like many people, I found myself saying “I never knew that” as if someone had been keeping it from me!

Because she is a woman scientist and current president of the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, I wish to call special attention to Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, whom Jones mentioned for her invention of call waiting. There are several people who claim to have invented caller ID and call waiting based on the websites I visited, but it is generally conceded that

Dr. Jackson conducted breakthrough basic scientific research that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

The significance of her early research resembles that of the women mathematicians and engineers in Hidden Figures in that their work was critical to our country’s success in aeronautics and space exploration.

Jones’s four-minute skit below informs and entertains. Warning: Jones is provocative!

Now back to Evette Dionne’s article in Revelist…she summarized the impact of condensing the study of Black Americans’ achievements into 30 days for our school children:

The majority of Black history curriculums focus on Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, and nothing else. This is how figures, like the women featured in the film, become hidden.

It is important for us to know about minority men and women who break new ground through their inventions and leadership because research shows that children may not consider preparing for highly-skilled work situations unless they see someone who shares their gender, race, or ethnic background who has succeeded in that role. Role modeling the broad range of work choices is why the Ms. Foundation and Gloria Steinem started the Take Our Daughters to Work Day in 1992, to boost girls’ ambitions and show them that they, too, could prepare to join any skilled profession that they desired. The program was expanded and renamed Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day in the early 2000’s to embed it in school curricula across the country to enlighten all school children to the realm of career possibilities.

I wish to pull back the curtain on Black women’s inventions and ease from Black History Month into Women’s History Month with a few profiles of black women inventors. I am greatly assisted by Leila MacNeil at the Smithsonian Magazine with her February 2017 article titled “These Four Black Women Inventors Reimagined the Technology of the Home.”

MacNeil featured four 19th century women inventors who overcame great odds to patent their creations. The twin evils–sexism and racism—worked against imaginative women in the 19th and 20 centuries to deny them admission to higher education. Additionally, according to Deborah Merritt, a law professor cited in MacNeil’s article, sexism and racism fostered “Restrictive state laws, poor educational systems, condescending cultural attitudes, and limited business opportunities.” MacNeil said that historians can identify only four African-American women who were granted patents for their inventions between 1865, the end of the Civil War, and the turn of the 19th century.


Patent website–

My favorite may be Sarah Elizabeth Goode’s invention. reports that Goode was born into slavery in 1850 and moved to Chicago with her husband Archibald, a carpenter, after the Civil War. Together they owned a furniture store. Goode recognized the limitations of tiny Chicago apartments and invented the cabinet bed, an object that converts from a roll top desk into a bed. She patented the invention in 1885. It combines two of my favorite activities: sleeping and writing and makes the most of small living spaces. What’s not to like?

MacNeil identifies Miriam E. Benjamin as the second African-American woman inventor with a patent. Benjamin patented her gong and signal chair for hotels in 1888. Wikipedia provides more background: Benjamin was born as a free person in Charleston, SC in 1861 and moved to Boston with her family to enter high school. She trained to teach and resided and worked as a public schoolteacher in Washington, DC. Later she went to Howard University to become an attorney specializing in patent applications.

Benjamin’s special chair allowed its occupant to announce a need for service with a gong and red light, a precursor to attendant call buttons on airplanes. Her patent application spoke to how it would reduce costs for restaurants and hotels by reducing the number of staff needed to serve guests. Benjamin wished for the chair to be used widely in all spaces where people congregate, including the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. However, the House did not choose her design and I could not find anything on its selection by state houses.


Patent website–


Patent website–

Sarah Boone is the third African-American inventor featured by MacNeil. Boone improved upon the ironing board. Originally, the ironing board was a plank supported on both ends by chairs or tables (It sounds like the kind of setup we would rig in my home!). She curved the board to make it easier and more effective to iron women’s garments with special attention to sleeves and bodices. She lived in New Haven, Ct. when she received the U.S. patent in 1892.

Finally, MacNeil tells us that we only know about Ellen Elgin’s invention of the clothes wringer because of testimony she gave to The Woman Inventor. Regrettably, her testimony also explains why she sold her patient for $18 thereby making the new patent holder much richer than she would ever be.


page from The Woman Inventor–

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into black women’s creativity. Next month we’ll continue the focus on more women leaders from different backgrounds and how they have shaped, and can, and do shape the quality of life for us.

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Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

Resources used in this post include:

Evette Dionne and Leslie Jones, “Leslie Jones perfectly breaks down why Black History Month isn’t enough,” Revelist, January 23, 2017,

Katherine Dvorak, “Twenty Years and Counting: Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” National Women’s History Museum,

Leila MacNeil, “These Four Black Women Inventors Reimagined the Technology of the Home,” Smithsonian Magazine, February 7, 2017,

Pixabay, artist Couleur,